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Strike against legal aid cuts
Paul Heron, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers executive committee
As the Socialist goes to press, a demonstration outside parliament is being held on 22 May against the Con-Dems' proposals to further cut legal aid.
This protest will be followed by an indoor rally to discuss a strategy to defeat the latest proposals.
The Con-Dems, through their Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo), have already slashed legal aid since last month.
This includes cuts to:
- Private family law, such as divorce and custody battles
- Personal injury and some clinical negligence cases
- Some employment and education law
- Immigration where the person is not detained
- Some debt, and housing issues, with welfare benefit issues being taken out completely
The government's latest proposals are a further ideological attack on what they perceive as popular targets - prisoners and migrants.
Proposals will mean private competitive tendering of criminal legal aid - with Eddie Stobart and Tesco in line to bid.
The Tories also want to limit judicial reviews - legal challenges against government - clearly aimed at avoiding the 'embarrassment' of finding their austerity laws challenged in the courts.
The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers will argue at the 22 May rally that opposition to these proposals cannot be successful just by lobbying, seeking support from the press, or putting written papers into the consultation process.
We call for united industrial action. An initial 24-hour strike - to shut down the courts and other legal aid related services - would send a clear message to the government, as the start of a programme of strike action.
The strength of feeling has never been more militant - already in the North West of England lawyers have effectively held a one-day strike.
Many fear for their jobs, and fear for the people who are represented in the courts and for the demise of justice that this 'transformation' will bring.
United action needed
The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers calls for:
- The setting up of a united organisation which brings together all groups and individuals opposed to the legal aid cuts.
- A 24-hour strike followed by a stepped programme of increasingly intense strike action
- The Bar Council and Law Society to recognise the concern of their members and support such action
- Collaboration with Napo, Unite the Union, the PCS, and others working in the justice system
- The place of legal aid in the welfare state to be recognised and defended along with other public services
- A campaign which is not simply defensive, but which fights to undo previous cuts
A future issue of the Socialist will look at the government's latest proposals in more detail www.haldane.org
In The Socialist 22 May 2013:
Fight the bedroom tax
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