Motion for Trade Unions to Show Support for Legal Aid

The motion below, which can be downloaded here in Word (docx) form, is intended as a model motion for trade unions who want to show their support to the fight to save Legal Aid.

This organisation believes:

1. Legal aid, which celebrated its 60th birthday recently was a major concession won in the post-war consensus years. This major reform was won by the working class hand in hand with the trade union movement and the Labour Party.

2. Legal aid helped to secure rights and court representation in relation to eviction, welfare and the threat of unjust convictions. It leveled the playing field between the richest who could afford lawyers and the poorest who could not.

3. At the time of its launch, eight out of 10 people were entitled to the scheme’s assistance. The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice reveal fewer than one in three are now eligible.

4. On 1 April 2013, the cuts in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force. There is no longer legal aid for advice or representation in welfare benefits, employment, family cases (where there is no domestic violence), immigration cases and consumer rights.

5. On 9 April 2013 the government announced a consultation on further legal aid cuts: “Transforming legal aid”. The Government intends to cut a further 17.5% from the criminal defence budget and proposes to introduce a tendering system for large scale regional contracts in relation to duty solicitor work. If these proposals are implemented, we believe that the quality of legal aid services will fall dramatically and there will be an increased risk of miscarriages of justice that could lead to innocent people being convicted of crimes that they did not commit.

6. In addition, further cuts to civil legal aid rates mean that there will no longer be specialist legal aid lawyers providing advice and representation in areas of housing law, education, for people asserting their rights against the state or other civil cases.

7. The legal aid budget only represents only 0.545% of national public spending (or £2.2 billion - the approximate cost of keeping the NHS running for 2 weeks).  Legal aid is provided at a very low cost to the public purse but has the potential to provide access to justice to a great many, most often those most in need.

8. Legal aid should be viewed as part of the wider trade union campaign to defend public services and the welfare state.

This organisation agrees to:

1. Campaign for the defence of legal aid.

2. Support calls for legal aid to be recognised as part of the welfare state.

3. Support publicity efforts including: demands to campaign for the defence of legal aid and for legal aid rates to be restored to pre-1979 levels; and publicising advice and representation on employment law issues, as a stepping stone to a fully funded legal aid system.

4. Affiliate to The Justice Alliance - an alliance of legal organisations, charities, community groups, campaigning groups, trade unions and individuals who are united in the opposition to the Government's proposed attack on legal aid and the criminal justice system[1].

5. Register our support for those in the legal profession taking direct action, including strike action.

[1] To affiliate please contact Justice Alliance organiser Russell Fraser: