MPs back The Lawyer over Access to Justice campaign

Labour MPs have backed The Lawyer's legal aid campaign in the House of Commons debate on the Access to Justice Bill.

Both South Derbyshire MP Mark Todd and Hendon MP Andrew Dismore referred in the debate to The Lawyer's campaign, which highlights personal injury cases which may not be eligible for legal aid under the new regime.

Todd said: “I am concerned that in considering the bill without a proper framework to establish how exceptions are dealt with, the Government have laid themselves open in many cases to unjustified criticism.

“I refer to the cases presented in The Lawyer about which there was disagreement as to whether they would be funded. The difficulty is that although one can reasonably assert that they probably would be funded, the certainty that many people would like to have in pronouncing on a new legal framework is lacking.”

Dismore said: “I have reservations about the proposals, in particular about how the exceptions will operate. I hope that the minister will flesh out how the public interest scheme and the arrangements for high investigation costs will work.

“Perhaps he could respond to cases such as those raised by The Lawyer magazine, which expressed valid anxieties that should be discussed.”

But Geoff Hoon, Minister of State in the Lord Chancellor's Department, rejected an amendment in the bill spelling out that aid would continue to be available in certain cases as a matter of priority, claiming primary legislation is not the place to lay out the Legal Service Commission's priorities.