Over the weekend, two important and welcome voices joined the already widespread criticism of the Ministry of Justice’s legal aid proposals.
The Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC
Saturday’s Telegraph reported the Attorney General’s recognition of ‘deeply and sincerely held’ concerns that the government’s legal aid proposals would ‘collapse the edifice’ of our justice system, in his letter to government lawyers of 17 June.
The Attorney General’s letter – a response to Panel Counsel’s letter of 6 June describing the proposals as ‘unconscionable’ – acknowledges that concerns about the legal aid proposals go ‘well beyond personal and financial implications’ and extend to ‘the potential impact on the quality of the justice system this country is rightly proud of’.
In the same letter, the Attorney General confirms he has already discussed the matter with the Lord Chancellor, and that he will endeavour to ensure, as far as he can, that the decision reached in due course regarding the proposals is ‘fully informed’. Let’s hope he keeps the pressure on.
And Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was quoted in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday as calling plans to deny people the choice of defence lawyer ‘perverse’. Read the full article here and further comment on this in the Law Society Gazette here.
In the full interview, Clegg reassures interviewer Nick Thornsby that, while legal aid savings must be made, Chris Grayling and Lord McNally ‘are not dogmatic about how that saving can be made’, and that if the consultation shows that there are ‘alternative ways, less disruptive ways, less unpopular ways’ of delivering the savings, there’s ‘no ideological attachment in the coalition government per se to those particular measures’. Good to hear, not least after Lord McNally explained to those present at the Bar Council’s recent ‘Question Time’ debate that he’d been advised ‘not to buckle’ on such proposals.
Many of the 16,000+ responses to the consultation will have many alternative, less disruptive and less unpopular ways of saving the MoJ some cash. Clegg ‘will shortly be asking Chris Grayling and Tom McNally for an update on what the response to the consultation has been’. We look forward to hearing all about it, Nick.