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Lords thwart legal aid cuts

Lords thwart legal aid cuts

The government’s controversial legal aid reforms have suffered another setback as the House of Lords disagreed with ministers on three counts on Monday. The peers voted in favour of three amendments made on key provisions of the legislation. This comes on the back of forcing the House of Commons to overturn a series of 11 defeats during earlier stages of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

Parliamentary time is now running out ahead of the end of the legislative session next week and ministers will now have to decide whether to accept the views of the Upper House or overturn the amendments once more. The latest changes being backed in the Lords include the re-insertion of a clause ensuring people should have access to legal services that “effectively meet their needs”, subject to available resources, which received a majority of 15 with 248 votes to 233. Peers also voted by 239 to 236 to back Labour’s amendment on domestic violence despite concessions from ministers and the third vote was won by a majority of nine, with 214 to 205 insisting on an alteration that exempts asbestos victims from the new “no win no fee” regime.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s proposed cuts to legal aid are predicted to save £350 million by 2015 for the Ministry of Justice’s budget but they have so far proved deeply unpopular with the House of Lords and have come up against a number of obstacles.

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