[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

The hon. Gentleman is an experienced barrister and an experienced politician. He will appreciate that the function of this House is to put policy into implementation, by ensuring that it becomes law. The practical process will need to be thought out—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”]—as is the case with every other measure introduced by the present and previous Governments, and during the 13 years when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in government, and even before that. That is something that will be dealt with and resolved.

Jim Shannon, for whom I have huge respect and regard, spoke passionately; but he will of course be aware that the matter is a devolved one. I wish him well in his dealings with David Ford, with whom I too have had dealings. To the extent that it will help, I will certainly tell him the next time I see him that the hon. Gentleman was speaking passionately and would like him to give a sympathetic ear when he raises the issue. Stuart C. McDonald will appreciate that, again, the issue is a devolved one; but he has put his views on record—including in our little dialogue during my speech.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend David Mowat for bringing a realistic perspective to the debate, and for pointing out the reality of the situation. He repeatedly asked the shadow Justice Minister which of the cuts that we have made his party would reverse. I am not surprised that no reply was forthcoming, because in an interview with The Guardian on 30 January 2015, the former shadow Lord Chancellor, Sadiq Khan, said:

“I don’t have a magic wand to wave. I can’t commit to reverse the £600m cuts to legal aid made by the Tories and Lib Dems. We will still have to take tough decisions on reducing the deficit.”

However, it was not only the former shadow Justice Secretary who took that view. The person in his team dealing specifically with legal aid, Andy Slaughter, was interviewed by John Hyde of The Law Society Gazette on 24 September 2014:

“‘We’re not going to get in a Tardis and go back to before,’ he said. ‘We are in a world where resources are tight and it would not be right to pretend otherwise.’”

The article goes on:

“Slaughter conceded that the Labour party would have been forced to make cuts to family law funding and promote mediation as a cheaper option. He added that a Labour government would seek to promote and improve mediation services on offer.”

He is quoted as saying:

“‘We are going to be honest about the tightness of resources—we can’t tackle everything immediately and other elements”— of public spending—

“will have a higher place in the queue.’”