Teresa this week voted against the Government’s cuts to legal aid funding that will prevent vulnerable people from accessing legal advice and could also lead to the closure of law centres across the country.
Under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offender’s Bill, not-for-profit advice agencies stand to lose around £51 million in funding, which would have a significant effect on local Citizens Advice Bureaux and Law Centres.
Last month a coalition of Labour, cross bench and disgruntled Government peers forced 11 amendments to the Bill – the heaviest series of defeats for a Government in 50 years. The Bill returned to the House of Lords on Tuesday this week (17 April), and despite Teresa and other Labour MPs voting in favour of keeping the Lords amendments, the Government overturned the changes and managed to force the Bill through. The disputed parts of the Bill will now pass between the two Houses of Parliament – in a process known as parliamentary ping-pong – until the legislation is finally approved; hopefully with the Government making some concessions.
In the meantime, Teresa will also be taking part in the 2012 London Legal Walk in May to help raise much-needed funds for legal advice providers like the Cross Street Law Centre in Erith.
“The point of legal aid funding has always been to ensure that people have equal access to justice, irrespective of their financial circumstances. Law centres, run by dedicated teams of staff and volunteers, offer invaluable advice and yet the Government’s cuts are a serious threat to their existence.
“Cross Street Law Centre provides an important advice service in the local community, yet cuts to legal aid funding – which accounts for 50 per cent of the centre’s income – could put its future in doubt when the Bill comes into effect in 2013. That would be a devastating loss for the thousands of people it helps across Bexley every year.
“As well as voting against the Bill I will also be joining Cross Street Law Centre on the 2012 London Legal Walk in May, a 10km after-work walk around London to raise much-needed funds for providers of free legal advice.”