Even Tories Are Objecting

to planned cuts to legal aid, which they worry will hurt women.

Senior backbench Conservative MPs are concerned about the government’s changes to legal aid, Huffington Post UK can reveal.

As the government prepares to cut £350m from the legal aid budget, Conservative MP Anna Soubry has said she and some backbench colleagues are concerned about how this will affect women.

“We’re not happy about the changes in legal aid… we’re fearful they will affect women who are separating from husbands. We’ve identified that as a problem.”

The coalition’s cuts to legal aid mean that in civil law cases, those going through divorce will no longer be entitled to help from the state.

One thought on “Even Tories Are Objecting

  1. These concerns should receive due consideration. And if the cuts go through, hopefully the British legal profession will accelerate its slow adoption of the US pro bono practice model (the average US lawyer contributes something like four times as much in free legal services annually to indigent and nonprofit clients as her UK counterpart) to take up some of the slack.

    On the other hand, there’s no question that reforms are needed – and some of the ones that have lately been proposed, such as an increased focus on mediation, are promising. Indeed, Parliament would not go amiss by taking a long, hard look at some of the social costs associated with a broad publicly subsidised right to a solicitor in civil claims: unnecessary litigation (including of frivolous causes), deterrence of a pro bono ethic in the legal profession (see previous paragraph), etc. Not to mention the fact that since a significant amount of publicly funded private litigation is directed against the government, the legal aid budget is much more expensive than it appears; the public exchequer is effectively paying to have even larger sums of money transferred out of it.

    This is an opportune moment for Parliament to explore better, more efficient ways of promoting access to legal services, and the bar should be its natural ally in that endeavour. Unfortunately, it is proving hard for the legal profession in Britain to assess objectively the downside of a government-paid right to services it has a monopoly on providing.

    (A possibly amusing historical anecdote of which the opening post’s title reminded me: If you’re a fan of legal aid, thank a Tory – more specifically Lord Rushcliffe, the father of the modern British legal aid scheme.)

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