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Lords defeats for legal aid reforms

Lords defeats for legal aid reforms

The House of Lords has inflicted yet another defeat on Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s controversial legal aid reforms. Peers on all sides of the House have spoken out against the plans, which aim to create savings of £350 million over the next three years. In the latest blow to the proposals, the Lords voted to protect free legal support for people challenging cuts to their benefits. They agreed that welfare recipients should be given legal aid to help them appeal against judgments which would remove or reduce their payments. They also backed a second amendment to protect legal aid funding for expert reports in clinical negligence cases.

Ministers have now suffered six defeats in less than two days on the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Bill, which is still in its report stage. Liberal Democrat Baroness Doocey, who put forward the first amendment, said the idea of attending a tribunal was “intimidating” for many people. She added:

“How can the Government seriously expect people with no legal knowledge to be able to negotiate the complex nature of welfare benefit law and to have the expertise needed to be able to decipher more than 9,000 pages of advice from the Department of Work and Pensions? These people are going to have major problems mounting an appeal because they are going to have no idea what to appeal against.”

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