Well done shadow lord chancellor Richard Burgon MP for Labour’s excellent pledge to restore all housing legal aid.
The Gazette said he announced this in a keynote speech to the University of Law in Manchester. The venue was indeed the UoL (thank you to them for hosting and refreshments), but the event at which Richard gave his speech was that of the Greater Manchester Law Centre, under the title of ‘Legal Aid and Free Access to Justice’.
Greater Manchester Law Centre, whose motto is ‘fighting together for free access to justice’, brought together several contributors towards that end. Siobhan Taylor-Ward of Young Legal Aid Lawyers explained how difficult it is for young people who face debt and a somewhat alien professional culture, if they are from working-class backgrounds. She urged them to stay the course if they were committed to legal aid as a key part of the welfare state. Joe Mensah-Dankwah of Black Solicitors Network set out the problems black lawyers face when trying to carry out work and stressed how much further there is to go. And Lord Willy Bach reflected on the Bach Review calling for an (excellently titled) Right to Justice Act. Richard’s own pledge was timely.
Greater Manchester Law Centre urges all your readers to join our fight – either with time or money (see gmlaw.org.uk for more). We are a campaign for the restoration of legal aid. While we are reliant on many free efforts of volunteers and lawyers, we call for the funding of a new generation of social welfare lawyers. And most of all we do not just call for access to advice, but also access to justice – as for Hillsborough, Grenfell and Stephen Lawrence. This is what legal aid should be for, not just a sticking plaster on the justice system.
John Nicholson, chair, Greater Manchester Law Centre