The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill will finish its passage through the House of Lords on 27 March 2012. A number of amendments have been tabled to lessen the impact of the Bill. These include amendments:
- to keep legal aid for welfare benefits cases;
- to preserve legal aid for complex cases which end up in the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court;
- to guarantee the independence of the Director of the Legal Aid agency;
- to enable the Government to increase the scope of legal aid; and
- to preserve legal aid for housing benefits cases where the home is at risk.
This is good news. However, even if these amendments do get voted through in the Lords – as we have seen with the Welfare Reform Bill – it will still be difficult to get them through the House of Commons.
With this in mind we are asking members to make one final push to write to their MPs now, to drum up support for these amendments. We have drafted a template letter (below) for you to use, but would ask members to try to amend the template to reflect your own thoughts and experiences as much as possible.
We are also asking members to invite their MPs to the All Party Parliamentary Group on legal aid at 1.30pm on 14 March 2012. At the APPG we will be launching the results of our study looking at MPs’ constituency work in the context of legal aid cuts. An invite to the APPG is included in the template letter.
This really is the final chance to salvage any concessions on the Bill. Please do write to your MP now.
Links to a selection of briefings for the Report stage are available here. You may want to choose one or two of these to send with your letter.