Report (3rd Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 12th March 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 6:45 pm, 12th March 2012

My Lords, like others, I have been aware of the paradox that some senior lawyers have commented on the complexity of immigration law, but that if those extraordinarily senior lawyers had attempted to give advice they would be committing a criminal offence.

I do not want to repeat all the powerful points made in this debate, but an obvious point to me is that so many of the not-for-profit organisations which are not approved to give advice in this field work on something less than a shoestring. We have seen some of them folding not so long ago. Those which are approved are very stretched. They may not survive if legal aid in this area does not remain available. I do not suppose that the financial criteria for being granted legal aid under any part of the scope will be that generous-one's means must be very low to qualify. Like the noble and learned Baroness, I very much welcome the announcement that victims of trafficking will be eligible to receive legal aid. I wait to see the detail on that.

I just wanted to make two points. First, not everyone who wants to stay either wants to or can apply for asylum-I recognise that that will remain in scope. Secondly, their very difficulty with immigration status restricts many trafficked victims from seeking help to escape from their traffickers. Their passports will have been taken away. To many of them, that amounts to their identity being taken away. That leaves such control with their traffickers that I find it a difficult notion that they will not be able to get advice under a legal aid scheme.