Legal Aid

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 17th March 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk 11:30 am, 17th March 2015

When he next plans to meet representatives from (a) the Law Society and (b) the Bar Council to discuss legal aid.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Throughout the development of the “Transforming Legal Aid” package of reform, my officials and I regularly met the Law Society, the Bar Council and other members of the legal profession. Officials from the Department and the Legal Aid Agency continue to be in regular contact with the representative bodies as we implement the reforms.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that I represent a number of constituents involved with family law cases, including one young mother who is contesting adoption proceedings? She received legal aid for the substantive hearing, but she is now appealing and, unfortunately, cannot get legal aid. Has he made any assessment of the impact of the cost in respect of litigants in person within the family division? Without increasing the overall legal aid budget, will he consider some reallocation of resources within it to solve this particular problem?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and say to him that we do have one of the most generous legal aid budgets in the world and we have made sure that we provide legal aid assistance for those who need it.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

In a previous Question Time, I raised the problem of victims of domestic abuse apparently being deterred from going to law because of the cuts in legal aid. Has the Minister discussed the matter with representatives of the law authorities? Does he have any statistics to confirm these reports?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We have paid particular attention to those who have been victims of domestic violence and we are very keen that, wherever possible, we will give legal aid to make sure that people get out of the abusive relationships in which they are caught.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Following on from that, on how many occasions have victims of domestic violence had their legal aid funding stopped because of the rule changes for evidence now being more than two years old? The Minister must have that information to hand.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

What I will tell the hon. Gentleman is that this issue has been the subject of a huge amount of misunderstanding among the wider public, not least because of the misinformation imparted by people such as himself. On two occasions we have increased the criteria on the required evidence, once during the passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and subsequently when we found that more evidence was required.