Plans to impose a residence test on legal aid eligibility will impede the vulnerable and could even cost the government money. They should be voted down.
How do you fix a problem that you don’t know exists? That is the task that David Cameron’s government set itself when it proposed, as part of the Ministry of Justice’s latest attack on access to justice ‘Transforming Legal Aid’, to impose a residence test on anyone who needed legal advice but lacked the means to afford it.
From August, the lord chancellor Chris Grayling says only those with a year’s residence in England and Wales before they ask for advice will be eligible to apply for legal aid.
The test, to be voted on by the House of Commons today, has been condemned by three all-party parliamentary committees, leading judges and independent charities. They point out the proposals may be unlawful and are unsupported by any evidence that they will save money or discourage litigation. The Joint Committee on Human Rights even suggested that they are in defiance of our legal obligation to uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.