Labour vows to end legal 'gravy train'

Labour will legislate to force controversial changes to lawyers' practices if the Law Society attempts to derail them.

That was the warning legal affairs spokesman Paul Boateng MP delivered to Law Society president Martin Mears and his 'profession first' programme at last week's Brighton conference.

“There is no vested interest that Labour is not prepared to challenge on behalf of the citizen and the consumer,” Boateng said, only hours after confronting Mears' reluctance on furthering pro bono work on BBC radio.

In a veiled warning he said: “Any attempt by the incoming administration of the Law Society to undermine those principles will leave a Labour government with no option but to legislate.”

Boateng attacked the Conservative's “strait-jacket market dogma” resulting in court closures, legal aid eligibility cuts, and spiralling budget feeding the lawyers' “gravy train”.

He said: “The outpouring of public money into lawyers' pockets cannot continue. The profession itself will have to change, and change it will.”

Labour will refer the Bar and Law Society to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and will move “immediately” to introduce direct access for the Bar and multi-disciplinary partnerships for all lawyers.

Boateng signalled major change to lawyers' complaints systems: “No longer will lawyers be allowed to police themselves.”

Labour will attack the “democratic deficit” in the law system, sweeping away “secrecy, privilege and lack of accountability”, starting with the selection and training of judges with a Judicial Appointments and Training Board.

A Community Legal Service would be responsible for “expanding access to justice” through ADR and the ombudsman scheme, based on regional LAB offices.

A national network of advice and law centres would deliver a service “that private practice on its own cannot hope to provide”.