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Former Lord Chancellor admits that Labour got it wrong on legal aid

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Falconer ‘fesses up to ‘opening the door’ to Tory cuts while in government

Legal aid

A long-serving Labour Lord Chancellor has admitted that his party’s attempts to reduce the legal aid budget while in government paved the way for swingeing cuts made under the Conservatives since 2010.

Lord Falconer QC, who was in office from 2003 to 2007, attacked the current government for slashing spending on access to justice since 2010 but says that Labour “opened the door” with its own attempts to reduce legal aid expenditure in the 2000s.

The legal aid budget fell by 7% during Falconer’s final year in office, but total spending was still £2.6 billion when the Conservatives took power in 2010. Last year the Legal Aid Agency paid out £1.6 billion — a fall of well over a third. Former president of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger warned last year that “our legal system is in danger of falling over”.

Writing in The Guardian, former minister Falconer — now a partner at LA-headquartered Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher — concedes that “this devastation of legal aid was made easier for the Tory-led coalition government by the attempts of previous Labour lord chancellors”.

Edinburgh-born Falconer, who as a young barrister shared a flat with his future political boss Tony Blair, argued that the Labour government “certainly never intended Laspo, but we created an atmosphere in which it was more possible”. Laspo is the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which removed public funding from many areas of civil law.

The Ministry of Justice is due to publish a review of the Laspo cuts “early in the New Year”, having originally promised it in 2018. Ahead of the report, the Bar Council and openDemocracy have released a series of videos documenting the real-life effects of legal aid cuts.

Falconer charges that “justice expenditure is now massively below what any assessment of our national values would regard as adequate”.

He goes on to say that “the law has become a means by which the oppression of the weak is institutionalised”, calling for legal aid spending to be “urgently restored to pre-Laspo levels”.

This is not the first time that Falconer has disowned his former policies. In September 2018, he wrote that he was “sorry for supporting the war on drugs” — despite having been in charge of “one of the departments that put prohibition into action” for four years.

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16 Comments

Anonymous

Vote for Jeremy Corbyn to tax high earners like city partners to pay for legal aid and the NHS!

Falconer is just a Tory. Same old Tories, same old lies

Freedom for Palestine!

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!!

Vintage Meme Squad

In Russia, city partners tax Jeremy Corbyn

Dave Barrister

These worthless political posts are so obnoxious…

Legal aid cuts are largely seen by the profession as a false economy that waste a great deal more resources than they save: underprepared cases, last-minute broken fixtures, needless preliminary hearings/CMCs/FCMH, the list goes on.

I would love to know how much wasted cost this generates v the savings on the legal aid bill but it would probably cost ten times the annual legal aid budget for the current Government to engage PWC to work it out…

The political landscape in this country today is grotesque; legal aid is sadly just one of the many symptoms. More fundamental change is required and the justice system is not going to be solved overnight with a bit more cash or ‘digital courts’.

Lord Harley of Counsel

Pro bobo is the way ahead.

Anonymous

It’s better that politicians come out and say when they got it wrong than not do so. But it’s hard not to be galled by the glibness of statements like this (and Nigel Evans’ similar change of heart) — these cuts literally ruined countless people’s lives. Oops!

Gerontion

Why is it that every single other European nation is able to provide justice at a vastly lower cost? Criminal lawyers in Britain preside over an intentionally obfuscatory system where they charge enormous fees whilst having the gall to constantly demand yet more from the taxpayer to defend the scum of the earth.

Not Amused

New CPR is no use at all if you need to:

a) bully weak opponents

and/or

b) earn a decent living a civil lawyer

The Over-riding objective has a lot to answer for

Anonymous

Not Amused! Lovely to have you back! How was the loony bin?

Not Amused

Very restful thanks

Anonymous

LC IS SLOWLY DELETING ANY NEGATIVE COMMENTS ON THE EVE CORNWELL ADVERT THEY DID.

LC IS A JOKE.

Anonymous

They just deleted the top-voted comment haha – proves how self-serving they are.

Anonymous

Labour is wrong on everything.

Anonymous

You must be right. Good job we have real competence in government with Teresa May. Strong and stable has been such a blessing and I am looking forward so much to more of the same………

Anonymous

So when is Blair going to admit that Iraq/Afghanistan/Cherie Blair’s hairstyle was a mistake?

Anonymous

If Labour hadn’t lost office in 2010 it would have made the same cuts to legal aid. Labour would only have wished to protect – as far as they could – NHS and benefits funding, for political reasons.

This sort of hindsight ‘admission’ is just a way of avoiding charges of hypocrisy when making a political attack on opponents who were left sweet FA by Labour, and is worthless.

I’m sure Falconer is, and would have been, genuinely concerned about legal aid. But the Treasury would just have overruled the Lord Chancellor of the day.

WellDone

Far too little far too late. But as long as you feel better…..

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