Tory and Cross-Bench peers are leading legal aid revolt
CommentsMarch 8th, 2012 Today, after the eight defeat on the legal aid bill in the house of lords a source close to Ken Clarkes responded by saying: “It’s yet another example of Labour peers behaving like they’re in the Greek parliament, not the House of Lords.” This is wrong and its not Labour.
The rebellion to this bill is being led by Tory Peers such as Lord Newton, Lord Cormack and Baroness Eaton and cross bench peers. Labour is simply following. Outside parliament criticism of his cuts is coming from the Tax Payers alliance.
Peers are rebelling because Ken and Cameron asking parliament and the public to take a punt on his plan and he has no evidence of savings.
We agree action has to be taken on the deficit. The difference is Sound off for Justice has a plan that will save the taxpayer £390 million while Ken does not.
Almost everyone who has looked at these particular cuts thinks that too many of them will end up costing taxpayers more than they save. The Citizen’s Advice Bureaux point out that advice costing £80 to deal with a housing problem can save thousands for councils who are legally required to house homeless families. King’s College London found that cutting £10.5m for legal aid in clinical negligence cases will cause knock-on costs to the NHS of £28.5m”.
Matthew Elliot of the taxpayers alliance is on the record saying “More than £500 million of Ken’s original savings plan for this Parliament has already gone up in smoke. First the £100 million a year he wanted to save by releasing rapists and violent criminals after serving only half of their prison sentences was over-ruled by David Cameron. Then in December Ken admitted his legal aid cuts would be delayed by six months, costing more than £200 million.
Last night their Lordships set out very clearly the moral, economic and political case for not making this cut from all parties and none. In the face of these powerful arguments, most cogently and movingly from Lord Newton, Mrs Thatcher’s Secretary of State for Social Security, the Minister had not a single argument in response.
Lord Newton told the government “nobody believes that the savings the Government have claimed for these proposals will actually be realised. The CABs, the Law Society and the report produced by King’s College all reckon that a lot of theses savings are illusory and that the knock-on effects on other government departments will be substantial but have so far been completely unquantified”.
The Conservative peer Lord Cormack said ”I take no delight in not supporting my Government as I could not on previous two amendments. All of us are keen there should be equality and fairness of treatment for all people in this country. Although Govt has to act with severe constraints, let us recognise dilemma but ask them to recognise in turn that in this amendment there is a real point of principle that deserves a sympathetic response.
Another conservative peer Baroness Eaton said that “The cuts for children will cost way more than the £6-7 million the Govt claims it will save. Lack of robust evidence Basemeans even the authors of these reforms cannot argue that they will make the savings they claim for them.
Even those like Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who want to see reductions in expenditure, among whom I count myself, are uneasy about these cuts. Transferring burden of cost to local authorities will put unmanageable strain. Minister needs to tell us how much will be transferred to local authorities that they will then claim back? The MOJ Impact Assessments in support of legal aid the cuts contain 15 separate statements that the MoJ does not have evidence for its predicted savings and 30 admissions that they are based onspeculation. This is pretty extraordinary.
The black hole in the MoJ accounts is growing and the department has failed to have its accounts approved by the National Audit Office three years running, it has allowed spending on criminal legal aid to jump by 9% in a year and it has failed to collect £1.5 billion in fines owed by criminals. In January Sir Suma the permanent Secretaty of the MOJ told the public account committee that they would not have the MoJ accounts for 2009/2010 until 2015.
Clarke’s complaint that it is Labour is simply untrue. It is the Conservative and Cross bench peers. Outside parliament its is Sound off For Justice, Mumsnet, Rights of Women, Shelter, AVMA, the NSPCC, Netmums, the Resolution Foundation, the Childrens Commissioner, the Women’s Institute and all who know the true the social and economic impacts which will impact 645,000 women, children, Families across the UK with a huge cost to the taxpayer."