Labour’s shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter has given the biggest hint yet that his party might seek to undo some civil justice reforms if returned to power.
Slaughter (pictured) told today’s Westminster Legal Policy Forum that it was too early to judge the effectiveness of Jackson reforms and the ongoing changes to fixed fee claims.
The former barrister said the legal profession was struggling to deal with an ‘unprecedented avalanche’ of change and it was ‘foolhardy’ to try to reform so much in such a short space of time.
When quizzed by an audience member what Labour would do instead, Slaughter said his party would look to ‘unwind’ some reforms if they are found to be failing in 2015.
This would be done, he said, through a more thorough consultation process that would take account of the opinions of members of the legal profession.
‘Politicians have a problem when they look for quick fixes or listen too much to one side of the argument,’ said Slaughter.
‘It’s a lesson we need to learn – we need to listen to the profession as well as the Daily Mail. I would not want a Labour government to be prisoner to vested interests [but] we have gone too far the other way in ignoring experts in this area simply because politicians think they are feathering their own nests.’
Slaughter said it was wrong to bring in new reforms when the effects of the existing reforms have yet to be assessed. ‘I don’t know how the profession – let alone the public – is going to cope with the changes coming through.’
A total of 42 MPs have now signed an early day motion calling for the government to postpone any further changes to the small-claims limit.
The list includes six Liberal Democrats and two Conservatives – Graham Brady of Altrincham and Sale West and Andrew Stephenson of Pendle.