Reject legal aid cuts for the sake of justice

This issue of The Lawyer is dedicated to the 18 members of the standing committee who will be given the task on Wednesday of deciding the future of legal aid for personal injury cases.

In this issue we give seven good reasons why legal aid should not be scrapped. There are a thousand more reasons out there why it should stay.

Government spin doctors will no doubt try to dismiss this as the profession's newspaper looking after its own narrow self-interest. But this is not about lawyers taking a dent in salaries. It is about justice and fairness.

Lord Irvine is waging war against lawyers. He is using them as scapegoats. It is an insult to the lawyers we feature to say that they take on these cases purely for money.

Our investigations have revealed that his reforms could mean the end to groundbreaking cases such as those highlighted on pages 20-23.

There are good legal reasons to scrap these reforms. Without these complex, precedent-setting trials, the British law would be stagnant and unambitious.

There are also good moral reasons why the standing committee should reject these proposals.

If Lord Irvine's reforms go through, it won't be fat cat lawyers that he is penalising, but ordinary people who are entitled to compensation for their injuries. Without legal aid these men and women would have been forced to drop their cases and others in the future will never even be able to start theirs. He is inflicting a double blow to the most vulnerable members of our society.

Personal injury cases cost the public purse u37.1m last year. How obscene then that Lord Irvine can spend u650,000 from the same purse redecorating his private residence, yet put through penny-pinching proposals which deny thousands of people the right to fight for justice.

While the justifications for the reforms might be budgetary, Irvine should be fighting his corner. As Blunkett and Dobson defend education and health, so he should stand his ground for that other pillar of British society, equal access to justice.