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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 10:30 am, 19th January 2016

May I gently tell the hon. Lady that, were it not for the economic mess that the Labour Government left this country in—[Interruption.] Labour Members may well shrug their shoulders, but the reality is that, were it not for the mess they left and their economic mismanagement, we would not have had to take the tough decisions that we are having to take. I will return later to the views the Labour shadow justice team has expressed on the record about whether the cuts should have been made.

During the previous Parliament the coalition Government proposed a civil legal aid residence test, which has been referred to. The Government continue to believe that individuals should have a strong connection to the UK to benefit from our civil legal aid scheme, and intend to implement the residence test following recent success in the courts. I should add that during the previous Parliament the Government were particularly careful to listen to, and take into account, concerns that were raised about the residence test. As a result a number of modifications and exceptions were proposed, including in cases involving particularly vulnerable individuals. We believe that the proposed residence test, with specific exceptions for vulnerable groups, is both fair and appropriate. It has to be right that when British taxpayers’ money is being used for legal aid, the recipient of the legal aid should have a strong connection to our country.