Examination of Witnesses
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill
Steve Hynes: I wish that the Legal Action Group had coined it, but it was James Sandbach of Citizens Advice, who, I note, was sitting behind us earlier.
The landscape will be decimated. On the civil side, our estimate is that we would probably go down to something like between 500 and 900 firms undertaking legal aid; in family, it will mean that pretty much in every parliamentary constituency you will have problems if there are conflicts of interest. I think you have already heard evidence about the not-for-profit sector.
The Government have got their impact assessment up to date. Around £60 million would be lost in what we call social welfare law, and the specialist end of Citizens Advice, 18 law centres, quite a few of the independents. We have produced a lot of data on this. In this month’s Legal Action magazine, we have an article outlining the effects on child poverty zones—where there is a high instance of child poverty, the top floor being in London. It is difficult to exaggerate how bad the effect will be.
To be devil’s advocate, the Government know that. It is in their impact assessment. The Lord Chancellor criticised Lady Hale for quoting from the impact assessment. As a matter of policy, the Government are saying, “We know the Bill will affect poor and marginalised communities, but we are going ahead with it, because we have to save money.” To be fair to them, they have been up front about that.