Update - I have secured a parliamentary debate to discuss the government's proposals - date to be determined.
A coalition of groups opposed to proposed cuts to free legal advice will converge on Westminster today for the official launch of the Justice for all campaign.
Over 1000 legal and advice agencies, including Citizens Advice and the Law Centres Federation, charities including Kids Company and Scope, politicians, trade unions, community groups and members of the public have already signed up to the campaign.
They will be at Westminster today lobbying their local MPs and urging them to oppose the cuts and sign an Early Day Motion tabled by me calling on the Government to rethink the provision of legal services for the poorest in society.
Half a million fewer people will be helped through legal aid funded advice on social welfare law and family problems, according to Ministry of Justice figures, as part of a package to reduce the legal aid budget by £350 million.
Advice funded by legal aid will be cut entirely to welfare benefits and education law. It will be restricted to housing and debt cases with an ‘immediate risk’ of homelessness and employment cases involving discrimination. Much of legal aid on family law will be limited to cases of domestic violence.
Access to justice for all is one of the cornerstones of a free and civilised society, It is vital that everyone – particularly the most vulnerable - is treated fairly under the law, no matter who they are, how much money they have or where they live.
Visit the campaign website here.
That this House welcomes the Justice for All campaign launched in the House of Commons on 12 January 2011; supports the aims of the campaign which are to raise awareness of the vital importance of advice and representation on legal matters for the most vulnerable in our society and to ensure that everyone is treated fairly under the law, no matter who they are, how much money they have or where they live; recognises that the strength of feeling is reflected in the fact that the campaign is a broad coalition of legal and advice agencies, trades unions, charities, community groups and members of the public; regrets that the reduction in spending on legal aid, through restrictions in scope and eligibility and the blanket 10 per cent. cut in the lower fee paid to providers of legal services, is having a detrimental effect on access to justice and on the well-being of the most vulnerable people; questions the real cost savings to the public purse that this budget reduction will achieve, given that early advice on legal matters saves money by keeping families together in their homes, and in work and education; believes that free, independent advice and representation on legal matters is essential to achieve justice for all; and calls on the Government to rethink the provision of legal services for the poorest in society.
To listen to a report of the launch of the campaign on Radio 4's Today in Parliament (scroll to 23min 20sec mark for start) click here.
The programme will be available on BBC iplayer until Saturday, 22nd January.