Tag Archives: barrister

Where are the working people in the PARTY of the workers?

Ed Miliband desperately needs to change Labour image away from being a bunch of middle-class lawyers, barely different from the Conservatives, and back to being the party of the workers[Image: Reuters].

Ed Miliband desperately needs to change Labour image away from being a bunch of middle-class lawyers, barely different from the Conservatives, and back to being the party of the workers[Image: Reuters].

Ed Miliband is talking the talk, but can he walk the walk?

According to the BBC, he’s saying Labour is still the party of working people – but that’s a claim that many may find hard to believe after Emily Thornberry’s incriminatingly insensitive tweet and the revelation that his leadership is likely to ‘parachute’ its preferred candidates into the constituencies of MPs who decide to retire from Parliament in the run-up to the next election.

It seems there may even be a rumour that a senior member of Labour’s health team is about to defect to UKIP.

Here’s Miliband’s problem:

Emily Thornberry, also known as Lady Nugee, now-former shadow attorney general, born in north Surrey to a Visiting Professor of War Studies at King’s College London and a teacher. Barrister. Has spoken on the need for more affordable housing – but her husband, Sir Christopher Nugee QC, had bought ex-social housing stock for over half a million pounds and receives rental income from the property. She’s clearly the wife of a millionaire and her only contact with the working class is professional. What does she know about how working people live?

Let’s look at Labour’s health team:

Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care and older people, attended Watford Grammar School for Girls and Queens’ College, Cambridge. Has worked for two charities and a thinktank before becoming a SPAD (special advisor) to two cabinet ministers. What does she know about working people?

Luciana Berger, shadow minister for public health, educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, a private school in Elstree, Hertfordshire, the University of Birmingham, ICADE in Madrid and Birkbeck, University of London. Worked for management consultancy Accenture advising FTSE 100 companies including Barclays and BP, as well as the London Stock Exchange, Accenture’s Government Strategy Unit supporting government departments including the Treasury, and became Government and Parliamentary Manager for the National Health Service Confederation. Director of Labour Friends of Israel from 2007-2010. Labour was accused of ‘parachuting’ her in as a candidate for Liverpool Waverley in the 2010 elections. What does she know about working people?

And Labour is likely to ‘parachute’ even more “preferred” candidates into seats that become vacant between now and the election, it seems.

Will any of these “preferred” candidates have had a real job? Are there any ex-factory workers among them? Manual workers of any kind?

Dennis Skinner used to be a miner. His recent ousting from Labour’s National Executive Committee was met with outcry across the party.

Aneurin Bevan also used to be a miner. He went on to become the architect of the National Health Service that the Coalition government is busily breaking up and handing over to Conservative Party donor companies.

If Labour was really the party of working people, it would offer voters the chance to choose working people as their MPs. Instead we see an unending flow of lawyers, advisers and thinktank staffers who’ve never done an honest day’s work in their lives – while working people are sidelined.

That’s the dilemma facing Ed Miliband.

Where are the working people in the party of the workers?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
asking the difficult questions!

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

No justice for legal aid as Grayling ignores thousands of consultation responses

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it's also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as 'justice' at all?

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it’s also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as ‘justice’ at all?

A story has appeared on the BBC News website, stating that elite barristers have joined the chorus of opposition to the government’s plan to cut legal aid for criminal cases by almost a quarter.

It states that the Treasury Counsel, a group appointed by the Attorney General to prosecute the most serious crimes, has followed the lead of the Bar Council and the Law Society in saying the plan to cut £220 million from the annual £1 billion legal aid budget is unsustainable.

This is accurate, but fails to address the most damning indictment against Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice in this matter.

According to the Treasury Counsel’s written response: “HM Government has indicated that it rejects or can ignore much of the content of the thousands of Consultation Responses, …particularly as to the future effect on the supply and quality of criminal advocacy services from the proposed changes to legal aid funding.”

It continues: “Criminal legal aid remuneration is identified as an appropriate target for ‘reduction’: this is based on a ‘belief’. The belief is that ‘further efficiency and cost savings in criminal legal aid remuneration” are both possible and sustainable’.”

This means that Chris Grayling and his cronies have decided to ignore evidence-based opposition to their plans because of an unfounded, unquantifiable “belief” that cutting funding will not affect the quality of the legal advice available in criminal cases.

If this matter were itself a court case, it could be settled with a simple question: When has this ever been proved in the past?

Can you think of any time when cutting budgets has not harmed a service – or actually improved it? Of course not.

The response – written by people who are appointed by the Coalition Government’s own Attorney General, let’s not forget, and who may therefore be taken as broadly sympathetic to its aims, continues: “The Minister of State said, ‘This is a comprehensive package of reform, based on extensive consultation. I believe it  offers value for the taxpayer, stability for the professions, and access to justice for all’… yet the Impact Assessment attached to the new Paper simply makes no attempt to evaluate or monetise the behavioural changes that will most certainly result from its proposals.

The entirely obvious and predictable outcomes are lost quality and reduced supply. These are airbrushed in the Impact Assessment by repeated “steady state” assumptions. The behavioural changes are not then, uncertain. Neither will any steady state remain. They are, though, unpalatable; they will not improve the public interest.

“In a telling acknowledgment of this, the Ministry in its new consultation paper wholly abdicates its responsibility for this assessment by first making neutral assumptions and then asking the consultees what the impact will be. The Minister of State has lifted his telescope to his bad eye.

