MPs will today vote on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. The Bill makes sweeping reforms to the funding of legal cases.
The Bill, which has suffered 11 defeats in the House of Lords, has it's third reading today. One of these excludes industrial disease cases from the Government’s reforms aimed at tackling the “compensation culture”, which would require claimants to pay 25% of damages to their lawyers.
Rachel will be voting on these measures. With the site of the infamous JW Roberts factory in Armley, the reforms to industrial and respiratory diseases are particularly important.
A recent landmark Supreme Court decision was a step forward for the victims of mesothelioma and related diseases, but the Legal Aid Bill will change the costs and risks with pursuing these cases.
“The experience of people exposed to asbestos because they lived in close proximity to the JW Roberts factory makes it clear that we must make sure that the victims of workplace illnesses and asbestos related diseases have access to justice. At the same time that companies making asbestos knew that the fibres were deadly, they didn’t tell the parents of children playing asbestos snowballs, marking out hopscotch grids in the dust, or in some cases the workers being exposed to deadly fibres at work. MPs have to bear that in mind when they vote on Lords’ amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill today.”
Rachel has written to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke MP about the amendments, and has written about her reasons for voting on the measures here. Speaking about the wider bill, she said:
“It is important that savings are made in the total legal aid budget and I would support further reforms that reduce the cost of litigation while protecting access to justice and social welfare legal aid. I fear, however, that the Government’s proposals and their cuts to social welfare legal aid are disproportionate and unfair and could prevent the most vulnerable in society from pursuing legitimate legal action – particularly as the voluntary sector and organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau are also experiencing large budget reductions and do not have the capacity to provide legal advice on this scale.”