Jeremy Corbyn's surprise choice as shadow justice secretary today pledged to fight to keep the Human Rights Act while describing the justice system as 'breaking'.
In his first speech to the Labour party conference for nine years, Lord Falconer of Thoroton (pictured) also sought to assure party members that he was onboard the Corbyn project.
Falconer, who was lord chancellor in Tony Blair's administration, spoke of his pride at being a member of the government that introduced the Human Rights Act, which came into force 15 years ago this week.
'The Tories call it “Labour’s Human Rights Act”,' he said. 'They think that’s an insult. It’s not.'
He told the conference: 'We’ll block attempts to repeal the Human Rights Act and we won’t let them walk away from the European Convention on Human Rights.' He also promised to fight against 'unfair court and tribunal fees'.
In a scathing attack on cuts to legal aid, Falconer said 'the Tory legal aid act' had reduced the number of social welfare cases receiving assistance from 470,000 to 53,000.
'This assault on legal aid is hurting people across the country,' he said, citing victims of domestic abuse being trapped with their attackers, small businesses facing bankruptcy and 'children separated from their parents denied help and left vulnerable to exploitation and homelessness'.
Overall, he said, 'the justice system is breaking and it’s the poor and the vulnerable who suffer'.
As expected, he did not propose specific measures to restore legal aid, instead promising that the party's review under Lord Bach 'will talk to lawyers, trade unions and people up and down the country who’ve been affected by these cuts to look at how we restore minimum standards to legal help and advice, in an economically responsible way'.
The Blairite Falconer also sought to make light of political differences with the party's new leader, joking that 'there are a few matters on which we disagree'. But, he said, 'we share so much more. We share the view that politics should change'.
But when interviewed after the speech, Falconer appeared less than wholehearted in his endorsement of Corbyn as a potential prime minister.
'It seems to me that at the start, people may not look to the nation that that’s the job that they’ll take up, but as time goes on, perceptions change,' he told the BBC. 'I mean, well, there’s five years before the general election, I think lots could happen.'