Parliamentary Legal Aid debate: Tuesday 14th December
Karen Buck MP has arranged an adjournment debate on Tuesday 14th December 9.30 – 11 am at Westminster Hall on ‘Legal Aid’.
This is an opportunity to inform MPs about the issues in the Green Paper and how it will affect their constituents. Karen will be able to make a speech and ask the Minister questions.
Please contact your MP, notify them of the debate and ask them to attend. Remember that if you have a different MP at home and for the office you can ask both. Here is some sample wording for you to cut and paste if you want….
I am writing as a member of the Young Legal Aid Lawyers to ask if you would attend the adjournment debate which Karen Buck MP has arranged to take place on Tuesday 14th December at Westminster Hall from 9.30 – 11 am. The subject is legal aid.
Please accept my apologies if you are already aware of the debate and are already planning to attend.
As I am sure you know the cuts to legal aid outlined in the government’s green paper, ‘Proposals for the reform of legal aid in England and Wales,’ are sweeping. Whole areas of social welfare law are to be removed from scope: for example legal aid will no longer be available for housing issues (unless there is a risk of homelessness), or welfare benefits, or for debt cases. Nor will legal aid be available for most immigration or employment cases. On top of this fewer and fewer people will be eligible for legal aid. Anyone who owns their home for example, will almost certainly be excluded.
The government acknowledges that these cuts may well have a disproportionate impact on women, disabled people and ethnic minorities. In light of the need to cut the deficit, the government considers that this is justified. This is fundamentally wrong. In a progressive and fair society there is no way of justifying cuts which means that you will come off worse if you are black, disabled or female. This is certainly not ‘reform’.
Throughout the green paper the government’s proposals are presaged with reminders to consider the ‘overall fiscal context’ when we respond to what they have put forward. This fiscal context will entail job losses across the public sector, cuts to welfare benefits and a cap on immigration. Removing these areas of law from scope in these circumstances is misguided and unfair. As people lose their jobs, their homes, and their benefits it is precisely these areas where they need advice and representation most. These cuts to legal aid will only serve to fuel inequality and undermine the rule of law: there can be no semblance of equality before the law when the only the well-off can defend their rights.
As an organisation, Young Legal Aid Lawyers are working hard to coordinate our response to the consultation, to lobby the Ministry of Justice and to raise awareness among ordinary people about how just how badly these cuts are going to affect the most vulnerable. But clearly this is not enough – the lion’s share of the work is to be done in Parliament. It is for this reason that I am writing to you. Please do attend the debate if you can.