Legal Aid

MPs oppose Carter reforms with early day motion

PUBLISHED February 7, 2007

More than 100 MPs from across the political spectrum have tabled an early day motion urging the Government to drop its controversial proposals for legal aid reform, it was announced today (24 January).

One hundred and twelve MPs, including 55 Labour backbenchers, have signed up to the motion backing the Law Society?s ?What Price Justice?? campaign opposing the radical plans, which were first published last year. 

The move follows a special Westminster Hall debate on the issue last week and comes as the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee holds a series of evidence sessions to establish how far the Government has met concerns expressed during previous consultations.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, and Legal Services Commission (LSC) chair Michael Bichard are both due to appear at the hearings.  

Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said: ?This is a wake-up call for the Government. The level of support from Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and other parties shows that even the Government?s own backbenchers are growing restless with the risks being taken on legal aid and access to justice.?

The development comes after more than 400 solicitors last week unanimously backed a motion rejecting the reforms at a special general meeting held at Chancery Lane.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council has kicked off a short consultation examining potential changes to the handling of fee-sharing under the legal aid proposals.

The scheme, dubbed ?Fee Payment Protocol?, is designed to ensure a fair spread of fees between senior and junior barristers and is backed by both the LSC and the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

The consultation will close on 9 February.

Liberal Democrat shadow constitutional affairs secretary Simon Hughes yesterday voiced his concerns that the reforms were driven by cost rather than improving access to justice, saying: ?Justice on the cheap is justice denied. Government cost-cutting is now threatening access to justice and reducing the chance of the punishment fitting the crime."

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