Call for rethink on legal aid cuts

Lady JusticeThe Government has been urged to rethink planned legal aid cuts amid warnings that they could lead to an increase in employment tribunal cases.

Citizens Advice said abolishing legal aid for employment advice would have the opposite effect of saving money and resolving disputes at an early stage.
Chief executive Gillian Guy said: "We strongly back the Government's commitment to ensure that rogue employers determined to operate outside the law are not allowed to unfairly undercut business rivals by exploiting their workers.

"We agree absolutely that the most vulnerable workers - those most likely to be exploited by unscrupulous bosses - must be effectively protected.

"But abolishing legal aid for employment cases is no way to achieve these very laudable aims. If the legal aid cuts go ahead, Citizens Advice Bureaux will no longer be able to offer the specialist legal advice and casework that helps resolve more than 3,000 employment problems every year, most involving vulnerable workers in low-paid, low-skilled work who have nowhere else to turn for help.

"The Government still has time to rethink these plans and prevent legal aid cuts undermining its efforts to promote growth through a strong and efficient labour market, and to create a level playing field that is fair to workers and decent employers alike."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "At more than £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world. It is also a system that has grown to encourage lengthy, acrimonious and sometimes unnecessary court proceedings at taxpayers' expense.

"Our measures target legal aid at the people who need legal support the most, and on the most serious cases. This means taxpayers will know their money is really helping people, and is not fuelling unnecessary legal action.

"The wide ranging availability of legal aid encourages a litigious society in which far too many cases go down the court route unnecessarily. It can lead people to assume legal action is their only option, even where early practical advice could be of more help to them and avoid them needing a lawyer at all."
© 2011 Press Association
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