Questions in the House

There have been a number of questions in The House on family legal aid reform. I see from Lords of the Blog (the House blog) that Baroness Deech, whose pronouncements on family law I do not always agree with, is due to ask a further question. Good on her.

Questions to date (there may be more – please post any others in comments if you have them to hand):

7 Dec 2010 : (Hansard Column 194W [28735])
Simon Hart: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the financial effects on the justice system of litigants who do not qualify for legal aid and do not have the financial means to engage professional representation of appearing in person.
Mr Djanogly: Current evidence of the impact of litigants in person on the justice system is limited. We are currently reviewing the existing data and research to inform the final impact assessments that will support the reforms to Legal Aid on which we are currently consulting. While the thrust of these reforms is to reduce recourse to the courts, we recognise that they will also potentially lead to an increase in litigants in person. We consider that the overall effect should not significantly impact on court or tribunal operating costs. There will be a post-implementation review of any reforms.
23 Nov 2010 : [25575]
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) (Lab): What estimate he has made of the reduction in the number of family law cases that will be  eligible for legal aid during the period of the comprehensive spending review.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): We estimate that removing from the scope of legal aid most private family law cases, except for those involving domestic violence, forced marriage and international child abduction, would reduce the number of people receiving advice under the legal aid scheme by about 211,000 annually and of those represented in court by just under 54,000 annually. Together, those figures represent an estimated annual saving of £178 million. However, we have also decided to retain legal aid for mediation to help separating couples sort out their issues without the courts where possible.
Tony Lloyd: The Minister’s last point is very important. In many such private cases, child-protection issues arise. Can he give the House an absolute guarantee that private cases in which child protection becomes an issue will still receive legal aid? If not, these cost savings will be at the expense of our children’s future.
Mr Djanogly: Absolutely; where a public family law matter arises, that case will remain within scope. If a child is subject to being taken away from their parents, legal aid will be available.
[Note the logical fallacy in the assumption that child protection = public law, which either suggests a pretty basic misunderstanding of the position by the minister or an even more concerning deliberate evasion.]
Also, Karen Buck MP (Lab, Westminster North) is scheduled to open an adjournment debate on Legal Aid in the House of Commons on Tuesday, 14 December. A non-lawyer, she is Chair of the All Party Group on Legal Aid; For the Commons  All Party Group Register entry see here.

2 thoughts on “Questions in the House

  1. Child Protection = Public Law.

    If the Minister is moving towards this goal then it is to be commended.

    If there are child protection matters then they should be in the realm of Public Law (where funding for parties should be made available) and not in Private Law.

    Frequently matters of child protection are brought into Private Law cases where one or both of the parties use it as tactic to try to gain advantage in what should be otherwise straightforward proceedings.

    By doing so, children are put at risk either by an inadequate process, delay and inability of one or both of the parents to sustain legal representation or qualify for legal aid.

    Put Child Protection matters into Public Law and Criminal Law, where children are less likely to suffer from the double bind of delay and inadequate representation of the parties involved.

    Similarly with domestic violence allegations, put that in Public Law and the Criminal Courts where both parties should be able to obtain legal aid to put their allegations and defend themselves against allegations.

  2. karen buck = all-round good egg and very active campaigner on a range of social issues. she will be acutely aware given her constituency and its poverty levels (high – which will surprise those who do not know the area, which is generally believed to be affluent) of the number of constituents using the local law centre. interestingly, she defeated a posh barrister and chum of the now pm at the general election.

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