Community Legal Service (Funding) (Amendment No. 2) Order 2011 — Motion to Annul

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 26th October 2011.

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Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 10:15 pm, 26th October 2011

If the noble Lord is right, perhaps he will explain this decimation of social welfare law, with its few savings for the Ministry of Justice, and how it will cost infinitely more to the state as a whole when problems are not solved, people are chucked out of their houses, debts grow bigger, families break down and children commit crime. Other departments will have to pick up the pieces for the paltry savings that the Ministry of Justice will make. Please do not give us that stuff about public spending. The truth is that these Ministry of Justice savings-we have said that we accept that the MoJ has to find a number of savings-will cost the state and the community much, much more.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, said, civil legal aid is not an optional extra. The concern is that this Government are treating it just as an optional extra and the cost will be much greater. We could see which way the Government were going on legal aid way back in June or July 2010 when out of the blue they removed the grants that were given by the Legal Services Commission for young legal aid lawyers to get legal contracts with legal aid firms. It cost a few million pounds a year, if that. But the Government abolished them at the start and we should have been wise as to what they were planning to do now. There was absolutely no reason for doing that and there cannot be any reason for doing what they are intending to do now to social welfare law.

Legal aid in the civil field is well worth protecting. I shall end with a quote from Supreme Court Justice Lewis F Powell who spoke about the American system but it could just as easily be applied to the British system. He said:

"Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists ... it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status".

He was right. I hope only that the Government change their mind. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.