The House of Lords debated the main principles and purpose of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill on Monday 21 November
The wide-ranging Bill covers issues including squatting, knife crime, sexual offences sentencing, abolition of the Legal Services Commission, redefining the scope of what can be covered by civil legal aid, extending the length of curfews, reducing the number of people remanded in custody unnecessarily and giving the Secretary of State new powers to make prison rules about prisoners’ employment, pay and deductions from their pay.
This second reading of the Bill saw over 50 Members of the Lords, experts in fields ranging from law to prisons, to welfare and disability, take part, including:
Lord McNally, Deputy Leader of the Lords, led the debate in his role as Minister of State for Justice in the House of Lords.
Constitution Committee report on the Legal Aid Bill
The House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report on Part 1 of the Bill which deals with legal aid. The Committee states that the extent of the proposed cuts to legal aid, and the manner in which they are to be delivered, raises issues around important constitutional principles of access to justice.
What happens at second reading?
Second reading is the first opportunity for Members of the Lords to debate the main principles and purpose of the Bill, and to flag up concerns and areas where they think changes (amendments) are needed.
Any Member of the Lords can speak in the debate so this stage can indicate those Members particularly interested in the Bill - or a particular aspect of it - and those who are most likely to be involved in amending the Bill at later stages.
Second reading debates usually last for a few hours but sometimes stretch over a couple of days