Labour will not reverse legal aid cuts – Slaughter

Topics: Civil justice,Legal aid and access to justice,Government & politics

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  • Andy Slaughter

Labour’s legal aid spokesman has warned that the party cannot reverse the cuts of the current government if it comes to power next year.

Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said Labour would start an immediate review of what coalition changes can be repealed if it wins next year’s general election.

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The Gazette understands this will focus on elements such as the residence test for legal aid, judicial review reform and part two of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 – in particular rules on conditional fee agreements.

But in a packed meeting organised by Justice Alliance UK in Manchester, held as a fringe event to the Labour party conference, Slaughter said he could not commit to re-establishing legal aid.

‘We’re not going to get in a Tardis and go back to before,’ he said. ‘We are in a world where resources are tight and it would not be right to pretend otherwise.'

However, he said: 'There are some aspects of what has been done which are politically motivated for employers or the insurance industry or ideologically driven against immigrants or prisoners. Those things are not costing money so it makes it much easier to turn them the other way.’

Slaughter conceded that the Labour party would have been forced to make cuts to family law funding and promote mediation as a cheaper option. He added that a Labour government would seek to promote and improve mediation services on offer.

Slaughter said the party’s overall aim would be to restore confidence in the justice system and ‘mend what has gone wrong’.

‘We are going to be honest about the tightness of resources – we can’t tackle everything immediately and other elements [of public spending] will have a higher place in the queue.

‘I hope we will regain the confidence of people in the profession to realise we’re on your side… we had a justice system to be proud of and we can again.’

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan is set to give one of the final speeches to conference this morning, although it is largely set to focus on constitutional issues.

The Conservatives hold their conference in Birmingham from next Sunday, with the Liberal Democrats in Glasgow the week after.

Readers' comments (15)

  • Well, there you have it. Cat leaps out of bag.

    For criminal lawyers, ask yourself honestly:
    Who is now going to represent your interests?

    The Law Society? The Labour Party? The Bar?

    I strongly suggest each person joins the LCCSA or the CLSA, whether or not your firm does. We need your ears, your voices, your presence, and (to a modest extent), your wallets.

    Joining up is about ten times easier than applying for legal aid. Look at last week's judicial review if you are in any doubt about what can be achieved. Do it now.

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  • Shock...not.

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  • "Labour WILL NOT reverse legal aid cuts"? Surely you mean "would not"?

    Apart, perhaps, from the body of leftists growing hourly in the darker recesses of Chancery Lane, there is not yet a national consensus that we WILL have the tax, borrow and spend brigade back in government just yet.

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  • Brilliant.

    The only change Labour will make is the Legal Aid residency test.

    You know, the one that prevents folks living abroad, who have made no contribution whatsoever to our Society, from wallowing around in the Human Rights Trough...

    Shame on the Labour Party.

    What about the shameful withdrawal of legal aid for battered British wives?

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  • No, that would be the residency tests that prevents the victims of domestic violence from getting help because, unsurprisingly, when you are fleeing for your life you don't stop to pick up your passport.

    And the one that stops those with serious disabilities and learning difficulties from accessing the care they are entitled to because, again, they don't tend to be too organised about keeping evidence of their residency.

    And the ones that stops people who have been trafficked to this country and who are being grossly exploited from getting legal protection because their traffickers have taken all their documents. To say nothing of their children.

    And many, many other similar instances.

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  • Well said Eleanor.

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  • It is highly unlikely that Labour will get into power as they have nothing real to offer and the current government is still in the process of trying to tidy up, as much as possible, the mess they left the country in. This article also shows that there is no point in solicitors with a vested interest in Legal Aid voting Labour. And as to the residency test - that is the one that gives my tax pounds to foreigners and as such wouldn't get my vote. Hail the end of excessive Human Rights legislation!

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  • Oh Dear!! It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always wins.
    The truth is this: legal aid ensures people are properly represented and that saves money, time and angst.
    Instead of imposing mediation it would be helpful if divorcing people could be asked how they wished to resolve issues. Collaborative Law makes more sense as does negotiating-the traditional way that most issues are in fact resolved.
    What a shame none of the political parties feel able to talk directly to a broad spectrum of experts to formulate a meaningful policy that addresses the real issue-access to justice.

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  • PS
    Any chance Grayling could be appointed as Ambassador to Syria?
    Just an idea;-))

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  • The real fun is going to come when the court decides that to allow the complainant in DV legal aid and refuse it to the alleged attacker is an obvious breach of Article 6.

    Apart from anything else it forces the complainant to submit to cross-examination by a litigant in person, who will always and necessarily be allowed more leeway than counsel.

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