The assessment of the Treasury Counsel is that cumulative changes since 1997, and a real terms cut of nearly half since 2007, mean Grayling’s proposals “will do significant harm to the operation of the criminal justice system… In particular, they will have both an adverse and disproportionate effect on the supply of such services by the acknowledged experts – the criminal Bar”.

Not only that, but the response says the cuts could be achieved in less harmful ways, such as “the proper working through of existing changes. Or, for example, in the proper letting and administration of government contracts for CJS services; court interpreters, custodians and other activities are telling examples of incompetent administration and wasting money – and these on services ancillary to the main process, that are provided by trading companies rather than professionally regulated people.”

In other words, allowing the market into the Criminal Justice Service (that’s the ‘CJS’ in the quotation) has lowered its quality and increased its cost.

The bottom line: “We consider that the proposed reductions, in whichever iteration, are unnecessary, have an effect much larger than claimed and will produce unsustainable results.” In terms of quality of service, it seems that it is the government’s proposals that are unaffordable.

The Attorney General himself, Dominic Grieve, indicated his own lack of enthusiasm for the proposals in a letter to the Bar Council in June. This accepted that opposition to the proposals cannot be explained away by self-interest, acknowledging that there is serious and principled opposition to the proposals which cannot be attributed to mere selfishness.

“Many… took the view that these proposals would cause the edifice to collapse,” he wrote, adding that he would continue to draw Grayling’s attention to the concerns that had been expressed to him.

It seems, considering the latest developments, that the Ministry of Justice not only has a bad eye but also a deaf ear.

What a shame its members are not speechless as well. For the sake of balance, here’s what a Ministry spokesperson had to say: “At around £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after our changes would still have one of the most generous. We agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system and that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.

“We have engaged constructively and consistently with lawyers – including revising our proposals in response to their comments – and to allege we have not is re-writing history.”

Is it constructive for a government department to ignore evidence that it has specifically requested?

Is it consistent to run a consultation process, and then throw away the results because they don’t agree with ministers’ “belief”?

Of course not.

Grayling’s plans are ideologically-based and entirely unsupportable and should be laughed out of court.

Is the Attorney-General rebelling against Legal Aid changes in letter to barristers?

130622grieveaboutlegalaid

It seems the Secretary of State for Justice – Chris Grayling – cannot rely on the support of his own Attorney-General over his plans to stop people who need Legal Aid from getting it.

Dominic Grieve (for it is he) has written to barristers concerned about the Ministry of Justice’s proposals. In this letter, it appears clear that he is entirely unenthusiastic about the proposals – inconsistent with his membership of the same government as Grayling.

I am grateful to Jack of Kent for the following analysis.

The letter notably contains no words that could be described as an endorsement of the proposals. He accepts that opposition to the proposals cannot be explained away by self-interest, acknowledging that there is serious and principled opposition to the proposals which cannot be attributed to mere selfishness.

And the last sentence suggests that the Attorney-General is not personally confident that the Lord Chancellor is capable of making a fully informed decision, indicating that the government’s own senior law officer does not believe that the Ministry of Justice will make a policy decision on an appropriate evidential basis.

Here is the text of the letter in full (it can be found on the Internet here).

“A number of you wrote to me on 4th June drawing to my attention concerns about the Ministry of Justice proposals for the reform of legal aid. From regular attendance at Bar Council meetings I am well aware of the deeply and sincerely held concerns the Bar has on the effect these proposals, if implemented, will have. I recognise that those concerns go beyond the personal, financial implications to individual members of the Bar – serious though those may be – but extend to the potential impact on the quality of the justice system this country is rightly proud of.

“The Consultation paper meeting was one of the main topics for consideration at the Bar Council meeting of 20th April. I was asked to speak at the close of the Council’s debate. I emphasised that this was a consultation exercise carried out by the Lord Chancellor [Mr Grayling]. He, like other Ministers, had savings that his department had to absorb and where savings are to be made depends on where priorities lay. I said that on the whole, the service provided by the legal profession is taken for granted and that there was a general view that whilst lawyers complained about every financial cut imposed, the edifice will continue to function as it has in the past. I said that it was apparent now, from listening to what had been said at the meeting, that many present took the view that these proposals would cause the edifice to collapse. In my view, it was vital that the Bar use the consultation exercise to explain why these proposals will damage the justice system and what the overall impact will be.

“I know the Bar Council has provided a thoughtful yet powerful response to the consultation – one of many from the Bar. It was important that the consultation was responded to and I am grateful to all who have taken time to write to me and provide me with the particular insights of those who carry out Government work through membership of the Panels.

“Policy in this area is owned by the Lord Chancellor and not me. But I have already spoken to the Lord Chancellor and will continue to draw to his attention the concerns that have been expressed to me. I will endeavour to ensure, as far as I can, that the decision he reaches in due course is a fully informed one.”

These proposals would cause the edifice to collapse. That’s what some of us have been saying all along.

What do you think of the Attorney-General’s letter?

Whatever conclusions Grayling reaches, they may become apparent on July 3, when the Commons Justice Committee questions him about his proposals.

Hopefully, these questions will take into account not only the plans themselves, but the Attorney-General’s letter and the concerns which led him to write it, and also news stories demonising legal aid barristers and solicitors as “cashing in” (such as a Sun story last week), featuring supporting comments from Grayling himself.