Last updated:2023-09-18
Grayling turns down request to delay latest legal aid cuts
Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has said he will not delay the implementation of cuts to legal aid despite a request from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) to do so.
The JCHR, which consists of members drawn from both houses of parliament, is conducting an inquiry into aspects of the proposed reforms detailed in the government’s consultation paper, Transforming Legal Aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system. The Chair of the Committee the Labour MP, Dr Hywel Francis, had written to the Justice Secretary last month seeking an assurance that the Government would not implement any changes, until after the committee has had an opportunity to report on them. He is also asking the government on behalf of the Committee to provide an assessment of the proposals compliance with human rights law, including their compatibility with Article 6 (right to a fair trial), to give a more comprehensive equality impact assessment and to indicate whether the government intends to introduce each of its proposals by either primary or secondary legislation.
In a letter to Nick Fluck, President of the Law Society, Chris Grayling explains his reasons for refusing the JCHR’s request. Grayling argues that they need to “accelerate the next tranche of legal aid reforms” due to the “acute need to continue to bear down on the costs of legal aid against a background of continuing pressure of public finances.” He also reiterates the Government’s commitment to allow a “short period of further consultation on certain changes to the current proposals” after these have published along with the Government’s response to the consultation in the autumn.
LAG fears that the Government intends to press ahead with plans to introduce the controversial residence test to qualify for legal aid, further restrict the scope of legal aid for prisoners and in judicial review cases, as well as removing legal aid from all cases with “borderline” prospects of success. We believe that these changes will contribute very little to the £220m in cuts the Government is seeking, but that they will have a very damaging impact on access to justice for vulnerable groups and make the state far less accountable.
The further consultation is likely to be on new proposals for criminal legal aid. Groups representing lawyers are trying to fight off the Government’s plans to introduce competitive tendering for criminal legal aid services, as well as large cuts in fees for Crown and other higher court cases. The Law Society has come-up with alternative proposals, which they are discussing with ministers and officials at the Ministry of Justice, these include a managed reduction in the numbers of criminal legal aid firms. The question is will this cut much cash from the system, as this seems to be all the government is interested in?
Campaign group UK Uncut is organising a day of action against the legal aid cuts for 5th October, (see This is being supported by the Justice Alliance and other groups opposed to the cuts.
The JCHR are calling for written evidence to be submitted by Friday 27th September (see