[Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair] — Access to Justice: Vulnerable People

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:49 am on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South 9:49 am, 19th January 2016

I thank the shadow Minister for his lengthy intervention, during which, I note, he did not answer the question I asked him. He will get a chance later to tell us which of the coalition Government’s changes to legal aid the Opposition support. Presumably they support some of them or would have done something else altogether.

Access to justice matters, and all of us have constituents who are affected by it. We heard that the Bar has been threatening to go on strike over some of the changes. I want to talk about the structure of how we do law in this country, because perhaps something is wrong with it. There were 2,500 practising barristers in 1980 and 15,000 in 2010, and there are 16,000 now. The Bar has grown hugely as legal aid costs have grown. I am not saying that is wrong—a very large number of talented people work at the Bar—but it is not indicative of a profession under major stress.

I do not want to make a cheap point about earnings at the Bar, but I will say this. A significant minority of practitioners earn from criminal legal aid sums significantly in excess of how much the Prime Minister is paid.