Gummer defends Legal Aid cuts

In an article penned for The Times, Ben Gummer MP has slammed the Government’s critics within the legal profession. Under the heading “Don’t pay heed to the wailing of the bewigged Scargills” Mr Gummer sets out his view that Access to justice should be an economically driven commitment.

Free access to justice is not just a commitment, it should be the right of a citizen in a civilised country. Whilst Legal Aid will remain for criminal cases (though even here it will be curtailed) much access to the civil courts will be severely cut.

Mr Gummer quotes the Law Society and the Bar Council, calling them the legal trade unions. Neither of these organisations are known for making outlandish statements. The Law Society, in responding to the Government consultation on legal aid reform, warned “The Government runs the risk of reduced social cohesion, increased criminality, reduced business and economic efficiency.”

What was most surprising about this article by Mr Gummer was that he resorted to the cheap tactic of comparing access to justice with cuts to soldiers, nurses and teachers. This is a New Labour tactic, much attacked by the Conservative Party in opposition, and in resorting to it Mr Gummer indicates that he is probably losing his argument.

It is not true that access to justice would take money from regiments, hospitals and schools, as asserted by Mr Gummer, and he must know that. It is an economic illiterate argument which he should, as a thinking MP, be prepared to rise above. If the Government wants to find the money for proper access to justice that money doesn’t need to come from defence, education or health spending.

It is also not true to say that the legal profession is against Legal Aid reform. Many in the profession were astonished that Labour MPs charged with fraud attempted to get legal aid to claim that they were not subject to the rule of law because of Parliamentary privilege. There are a number of headline stories that can be pointed to by those who want to make a fuss about these things. That these are the exceptions rather than the rule is a point lost on those who need to make this argument.

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11 Responses

  1. I am disappointed to read this. What about fathers on disability benefits who want to fight to see their children? If it wasn’t for legal aid, I wouldn’t have been able to take the mother of my youngest daughter to court to get access to my daughter.

    Legal aid is important, allowing the poorer members of society get justice and fight for the rights that they are entitled to. How can justice for only those that can afford it be acceptable?

    As the article says, using the comparative of public sector wages is a lame argument on Ben’s part, and as someone who’s met him on a number of occassions, I am incredibly surprised that he would say that. But being from a wealthy background he doesn’t have a clue I guess.

  2. Is he being Ken Clarke’s catspaw?

  3. This is sad as the only people to suffer will once again be the people who need it most.we will have a two tier civil legal system when the rich can do as they wish and the poor have to like it or jump it and have of recourse..oh wait we already have but its about to get worse

  4. Mr Gummer must have been fed too many dodgy beefburgers in his youth. He says he is appalled that the Law Society have said “The Government runs the risk of reduced social cohesion, increased criminality, reduced business and economic efficiency.” But if he looked more closely at their response he will find that this a direct quote from the Ministry of Justice’s own impact assessment on the proposals……

  5. [...] Mr Gummer you should go and sit in the County Court, go and talk to the judiciary and the lawyers and the clients and the vulnerable people whose rights you are about to put at risk before you make such cheap and petty points. You are making yourself look ignorant of the plight of fathers denied access to their children, just one example that was brought up in comments to our original article here. [...]

  6. [...] Spy has had not just one, but two, attacks on Ben Gummer for his article on legal aid [...]

  7. [...] were there in the morning from this humble blog questioning their motivation for their repeated attacks on Ben Gummer for him wondering why we need to spend more than any other country on legal aid for [...]

  8. Getting legal aid is virtually inmposible already, so what’s the differance?

  9. The people who will notice the difference will be the single parent fighting for custody of their child,the worker treated unfairly by his employer and the family who’s relative has suffered due to a doctors error I’m sure they will notice the difference

  10. [...] whole-heartedly with what I had said. I have not made many public comments since but I took the criticism from Ipswich Spy seriously and also from those that made comments, including Cllr Ken Bates, whom I [...]

  11. [...] The Law Society was set up in 1825 to raise the standards of the profession of solicitors by setting standards and ensuring good practice. As an organisation, its raison d’etre is to “support solicitors” and as such, Mr Gummer was perhaps not wrong in accusing them of acting as “bewigged Scargill’s“. [...]

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