The criminal legal aid regulations were prayed against by HM Opposition and on Tuesday 8 May 2018 the motion to revoke the regulations was defeated.

Valerie Vaz MP said:

“I am alarmed that the Government took so long to find time for a debate on the criminal legal aid regulations. I raised it a number of times at Business Questions and the Shadow Justice Secretary raised a Point of Order. It is concerning that the Government has to be forced into granting time for a debate on a prayer by HM Opposition when it is standard practice. I and 135 other Labour MPs signed Early Day Motion 1111 which called on the Criminal Legal Aid regulations to be revoked.”

“The changes to the legal aid fees have triggered the barristers’ boycott of new legal aid work. Lawyers are being asked to read and assess documents but are not being paid for it. That is part of the evidence bundle. In many cases barristers’ fees for legal aid cases fail to even meet their travel costs to attend the hearing. The courts have ground to a halt and some people who cannot afford their own lawyers are attempting to represent themselves, even on extreme charges such as murder. I am concerned that some witnesses are being cross-examined by the accused.”

“The Opposition Labour motion calling for a revocation of the regulations was finally granted on Tuesday 8 May 2018 but was defeated by 300 votes to 253. The Government’s refusal to listen to barristers and HM Opposition has now caused criminal defence barristers to escalate strike action. Criminal lawyers from 100 chambers are protesting these reforms. It is a matter of the rule of law and access to a fair hearing.”

“I raised ‘The Secret Barrister’ book published by Pan Macmillan at Business Questions on 22 March 2018. The book details a damning account of the justice system and I suggested that all members of the Government should read it. Cuts to the Ministry of Justice will amount to almost 40%, which is nearly half the Department. I called for an urgent debate on the cuts to our world-class, excellent legal service.”

“It is right that this important matter was voted on in the House of Commons. The Speaker said in response to a Point of Order on the regulations on 23 April 2018 that the Government’s failure to initially allocate a slot for debate on changes to the Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) was “a regrettable state of affairs” and does not help to build an “atmosphere of trust”. I raised these comments at Business Questions on 26 April 2018.”

“The cuts have created a crisis across our justice system. The Government has mishandled the issue and should immediately reverse this unpopular policy.”