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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

I dreamed last night that Miliband stood up and promised to reverse the devastating Legal Aid cuts!

Now I have to confess that I am a bit of a political anorak and follow every detail of the party conferences. 

But the Labour Party gathering this week has been of particular interest. They could well form the next government and so those of us who care about justice have hung on to every word. Although to be honest there haven’t been too many.

Last year I described Access to Justice for those in need, as a waste land –

It has got far worse since then. Agencies across the country are closing or turning away desperate clients because they simply do not have the resources to do anything. So what will the future hold if Ed and Co win a majority in 2015? Not much I’m afraid.

At a fringe event today, Andy Slaughter, a shadow justice minister was giving away very little. The Gazette’s John Hyde tweeted that said that  Labour was not like the Tardis and would not reverse every cut –

Just a few reversals would be like an oasis in the desert.

I watched the whole of Ed Miliband’s speech this afternoon. At one point he used a phrase to sum up how people have been treated by the present government – ‘They’ve been told – you’re on your own’. He repeated the phrase 5 times, applying it to hard working people, young people, small businesses, the vulnerable, those with access to politics. I started to get excited that he might extend the list further but that was as far as it went.

So if you are a victim of domestic violence, if you have been wrongly told that you are fit for work, if your benefits have been wrongly sanctioned, if you are weighed down with debt – then you are still being told – ‘you’re on your own.’

The same thing applies in relation to tribunal fees. The introduction of these charges was intended to reduce the number of cases for unfair dismissal etc being brought. In fact it has decimated employment rights across the board. It is estimated that the drop off in claims is as high as 80%. Don’t try and tell me that they were all bogus. This has been a shameful attack on workers’ rights. Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna spoke generally about reforming the system. But he has said nothing about abolishing fees. We heard the same rhetoric in a speech to the TUC earlier this month –

He talked about openness, rights and justice but very little about how you might gain access to that justice if you don’t have the resources to pay for it. 

There were reassuring comments from Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan about the Human Rights Act and Judicial Review. So you still have to say that a Labour Government would be less damaging than what we have now.

That is hardly a ringing endorsement for the party that I have supported all my life!

It will be interesting to see if these agenda develop over the next 6 months.

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