Sunday 22 September 2019 / 4:49 PM Richard Burgon

Labour will restore all legal aid advice – Richard Burgon

Richard Burgon MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, today announced that Labour will reverse all the Conservative cuts to legal aid-funded Early Legal Help within the first 100 days of a Jeremy Corbyn government.

Early Legal Help is the legal support that people receive prior to a lawyer representing them in the courts. It is the kind of advice that many desperately need when faced everyday problems such as flawed benefits decisions or rogue landlords. 

Access to justice has been seriously undermined by the Tory and Liberal Democrats changes to legal aid, with hundreds of thousands of people unable to enforce their rights. 

In addition to Labour’s previous commitments to restore this form of legal aid for housing cases, family law and welfare benefits appeals, this move will restore legal aid cuts for immigration cases, employment, debt, and mental health cases.

A lack of early legal advice often creates extra costs for the taxpayer as cases go to court which could have been resolved earlier or spiral into costly social problems as people unnecessarily lose their homes or jobs. 

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights has said that cuts in legal aid meant many could no longer afford “to challenge benefit denials or reductions and are thus effectively deprived of their human right to a remedy.”

Richard Burgon MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, said:

“The Tories have rigged the system against the people who need help the most, and in favour of a privileged few. 

“Tory cuts to legal advice mean hundreds of thousands of people are unable to defend their hard-won rights. When that happens, equality before the law is a fiction, and without these protections people’s lives can often be torn apart.

“In restoring this legal support, Labour will help ensure people can challenge the discrimination and abuses of power that they too often face in their everyday lives.” 

Ends

Notes to Editors

  • Early Legal Help is the term used to cover legal-aid advice and assistance provided for a legal problem. It is the kind of legal advice that many need when faced with flawed benefits decisions or a rogue landlord.
  • The introduction of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in April 2013 left many vulnerable people unable to defend themselves in areas as fundamental as housing, employment, immigration and welfare benefits.
  •  Since the 2013 changes to legal aid, the total number of Early Legal Help cases has fallen by 450,000 

 

Table 5.2: Legal help and controlled legal representation claims submitted 
 

Financial Year

Total volume claims submitted
2012-13 (r) 599,922
2013-14 (r) 316,144
2014-15 (r) 194,257
2015-16 (r) 166,115
2016-17 (r) 162,089
2017-18 (r) 147,375
2018-19 140,334
Change -459,588
Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/legal-aid-statistics-january-to-march-2019

 

  Labour’s Legal Aid Offer 

    • Labour’s 2017 Manifesto committed to: 
      • Re-establish early advice entitlements in the Family Courts. 
      • Reintroduce funding for the preparation of judicial review cases. 
      • Review the legal aid means tests, including the capital test for those on income-related benefits.

Since the 2017 election Labour has 

  1.                     Committed to restoring legal advice in all housing cases. Helping around 50,000 households per year enforce housing rights, giving a better deal to tenants. https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/apr/20/labour-promises-to-restore-legal-aid-for-housing-advice
  2.                   We have committed to restoring legal aid in Welfare benefits cases which would help around 90,000 claimants per year https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/dec/04/labour-vows-to-restore-legal-aid-for-benefits-appeal-cases-if-elected

iii.                 Committed to automatic legal aid for the 500 or so deaths that occur in state custody per year https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/feb/27/labour-promises-automatic-legal-aid-for-state-related-deaths 

  1.   We have promised a new era for Law Centres and are working closely with the Law Centres Network to produce a detailed plan. Labour wants to empower the communities most affected by Conservative cuts to be able to defend their rights and fight back against unjust legal decisions  
  2.   And a Labour government will also boost the number of lawyers being trained up in law centres so that we recruit the next generation of socially orientated lawyers who provide so much practical assistance to people facing tough times through no fault of their own.