You are here

Legal aid bill committee rejects all amendments

7 September 2011

The legal aid bill committee yesterday rejected all the amendments tabled by Labour MPs to the government’s programme of cuts.

Among those rejected by the committee, dominated by coalition MPs, was one which would have blocked the removal of areas of work such as private law family, medical negligence and welfare benefits from the scope of the legal aid scheme.

Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, which supported many of the amendments, said he was “very disappointed” that coalition MPs on the public bill committee said so little and failed to engage with the arguments.

“Such a lack of informed debate by the government is quite shocking, with a bill of this constitutional importance.”

Hynes said he could not understand why the government was refusing to accept the Association of Police Officers’ definition of domestic violence, which was supported by the CPS, and instead insisting on limiting legal aid to situations where a victim already had an injunction.

Hynes added that no concessions had been put forward by the committee, but LAG would have to ask the government to look at the cuts again when the bill reached its third reading in the Commons at the end of October.

Labour MP Kate Green said the not-for-profit sector stood to lose 77 per cent of its legal aid funding under the cuts.

“The Advice Services Alliance estimates that that will equate to a loss of 900 specialist advisers and solicitors from the sector.

“In its oral evidence, the Law Centres Federation stated that it expects to lose 86 per cent of its funding, £6.87m, on top of the 53 per cent cut that has already taken place in its local authority funding.

“Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, told us in her oral evidence that the hit on the CAB network will be about £25m.”

Green said that not only would some agencies struggle to keep going or to provide services at all, but, even if they could continue to offer some sort of advice, the quality of workers in those agencies would be significantly reduced.

“There is a real issue not only of quantity but of quality resulting from what the government is proposing and in how the not-for-profit sector might look because of the funding reductions. That is a considerable cause of concern.”

Categorised in:

Legal Aid