Legal Aid

House of Lords motion to stop legal aid cuts

PUBLISHED October 17, 2011

Lord Bach , the former legal aid minister, is taking advantage of a rarely used parliamentary procedure to get a debate on the statutory instrument which will introduce the ten per cent pay cut for all legal aid practitioners this month. The motion will be debated in the House of Lords on 26 October . 'Community legal aid lawyers do a fantastic job for little reward. This crude ten per cent cut will threaten the future of many charities and firms which provide services to their local communities. We have evidence this is already happening,' said Lord Bach. In July this year the large w est London- based legal advice charity, Law For All, shut down. The charity had branches in the London boroughs of Hounslow, Kingston and Ealing, as well as in East Anglia and the Midlands , but got into financial problems after the succession of changes to legal aid in recent years. The charity?s board of trustees cited the ten per cent cut as one of the reasons why they decided to put the organisation into liquidation. The Law Centres Federation (LCF), the national voice of the network of 56 specialist legal advice centres, has warned that 18 of its members are at risk of closing due to the legal aid cuts. According to LCF, 60 per cent of Law Centres' income comes from legal aid and much of this will be lost if the government?s plans for civil legal aid, including the ten per cent cut, are implemented. Lord Bach will be leading Labour?s opposition to the bill in the House of Lords: 'Many people, including vulnerable groups, rely on these charities and legal aid firms for advice to do with housing, employment, benefits, debt and other civil legal problems. Without them people facing everyday legal problems will be denied access to justice.' The ten per cent cut on all legal aid fees was first announced by the government in November last year as part of its consultation into proposals which will lead to a ?350m cut in the ?2.1bn legal aid budget. Nearly ?300m of the expected cuts are being made from civil legal aid. Members of the public will lose the right to get help with divorce, employment, benefits, debt and other common legal problems. According to the government?s own estimates, over half a million people will lose out on help with civil legal problems. The full text of Lord Bach's motion is: 'Lord Bach to move that a Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Community Legal Service (Funding) (Amendment No 2) Order 2011 (SI 2011/2066), laid before the House on 24 August, be annulled, on the grounds that the reduction in civil standard and graduated fees for Legal Help and Help at Court will seriously undermine access to justice because it threatens the financial viability of already hard-pressed community legal practitioners who carry out an essential service to those least able to afford it, including the most vulnerable in our society.' Image: LAG