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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:54 am on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon 10:54 am, 19th January 2016

It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Bailey. I thank all hon. Members present today for some truly engaging and insightful contributions to this vital debate. We have heard a range of comments about the comparison between our system and others and the professed commitment to a one nation justice system, as well as a passionate exchange of views about the real role of a legal and justice system.

A conclusion from my point of view is that there seems to be very little traction in comparing other systems to ours; it is like comparing apples to pears. Another conclusion I draw is that change and reform are absolutely fine. Nobody thinks our system should be static and stuck in the mud, but if we are going to change, we do not change simply by slashing and burning. We change by having a proper plan B and a sustainable system to put in as a replacement, rather than simply salami-slicing across the current system. It seems we are creating a truly two nation justice system, and if that happens, it will be a tragedy.

We have seen some evidence of listening from the Government. The screeching U-turn that the Justice Secretary performed on the scrapping of criminal court charges is evidence of such listening, and Opposition Members certainly welcome that. Rather than diving down into the weeds, I will conclude by saying that a justice system needs to pass four key tests. First, it must uphold the belief that someone is innocent until proven guilty. Secondly, everyone should have access to justice, regardless of their means. Thirdly, it is essential that we have confidence that the true perpetrators of crime have been found guilty and are not walking the streets. Fourthly, the system must deliver value for money for the taxpayer.

I am afraid that on all four of those tests, the Government are failing. We hope they will listen carefully to the proposals we have made today about the changes that are required. I also hope that we can, as my hon. Friend Karl Turner said, try to put politics aside and work together to create a more equitable, efficient and fair justice system.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered access to justice for vulnerable people.