Lord Bach reacts on Twitter to latest farce from the government on legal aid " Willy Bach þ@FightBach #LASPO.Outrageous lineby HMG on Lords Legal Aid defeat.Forget ministerial tantrum, truth is Gov will not give a penny! Need to protest nowRT 27m Willy Bach þ@FightBach #LASPO. It seems Parl defeat means 0 to this Gov! Told Order too mean,react by taking even that away. Unbelievable arrogance.Need campaignRT"
and here is Lord Bach's blog from earlier in the day
"Willy Bach on why the government must respond to Parliament after its latest Lords defeat over legal aid provision
In the Lords today, I will press Ministers on a matter of some significance – that is if you believe governments should both keep their promises and listen and act on what the House of Parliament says.
The background is this: on April 17th last year, in order to ensure the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill through the Commons, the then Lord Chancellor made a concession that legal aid would continue to be available to those citizens who were taking a point of law to a First Tier Tribunal. Unfortunately, Ministers backslided from this pledge and proposed a much weaker and much rarer alternative in an affirmative Draft Order. When this Order was debated in the Lords in December, there was a strong view expressed across the chamber that the alternative was a breach of the government’s undertaking and should be withdrawn. Peers decided a more generous concession was needed and on the subsequent vote, the Order was defeated – a very rare event indeed.
Now 36 days on, we still don’t know what Ministers intend to do. Early indications were that they would respond in a manner that would disgrace a spoilt child by refusing to bring anything back at all.
If they do this, it will be a serious breach of their duty to Parliament which is surely to respond positively to a decision made in either House. It will also represent a further breach of the concession the government made to get the LASPO Bill through in the first place. Above all, it would be an outrageous act towards those few citizens who might have received some legal advice through legal aid even under the original Order. They would lose out simply because of Ministers’pique at being thwarted. Surely we can expect better than that?
At Justice questions in the Commons just before Christmas, the Lord Chancellor answered a similar query by saying the government were still considering what to do about the Lords’ defeat on the Order. Maybe that will still be their position this afternoon. One can only hope a little post-Christmas generosity may have got through to the Ministry of Justice and Ministers keeps their word.
What we are talking about here is our fellow citizens’ rights to access justice and whether governments should keep their word to Parliament, and take heed of what it decides. That is why this matter and the answer it receives is of real importance.
Lord Willy Bach is backbench Labour Peer and was previously Shadow Justice Minister in the Lords
For the sake of completeness on this thread am copying across seperate post today on the decision yesterday to do nothing further in relation to Clarke's committment on benefit appeals given last year.
The debate yesterday in the Lords which confirms the government's decision to renege on its undertaking in relation to legal aid for welfare benefits appeals given to the House of Commons is now covered in Hansard-column 12 onwards link below
Here is what Clarke undertook to do on 17 April 2012. The proposals put forward by the government did not cover this issue but the wholly seperate issue of reviews so they did not do what they promised to do. He also claimed the number of cases where a legal issue would be involved were few, yet McNally now claims it would be "too expensive"
“ Mr Clarke : My right hon. Friend’s amendment, on the face of it, goes back to the whole of business of whether we should apply legal aid for legal advice in every welfare claim, but the question that concerns him most is, “What about the ones that involve legal issues?”, and I can conceive of cases in the lower tribunals in which what is raised really is a point of law. He wants me to find some equivalent to the upper tribunal, asking, “Is there some situation in which somebody, preferably the tribunal judge, certifies that there is a point of law involved where legal aid should be available?” We do not have such a situation at the moment, and we will have to try to devise one, as there is no system for it: just as we have accepted the argument about legal issues in the upper tribunal, we could of course do so if the same thing arises in the lower. We will go away and work on the matter. We already have discussions under way with the Department for Work and Pensions, whose help we will also require, to see whether we could have some equivalent—whereby somebody other than the claimant or their lawyer certifies that a point of law is involved—and provide legal aid. I suspect that at this stage of the Bill’s passage through Parliament it is far too late to start introducing primary legislation in the House of Lords, but we have retained for ourselves powers to amend the scoping through regulation, so if we could solve the problem, we could bring something forward through statutory instruments. We are quite open to the argument for ensuring that we have legal representation when there is a legal issue that we cannot expect a lay person ordinarily to argue. Mr Llwyd: I follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s logic on that, but surely if the point of law is a good one in the upper tribunal and all the way up to the Supreme Court, it is equally good in the first tier, but if the case is unrepresented in the first tier, it is not going to go anywhere else. Mr Clarke: I should like to see whether we can devise, with the help of the DWP, my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington and anybody else, a system whereby we identify in the lower tribunal such issues that involve a legal issue. We think that the number is comparatively small, because it is not the business of lower tribunals normally to find themselves arguing points of law, as they normally argue points of fact and of regulatory interpretation, but we will work on the matter, and if we can devise such a system, we undertake to respond as my right hon. Friend asks me to. Simon Hughes: The Secretary of State is being very helpful, and my constituents are absolutely not bothered whether this is a primary or secondary legislation matter, as they just want to know that they will have the 17 Apr 2012 : Column 227 support that he talks about……………..” www.publications.parliament.uk/pa....#12041733000002