Diane Abbott MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington made a speech last week in the Houses of Commons, on the devastating impact legal aid cuts would have on a vast number of people across the country.
Diane received support from all sides of the House when mentioning the effect that cuts will have on several practicing lawyers, who even with legal aid funding in place already earn very little and struggle to keep up with growing workloads. Revisions to the legal aid budget were made last November when Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke announced a £350m cut per year to the £2bn legal aid budget. It is estimated that this will lead to 500,000 fewer cases or a 25% fall in the number of people helped annually through legal aid.
Diane also heavily criticised the notion that the work done by organisations such as the Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) could be substituted for over-the-phone advice. She cited the fact that many of her own constituents that use the HCLC’s services are not native English speakers and would therefore be dissuaded from using a telephone service.
Diane had this to say after the debate:
“Legal aid must simply not be cut. After numerous discussions with a range of interests on this issue and having left this debate today, it remains difficult to see the positives that arrive from changes to legal aid funding. The savings made from cutting the budget will be far outweighed by the ruinous impact this will have on hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life.
“Legal aid does so much to help those who couldn’t necessarily afford it, fight for the rights that you or I would take for granted. Whether it be a bitter employment dispute, a victim of domestic abuse sealing an injunction against an abusive partner, or a disabled person fighting for access to disability benefits that they rightly deserve, legal aid pays for all of this. To suggest that this can be replaced by a call centre-style telephone answering service is insulting to the legal professionals who dedicate their lives to helping ordinary people in our communities.
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Notes to Editors