Civil legal aid

20 May 2011

The House of Lords discussed possible the effects on access to justice of the Government's proposals for the reform of civil legal aid in a debate on Thursday 19 May.

The Government set out its proposals to reduce the cost of legal aid as part of a wider programme of reform in consultation that has now closed and is awaiting response. The proposals for reform relating to civil and family proceedings include reducing the fees paid and removing legal representation and help in a number of categories of law and types of proceeding include claims arising from allegations of abuse and sexual assault, clinical negligence, criminal injuries, community care, employment matters, family law where domestic violence is not present.

Issues discussed included:

  • the impact of the Government's proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill in relation to these reforms
  • the purpose of legal aid
  • the review of 'no win, no fee' arrangements
  • level of priority of education in these reforms in relation to the support currently required for SEN appeals
  • the Government's regard for the choice of legal aid as a career specialism.

Lord Beecham (Labour), opened the debate.

Contributions to the debate

Members of the Lords who took part in th debate included the following (use the links below to watch/listen to the speeches):

  • Lord Bach (Labour), Opposition spokesperson for Justice, former Parliamentary Secretary, the Lord Chancellor's Department (2000-01); and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (2008-10)
  • Lord Haskel (Labour), Deputy Speaker, former Government spokesperson for Social Security (1997-98) 
  • Lord Thomas of Gresford (Liberal Democrat), former spokesperson for Justice
  • Baroness Sherlock (Labour), board member of the Financial Ombudsman Service 
  • Lord Faulks (Conservative), barrister and former special advisor to the government on compensation culture

Other Members who made contributions included:

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Labour) President of the Civil Liberties Trust and Investigating Commissioner of the European Human Rights Commission's Human Rights Inquiry into Human Trafficking in Scotland; Baroness King of Bow (Labour); Lord Dubs (Labour) former Chair of Liberty; Lord Crisp (Crossbench) Chief Executive of the NHS and Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health; Baroness Turner of Camden (Labour) and Lord Touhig (Labour).

Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat) responded on behalf of the government.

Further information

Members of the public can attend House of Lords debates and follow proceedings from the public gallery.

Image: iStockphoto

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