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Jon Robins, editor of The Justice Gap, considers what may change for legal aid in 2015.
Will 2015, the year of the general election, likely bring any changes for legal aid?
I do not anticipate that we are going to hear too much about legal aid in the run-up to the May 2015 general election. At the best of times legal aid is a non-issue for the public and there is little political capital to be gained by any of the political parties making it an issue other than perhaps to embarrass Labour. The ferocity with which the shadow justice team have laid into their bête noire, the justice secretary Chris Grayling, has been more than matched by their silence when it comes to any commitments on reversing the harm done by the April 2013 legal aid cuts.
There was a revealing exchange in the House of Commons at the end of last year when the Labour MP for Newport East, Jessica Morden, challenged justice minister Shailesh Vara about the impact of the cuts. Vara pointed her in the direction of her own party’s last election manifesto (Ch 5, p 5). ‘Perhaps she would like to ask the opposition front benchers whether they intend to reverse the cuts that we have made,’ he added.
Shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan then joined in the attack. ‘Has he read the Law Society Gazette of 24 September, following the Labour conference?’ Vara retorted. The headline was ‘Labour will not reverse legal aid cuts’. It quoted Khan’s colleague, the MP and lawyer Andy Slaughter on his government’s plans for legal aid. ‘We’re not going to get in a Tardis and go back to before LASPO [the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO 2012)],’ the MP said.
It will be interesting to monitor the public pronouncements of Lord Willy Bach who, as a result of the fallout from Emily Thornbury’s Twitter faux pas, is the new shadow attorney general. As LAS
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