[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

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the comments I just made—that his party’s shadow team said it would not reverse any of the cuts. That kind of contradicts what he says; but as far as Willy Bach is concerned—and he is a man for whom I have much respect—I wish him well with his commission. Karl Turner will be aware that we have said there will be a review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 three to five years from its implementation. That will be a thorough review in relation to the way forward.

I want to mention some other points made in the debate. The hon. Member for Aberavon referred to some research conducted by Rights of Women, showing that 38% or 39% of women do not have the evidence needed to apply for legal aid. That research was based on responses from 61 people, which I hope even the hon. Gentleman will agree is a small sample—much smaller than researchers would ordinarily use to generalise across the wider population.

There is much debate about the amount of work available and the number of lawyers around to do it. The Law Society has itself accepted that there are far too many people chasing too little criminal work. We must recognise that the legal profession needs to take a wider look—not just to legal aid—at how things are going. In a relatively short time the structure of the legal profession has changed. There was a time when there were simply solicitors, barristers and legal executives; but now barristers in particular face competition from solicitors who have higher rights of audience than previously. There are more people wanting to qualify as barristers, as well. Alternative business structures are coming on the scene. That means that more and more people are chasing the same amount of work.