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Legal aid budget faces £350m cut

Legal aid budget faces £350m cut

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has outlined plans to slash £350 million a year from the legal aid budget.

Financial help from the state will be removed from certain cases in the fields of family law, clinical negligence, education, employment, immigration, benefits, debt and housing.

He said the UK's legal aid system costs £2 billion a year and the Ministry of Justice needed to make a "substantial contribution" to overall savings.

Mr Clarke told MPs: "It cannot be right that the taxpayer is footing the bill for unnecessary court cases which would never have even reached the courtroom door were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying."

He added: "Legal aid will still routinely be available in civil and family cases where people's life or liberty is at stake, or where they are at risk of serious physical harm, or immediate loss of their home."

Mr Clarke also announced plans to introduce a means-tested contribution in legal aid cases, reform the way lawyers are paid and overhaul conditional fee arrangements in no-win no-fee cases.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said Labour acknowledged the budget had grown to levels that were "not sustainable" and said the "basic" test was whether the Green Paper would save the taxpayer money while ensuring no-one was denied justice because of their needs.

Mr Khan said: "Let me clear that had we been in Government today, we too would have been announcing savings to the legal aid budget. That is a reality that we all have to acknowledge. The crucial questions are where to make those savings and how to spend the money that is left available."

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