The Green party today pledges to ‘restore cuts to legal aid’ in its general election manifesto.
Equality before the law would become a fundamental constitutional right, the party said, ‘but this is only a reality if all can afford to use the law’. The manifesto states that legal aid cut by the coalition would be restored, costing around £700m a year.
In 2013-14 the overall workload for legal aid consisted of over 1.8 million acts of assistance. The Legal Aid Agency spent just over £1.7bn in 2013-14 on funding advice for criminal and civil legal matters. Of this, £0.9bn was spent on criminal legal aid and around £0.8bn was spent on civil legal aid.
The Green party, led by Natalie Bennett (pictured), also pledged to keep the Human Rights Act to ‘retain the principle that human rights are the common property of the whole world’. The manifesto states it would also retain the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe.
Meanwhile, the party said it supported ‘a world of open, freely flowing information’ and establish a comprehensive Digital Bill of Rights.
It would oppose any case for secret unaccountable mass surveillance ‘of the type exposed by Edward Snowden’. It accepted that government law enforcement agencies may occasionally need to intercept communications in specific circumstances but such surveillance should be within the rule of law and have independent judicial approval.
A comprehensive legal framework would also be established, setting out exceptional circumstances when content or activity could be censored or taken down.
The party also pledged to replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which it said had failed to support the confidentiality of journalistic sources and legal confidentiality.
Employment tribunal fees would be reduced so that ‘tribunals are accessible to workers’.