BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action programme today saw Joshua Rosenberg cross examine Minister of State for Justice Lord McNally. (Chris Grayling was apparently not available for interview). Lord McNally accused the legal profession of being unwilling to face the “reality of change” and to engage in constructive discussion with the government about how savings could be made whilst ensuring a legal aid system that is sustainable and that still receives public confidence.
McNally refused to accept that the government has been surprised by the strength and scale of the opposition to the proposals, yet when asked how many of the 15,000 to 20,000 responses to the consultation the government has received were supportive he was forced to admit that question was a ‘cul de sac’. Lord McNally went on to describe the response of leading professional bodies including the Law Society and the Bar Council as ‘hysterical’.
Reduction in quality and fairness
This accusation was flatly rebutted by Maura McGowan, Chair of the Bar Council who said that she believed the Council had made constructive suggestions, as it accepted the need for greater efficiency in the system, but warned that the government’s proposals were ‘bound to reduce quality’ and undermine the fairness and effectiveness of the justice system as a whole and went far beyond merely ‘combing out inefficiencies’ as Lord McNally had suggested.
You can listen to the programme here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b02mxyzt