Sunday, 23 June 2013
NO to PCT - Backbench Legal Aid debate coming up 27th June
I do not deny that government needs to save money though I seriously question some of its priorities (e.g. Trident replacement, ring-fencing of the huge overseas aid budget etc). The government's latest legal aid proposals are to be debated in a backbench debate on legal aid in Parliament on 27th June.
The President of the Supreme Court has had his say; the Attorney-General appears to have concerns and says that he is trying to ensure that the Ministry of Justice (which owns legal aid policy) acts in a fully informed way. It also seems that the Deputy Prime Minister has questioned the plans. There are vast numbers (13,000 or more) responsible responses to the legal aid consultation opposing the proposals though quite a number suggest alternative ways in which money could be saved. Meanwhile, 'Justice' Ministers such as Lord McNally - (guaranteed seat in the Lords for life) - continue to brazen things out in public.
Pressure your MP to attend the debate and to say NO to the Price Competitive Tendering (or PCT) aspect of these plans. This will
cut drastically the number of solicitor's firms offering criminal legal aid work. Large privatised providers of legal aid will enter the market and will be handed millions in public money to offer representation but it will be at the lowest cost to them possible so that their profits are maximised. Very low pay will be offered by these firms and they will only attract poor quality or inexperienced lawyers to work for them. There will be a fixed fee per case whether you plead guilty or not guilty. Their only concern will be the profit to be made from a big throughput of cases. Apart from the very rich, the right of the citizen to choose a solicitor to represent them will, in practice, have gone - probably for ever. A lawyer will be allocated to the case and a defendant will not usually be able to change to another.
The Law Society has prepared a briefing for MPs - why not forward it to your MP to make sure he has the chance to see it?
Save Justice - The government is changing legal aid! It will affect you! This explains why.
*** Please sign the e-petition on Legal Aid - the aim is to try to persuade Parliament to hold a full debate with Ministers present about the government's plans to slash legal aid. Why should any Minister be allowed to seriously alter the rights of the British citizen just by stroke of his pen?