Joint Letter to the UK Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor

Transforming Legal Aid Consultation: Civil Justice Proposals

August 14, 2013

Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP

Ministry of Justice

102 Petty France

London SW1H 9AJ


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Transforming Legal Aid Consultation: Civil Justice Proposals

Dear Lord Chancellor,

We write to ask that you delay your final decision on whether to implement the proposed changes to civil legal aid (including prison law) contained within the Transforming Legal Aid consultation paper until after the Joint Committee on Human Rights have completed their inquiry and reported back to Parliament. Given the nature of the concerns that have been expressed, the fact that they have been raised so widely by professionals in the field and others, and the relatively short time available for evidence to be gathered in the course of the consultation exercise, we believe it is important that the Government’s future decision-making in this important area is fully informed by the views of Parliament’s expert human rights committee.

In relation to criminal legal aid, you have confirmed that the proposals are to be revised in light of the consultation responses, and that the revised proposals will be the subject of a further consultation exercise in the autumn. We commend your willingness to heed the views of respondents, and to revise its proposals accordingly in relation to criminal legal aid. However, we are disappointed that there has, so far, been no indication that such a listening exercise is taking place with respect to the civil legal aid proposals.

As well as important constitutional issues about access to the court, the published consultation responses raise very serious questions about the human rights implications, were these civil legal aid proposals to be implemented in their current form.

On 18 July 2013, the Joint Committee on Human Rights announced that it had launched an inquiry into the implications for access to justice of the civil legal aid proposals. The Committee will take written evidence until Friday 27 September 2013 with public hearings in October.

In line with the Committee’s call for a period of reflection, we therefore ask you to ensure that the crucial decisions on whether, and if so how, to implement the civil legal aid proposals are properly informed by the Committee’s report. Any assurance that you are able to give in this regard would demonstrate a willingness to listen that we believe is crucial in the context of the civil legal aid proposals, and which we would warmly welcome.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Mike Henshaw (Head of Legal Services), Alternatives Futures Group
  2. Philip Fletcher (Chair of the Mission and Public Affairs Council), Archbishops’ Council (Church of England)
  3. Andrew Sperling (Chair), Association of Prison Lawyers
  4. Wayne Myslik (Chief Executive), Asylum Aid
  5. Pavan Dhaliwal (Head of Public Affairs), British Humanist Association
  6. Stephen Bowen (Director), British Institute of Human Rights
  7. Paola Uccellari (Director), Children’s Rights Alliance for England
  8. The Revd Dr Rosemary Kidd (Chair of the Steering Group), Churches Refugee Network
  9. Gillian Guy (Chief Executive), Citizens Advice
  10. Barbara Cohen (Chair), Discrimination Law Association
  11. Douglas Joy (Senior Solicitor, Social Welfare Team), Disability Law Service
  12. Liz Sayce OBE (Chief Executive), Disability Rights UK
  13. Karen Chouhan (Chair), Equanomics-UK
  14. Anna Bird (Deputy Chief Executive Officer), Fawcett Society
  15. Chris Whitwell (Director), Friends, Families and Travellers
  16. Christl Hughes (Legal Consultant and Trustee), Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES)
  17. Frances Crook (Chief Executive), Howard League for Penal Reform
  18. David Mepham (UK Director), Human Rights Watch
  19. Tracey Lazard (Chief Executive Officer), Inclusion London
  20. Helen Shaw (Co-Director), INQUEST
  21. Louise Zanre (Director), Jesuit Refugee Service
  22. Shauneen Lambe (Executive Director), Just for Kids Law
  23. Nicola Mackintosh (Co-Chair), Legal Aid Practitioners Group
  24. Isabella Sankey (Policy Director), Liberty
  25. Geoff Duncan (Administrator), London Churches Refugee Network
  26. Theresa Schleicher (Casework Manager), Medical Justice
  27. Zrinka Bralo (Executive Director), Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum
  28. Don Flynn (Director), Migrants’ Rights Network
  29. Vicki Nash (Head of Policy and Campaigns), Mind
  30. Deborah Jack (Chief Executive), National AIDS Trust
  31. Pam Hibbert (Chair), National Association For Youth Justice
  32. Faiza Khan (Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Policy and Communications), National Council for Voluntary Youth Services
  33. Vaughan Jones (Chief Executive), Praxis
  34. Professor Stephen Whittle OBE (Chair and Head of Legal Services), Press For Change
  35. Matt Evans (Managing Solicitor), Prisoners Advice Service
  36. Ravi Low-Beer (Head of Casework), Public Law Project
  37. Jabeer Butt (Deputy Chief Executive), Race Equality Foundation
  38. Andy Gregg (Chief Executive), Race On The Agenda
  39. Maurice Wren (Chief Executive), Refugee Council
  40. Shauna Leven (Director), René Cassin
  41. Kat Craig (Legal Director), Reprieve
  42. Emma Scott (Director), Rights of Women
  43. Susan Bryant (Director), Rights Watch (UK)
  44. Campbell Robb (Chief Executive) Shelter
  45. Penelope Gibbs (Chair), Standing Committee for Youth Justice
  46. Revd Roberta Rominger (General Secretary), United Reformed Church
  47. Alexandra Runswick (Director), Unlock Democracy
  48. Wendy Lewington (Director of Policy), Voice
  49. Polly Neate (Chief Executive), Women’s Aid Federation of England
  50. Vivienne Hayes (Chief Executive), Women’s Resource Centre
  51. Connor Johnston (Co-chair), Young Legal Aid Lawyers
  52. Nick Fluck (President), The Law Society of England and Wales