Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has put legal aid on his agenda, asking former minister Lord Bach to ‘immediately’ review the government’s reforms.
The announcement comes as practitioner groups ponder whether to accept justice secretary Michael Gove’s offer to suspend the government’s latest cut to legal aid fees and days before criminal defence firms find out if their bids for new duty provider contracts have been successful.
This will be the opposition party’s second pledge this year to carry out a review. Prior to May’s general election, Labour pledged to review how criminal legal aid was procured.
‘Even though it is clear that the consequences of part one of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 are disastrous, the government refuses to review the way in which the act is working,’ Corbyn (pictured) said today.
‘[Lord Bach], who is a member of the shadow justice team, will also as a part of the review look at policy choices for Labour so that Britain can once again have the prospect of a legal aid system worthy of our country and our legal tradition.’
Shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer said Bach brought a ‘wealth of experience and expertise’ to the task of leading the review.
Bach was called to the Middle Temple bar in 1972 and served as a junior minister in the Ministry of Justice between 2008 and 2010. The life peer has been a critic of the government over LASPO, helping to inflict several defeats in the House of Lords during the passage of the legislation.
In July 2014, he led opposition in the House of Lords to the provisions for asking interveners to pay judicial review costs.
Bach accused the government of creating a system of civil justice ‘dismantled so that instead of remaining a gem in our legal crown, it is something which we may soon become ashamed of’.
Hull MP Karl Turner will join the party’s shadow justice team, the party said today. Turner, who has been appointed shadow solicitor general, will work on legal aid and criminal justice issues.
‘Having practised as a criminal lawyer prior to entering parliament, I have seen first hand the damaging changes that the Tory government has made to legal aid and access to justice,’ Turner said.