The Lords' 3rd Reading of the Legal Aid bill is on Parliament TV today Tuesday 27.3.12-link below. This should come on stream from 2.30pm with the debate following later on. Link to timetable also below
Post by Douglas Johnson on Mar 28, 2012 4:03:08 GMT
A summary e-mail doing the rounds has this.
Subject: Breaking news: Government suffer more 2 more defeats on LASPO BILL in the house of Lords which bring the total to 11.
Context: The government have been defeated 11 times in this bill. This is the largest defeat for the government in over 30 years.
There are a number of key votes tonight
Issues on debate today Children and Legal Aid: 3 votes (result 2 defeat for the government and one win) Legal Aid should be granted in cases where a failure to do so would be an “injustice” (debate/vote pending) Trafigura-type cases should be exempted from the Compensation Culture reforms (debate/vote pending) Privacy and defamation cases should be exempted from the Compensation Culture reforms (debate/vote pending)
To bring cases for children and vulnerable young people back into scope.
The Bill as it stands does not guarantee that children will be funded. The Government expects to save around £6 million from 6,000 children who will lose support. Children will be required to apply under the exceptional funding test, and will not always succeed.
Amendment 3 would ensure that children are automatically entitled to funding. Result Amendment 3: For 232 Against 220 Govt defeat by 12 votes
Amendment 4 would retain legal aid for children only in clinical negligence cases. Result Amendment 4: For 228 Against 215 Govt defeat by 13 votes
Amendment 5 would retain legal aid for vulnerable young people aged 18-25, eg those with disabilities, care leavers or vulnerable for other reasons to be spelled out in regulations. Result Amendment 4: For 206 Against 229 Govt win by 23 votes
Baroness Grey-Thompson: there should be no question of children being left to present cases on their own. These cases should not be subject to the exceptional funding test. The State in this bill is removing children’s rights to challenge it.
Lord Cormack: I don’t dissent from anything Baroness Grey-Thompson has said, but this amendment is narrower. We know the deficit has to be cut, but that does not mean cuts have to be made in every department, particularly where small sums can make a big difference. We hope the Commons will think again, unless the Minister will concede.
Baroness Howe: “These people need help to assist them to lead a more fulfilled adult life.” Amd would help Government meet its commitment to vulnerable young people as set out in its cross-departmental strategy. Any savings from denying young people civil legal aid are likely to be outweighed by costs in criminal legal aid, and Local Govt Association has expressed concern about extra costs for care leavers. This amendment makes economic sense.
Lord Thomas opposed amendments. Bill extensively protects children already. For clinical negligence cases, CFAs as reshaped will be preferable to legal aid.
Baroness Eaton supporting amds, particularly relating to clinical negligence. “I support amendment that will help the Government draw back from a regrettable and avoidable mistake.”
Lord Avebury was convinced by Lord Thomas’s claims that children would keep more of their damages under CFAs. This completely ignores the problems whether children can get a CFA in the first place.
Baroness Massey and the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds both spoke in favour of the amendments.
Lord Wigley “Unless we pass this we lose everything”. We must at least pass this amendment to make the Commons think again.
Lord Phillips: Paid tribute to Lord Newton in strengthening his spine to ignore the whip at least once today.
Earl Listowel spoke in favour of care leavers.
Lord Crisp: Will not improve access, for these vulnerable people. Will damage it. Will save the Exchequer on legal aid but will cost the NHS more. And will make the system more complex. Urge Minister to reconsider and accept this amd.
Baroness Benjamin supports amendments 3 and 5.
Baroness Masham also speaking in support.
Lord Bach of course supported from the Labour front bench. The cost of allowing these amendments is far outweighed by the costs that would be incurred if
Lord McNally worried that those not in the chamber will hear it is about whether we provide legal aid for children. It is not about that. 90% of funding for children is protected, and he does not accept that the balance need specialist legal advice. Exceptional funding applications will be completed by a solicitor. Process will be similar as for current in scope cases. Lords claim it is very complicated. If you are not going to make blanket payments you have to draw lines. Don’t accept it is some new complicated programme. Have been working on additional support for CABx. Child or other party must have litigation friend, usually the parent, only exceptionally that child will be party in their own right. No requirement that a litigation friend must act through a solicitor. That provides sufficient protection, and there is a fall-back in the exceptional funding provisions.
Archbishop Sentamu raised question re funding for appeals to the Supreme Court, which the Minister had not addressed. McNally claimed he will do so.
Re the clinical negligence amendment, have conceded re obstetrics cases, with various protections. Re 18-25 vulnerable people, have already provided for vulnerable people in decisions on cuts. Exceptional funding provides fallback.
In the circumstances, he hopes that amendments will be withdrawn.
Baroness Grey-Thompson confirmed that she is not satisfied and that she wishes to test the opinion of the House.
Law Society position
"The Govt position was inherently contradictory. If their policy of protecting children was already encapsulated in the Bill, what grounds could they have for opposing these amendments? Their Lordships have made it crystal clear that children’s rights must be protected, and we warmly welcome that decision.
At the start of the debate the government accepted one amendment. Power to bring categories of law back into scope as well as remove
As it stood, the Bill would have enabled Ministers to remove further categories from scope, but not to bring matters into scope
Result: government accept ammendment Key Quotes
Baroness Butler-Sloss urges Govt to review impact on family courts within a year. “Not sure Govt quite accepts what we have been saying about impact on Courts. Lists will be substantially increased. There will be longer hearings. Two litigants in person will spend an absolute age, and the sort of case that takes a day or two will take a week.”