LASPO bound for statute book after cliffhanger final vote

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The government’s controversial legal aid reforms are set to become law after it won its final battle over the bill in the House of Lords yesterday.

Peers had inflicted 14 defeats on the government in votes on proposed amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill during its parliamentary passage.

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The final vote, on an amendment called by Labour’s former attorney general Lady Scotland to ensure legal aid for more domestic violence victims, ended in a draw, with 238 peers voting for it and 238 against. Under parliamentary convention that counts as a win for the government.

Lady Scotland’s amendment was the only change still under debate after crossbencher Lord Pannick reluctantly withdrew his amendment seeking a statement in the bill putting a duty on the government to ensure access to legal advice.

Earlier in the week, the government announced a concession to one of the most controversial elements in part 2 of the bill, agreeing to exclude claims for the lung disease mesothelioma from the reforms until a review of their impact on other areas had been carried out.

The bill is now set for royal assent. The Ministry of Justice said no date for that had been confirmed, but it is ‘likely to be soon’.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: ‘The bill is a sad and tatty chapter in the story of post-war access to justice. The onslaught on our precious legal aid system is an act of vandalism for which this Tory-led government will be forever remembered.'

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