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Grayling: ‘Accept cuts and move on’

Lord Chancellor accepts he is unpopular with the legal profession

10 February 2015

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The Lord Chancellor has said there was never any prospect of being able to reduce the Ministry of Justice budget by a third without tough decisions on legal aid and rejected criticism that his reforms are damaging and unfair.

Writing on the Conservative Home website, the justice secretary said that his reforms had been subject to extensive public consultation and detailed discussions with representative bodies.

"I have personally held with dozens of lawyers up and down the country. [The reforms] have been modified on several occasions to meet concerns from within the legal world," said Chris Grayling. "They do not restrict the number of firms who can do own client work representing legal aid clients who still get public funding for that work."

Grayling continued that the government's reforms would establish a new structure for legal shift work in police stations "so that we know that there are enough firms that are strong enough to do that work at lower rates, to ensure that everyone who needs access to a publicly funded lawyer will get one".

The Lord Chancellor also said that the Public Accounts Committee had accepted the cuts made by his predecessor Ken Clarke through the introduction of LASPO, which met the committee's financial objectives, "though they would have preferred them to be done in a more spread out way".

"When you face tough budget cuts, though, that is not usually an option," he added.

Grayling said that he had had to make a tough decision to cut £200m from the legal aid budget.

"Not surprisingly, it's made me unpopular with the legal profession," he admitted. "But as Conservatives know, you can't reduce budgets without cutting costs - something we are doing across the whole ministry."

The MP for Epsom and Ewell concluded by saying that the country has a choice: "Either we accept tough decisions that step by step are turning our economy round - even if they affect friends, family and supporters. Or we go back to the Labour way, of false promises and economic chaos."

The full article can be viewed here.

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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