Food for thought

Just as the Northern Ireland framework document is supposedly not a blueprint, Labour's 'Access to justice' consultation paper is labelled 'not a statement of party policy'. It is a rummage through the legal system and 'you tell us what should be on the shopping list' approach.

Legal issues at all levels are on the political agenda. There is original thinking: Aclec certainly needs review; QCs' fees under legal aid require scrutiny. Some are old chestnuts – greedy lawyers are among the targets. And off the mark is confusing contingency with conditional fees.

The legal aid budget will continue to be under pressure to give better value – so no respite there.

The paper's guiding light is the perennial access question and its strength is its detailed approach. There is no one cure for the system's ills, just many remedies, including a number of bitter pills.

Its lack of dogma is welcome. But to be effective when in power, such a programme would have to be kept under continuous review.