Legal Aid

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th February 2011.

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:30 pm, 15th February 2011

What assessment he has made of the likely outcomes of the planned reductions in the legal aid budget.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Our approach to the legal aid reforms has been to focus resources on those who most need help in the most serious cases in which legal advice or representation is justified. I believe that the outcome will be a system that is more responsive to public needs, allowing people to resolve their issues out of court, using simpler, more informal remedies where appropriate, and encouraging more efficient resolution of contested cases where necessary.

Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

My constituency is one of the most deprived in the country and is also 60% non-white. Given that the Government's cuts to legal aid will disproportionately affect those on low incomes, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and women, can the Minister explain how his plans for legal aid are in any way fair?

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I should point out that people on high incomes do not get legal aid. We need to change behaviour; there needs to be a less contentious approach to the law and early intervention, which means looking at new ideas such as mediation.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

With regard to the outcomes of the reforms, particularly in family law cases, will the Minister clarify and confirm that in such cases, divorcing couples' equity and assets will be taken into account when determining legal aid so that those who can pay do pay?

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

In public family law, legal aid will remain. In private family law, legal aid will be removed, because we believe fundamentally that the taxpayer should not have to pay for a regular divorce, a contact application or splitting up family assets. People should go to mediation to sort out their problems among themselves-not at the cost of the taxpayer.

Photo of Meg Munn Meg Munn Labour, Sheffield, Heeley

I have an example of a case in Sheffield where a 62-year-old grandmother used legal aid to go through the processes she needed to go through to care for her two grandchildren, who were otherwise at risk of going into care. Will the Minister assure me that grandparents in such a situation will be able to do that in future? Otherwise, the cost to the state of caring for small children will be considerably more than that of the legal aid.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

What I can tell the hon. Lady is that we do not propose to remove public family law legal aid, and that includes cases in which the state wants to take away someone's children.