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No concessions in legal aid bill

13 June 2011

The government is expected to make no concessions in its legal aid bill.

But Ken Clarke has vowed not to plunder the legal aid budget any further in light of the sentencing reform shambles. “The flurry of nonsense in recent days will not lead to more cuts in legal aid,” he told lawyers last week.

The justice secretary’s remarks quelled fears that further cuts would be made as he attempts to recoup the £130m savings his sentencing discount scheme would have netted.

The justice bill, first due out this week, has been delayed again after Clarke was told to drop the discount jail terms scheme at the eleventh hour.

Labour’s shadow legal aid minister, Andy Slaughter, said: “Ken Clarke should go back to the drawing board on legal aid and civil litigation reform as well as sentencing. The government’s policy blunders are entirely of their own making and people with meritorious cases should not have to suffer as a result.”

The only amendments expected to appear in the legal aid bill are for domestic violence cases, with the definition for qualifying cases likely to be broader than in the green paper.

Labour sources have said shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan is doubtful of his chances of defeating the bill.

“I don’t think we will get them to change anything in the Commons,” a Labour source told Solicitors Journal. “It’s an absolute disaster waiting to happen.”

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Legal Aid