It was rather lost in the news around Brexit and a possible general election, but last week (4 September 2019) the government announced substantial spending increases, including a 4.9 per cent rise in its budget for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Chancellor Sajid Javid told parliament that the increase in spending for government departments was the beginning of a 'decade of renewal’ and the ‘fastest increase in day-to-day spending for 15 years’ (Hansard HC Debates vol 664, col 177
). He announced a total of £13.8bn in extra spending for departments and a £1.7bn increase in capital expenditure. In response, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said that the public would see through the spending increases ‘as the grubby electioneering that it is’ (col 189).
According to the government’s figures, the MoJ’s budget will rise from £7.6bn in the current financial year (2019/20) to £8.1bn in the next (see Spending round 2019
, CP 170, HM Treasury, September 2019). It is one of the largest percentage increases announced; in contrast, the Department of Health and Social Care was given a 3.1 per cent increase and the Ministry of Defence 2.6 per cent.
Some of the additional cash for the MoJ will go towards the extra 10,000 prison places the government has committed itself to providing
. The spending review document is silent on whether any money will be committed to increasing spending on legal aid.
The Law Officers’ Department has been given a 12.4 per cent uplift in its spending. This includes an extra £80m for the Crown Prosecution Service to cover the work likely to be generated by the extra 20,000 police officers the government has committed itself to recruiting ‘to crack down on crime’ (Spending round 2019, para 2.15, page 12).
Reacting to the news of the extra spending, LAG’s interim director, Carol Storer, said: ‘While the extra cash for the justice system is, of course, welcome, this has to be set against the reduction in spending of nearly 30 per cent the MoJ has suffered since 2008.’1Last year, The Bar Council commissioned research from an independent economist that showed the MoJ’s budget had fallen by 27 per cent since 2008: Professor Martin Chalkley, Funding for justice 2008 to 2018: justice in the age of austerity, 1 November 2018, page 9.