The Labour party has announced that it is to carry out a review of legal aid policy, led by Lord Bach with Karl Turner MP. The party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said:
“I have asked Willy Bach, the former Shadow Attorney General, to undertake an immediate review of the assault on Legal Aid by the Government over the last five years. This has resulted in many of our fellow citizens, often the poor and marginalised not being able to get advice or representation when they are faced with legal problems such as housing, welfare benefits, debt and employment. Many vital advice services, including Law Centres, have had to close.
“Even though it is clear that the consequences of Part One of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) are disastrous, the Government refuses to review the way in which the Act is working. Willy Bach, who is a member of the Shadow Justice Team, will also as a part of the Review look at policy choices for Labour so that Britain can once again have the prospect of a Legal Aid system worthy of our country and our legal tradition.”
Lord Back and Karl Turner are both members of Labour’s shadow justice ministerial team, headed by the shadow Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer – his recent article for the New Statesman on justice policy is also worth reading.
Karl Turner was a legal aid lawyer before entering Parliament in 2010. Lord Bach was legal aid minister in the last Labour government – his record on legal aid is mixed; although he increased financial eligibility limits for social welfare law when the financial crisis hit and fought LASPO hard in the Lords, in office he was in favour of criminal competitive tendering and as his last act as a minister pushed through a cut in crime fees.
The review is an opportunity for a fresh look at legal aid policy and was welcomed by leading legal aid lawyers
— Jonathan Black (@jonblackbsb) September 22, 2015
— Carol Storer (@CarolStorerLAPG) September 22, 2015
Lord Bach and Karl Turner have said that they want to hear from the professions to address the effect of the cuts, and it will be interesting to see what emerges from the review.