New clause 20 — Lords Justices of Appeal

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 4th November 2009.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:30 pm, 4th November 2009

We have no plans to increase the amount of money for the legal aid budget. That budget is £2.1 billion, and we feel that far better value for money can be got from it. We feel strongly that we need to bear down on some of the drivers of costs, particularly the very high-cost cases, and that there is ample scope for bringing in new money to the legal aid budget from outside the MOJ. If the Minister is saying that he expects me to make a pledge to increase that expenditure, he knows the answer to that, unfortunately, as well as I do: whoever wins the next election, the Treasury will say that there will be no increase to that £2.1 billion. I hope that when the economy improves there will be more money for legal aid, because the legal aid budget is a vital part of the welfare state. Access to justice is something that all Conservative Members feel strongly about.

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