On 18th March 2015 the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Rev James Langstaff, asked a question in the House of Lords on the Government’s response to a report on access to justice. He followed it with a supplementary question to the Minister. Those exchanges, along with a transcript of all subsequent questions on the same by Peers, are below.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they plan to take in response to the recommendations of the recently published Theos report Speaking Up.
Lord Faulks (Minister of State, Ministry of Justice): My Lords, the Government have noted the Theos report. We carefully considered the matters raised in it, including access to justice, when developing our policy on legal aid reform. The Government have already committed to a review of the impact of the LASPO Act three to five years after implementation. Even after reform, our legal aid system will remain one of the most expensive in the world at £1.5 billion per year. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester presses government to work for acess to justice for all”
On 7th July 2014, Lord Bach asked Her Majesty’s Government, 15 months after the coming into force of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, what is their assessment of the effect of the Act on the legal advice system in relation to social welfare law in England and Wales. The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford:
My Lords, I, too, should like to make reference to the Low commission. The church, faith communities and charities are all too keenly aware of the impacts of some of the cuts in legal aid on the poorest communities in our country. Sometimes a professional lawyer is needed. Would the Minister still regard the proposals of the Low commission for a nationally resourced strategy to provide support and legal advice as an important priority?
Lord Faulks: My Lords, as I said in response to the debate, it was a valuable contribution. The LASPO reforms were implemented only in April 2013; it is relatively early days. We are considering carefully the effects of these reforms. We have not ruled out the possibility of further changes but, at the moment, the various steps we are taking are helping to ensure that those who need representation are receiving it.
The Bishop of Peterborough delivered his maiden speech to the House of Lords on 25th February 2014, during the debate tabled by Lord Low of Dalston: ‘To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to Tackling the Advice Deficit, the report of the Low Commission on the future of advice and legal support on social welfare law in England and Wales’.
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, as I make this maiden speech I am delighted to have the opportunity to thank the many Members and staff of your Lordships’ House who have made me so very welcome here. I am also most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Low, for initiating this debate, and for producing with his colleagues this excellent, wide-ranging and challenging report.
I suppose it to be inevitable that cuts in government spending, however necessary they may be, will always hit the poorest most. It is therefore all the more important to give attention to ways of helping the most vulnerable to claim and receive the support to which they are entitled and the professional advice they may need. This report does that: I welcome it most warmly and hope that Her Majesty’s Government can do so too. Continue reading “The Bishop of Peterborough makes his maiden speech in the House of Lords”
On 17th July 2013, Lord Bach moved a motion to regret on the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013.The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, expressed concern that the level at which permitted disposable capital was set would render some older people in particular less capable of securing legal aid without selling their homes. He hoped that if vulnerable people’s access to legal representation were damaged by the regulations the government would change course on humanitarian grounds and not defend the regulations on the basis of a flawed ideology.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, a key reference in this Motion of Regret is to “vulnerable people”, which is why this non-lawyer dares to stand amid such legal luminaries and feels a bit vulnerable himself.
A civilised country is one where we are all free under the law and where vulnerable people are not left defenceless against unjust treatment by another person, organisation or even an agent of government. Vulnerability is relative, of course, but the calculations that inform the regulations under discussion concern people who may be a very long way, as we have heard, from financial comfort and security, and may have multiple other needs. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich raises concerns with civil legal aid reforms”