Government Defeated In Lords Again On Legal Aid
The House of Lords has inflicted a further two defeats on Ken Clarke's legal aid reforms, with peers approving amendments which would ease restrictions on those appealing welfare decisions.
The amendments overturn Ken Clarke's plan to stop those who lose their benefits being able to claim legal aid when appealing, a move which had support from all sides of the Lords, including some Conservative peers.
It means there have now been five defeats for the government over its legal aid reforms, which Ken Clarke says are designed to curb a "compensation culture" in England and Wales.
The Justice Secretary believes that the legal aid bill has grown too large, as the Ministry of Justice grapples with a budget cut of more than 20% over the lifetime of this Parliament.
In increasingly terse exchanges in the Lords, Lib Dem peers including the former children's' TV presenter Floella Benjamin spoke out against the reforms, claiming they would make it more difficult for families to ensure they were getting the benefits properly due to them.
The defeats come after earlier votes on Monday, when peers blocked attempts to restrict legal aid for victims of domestic violence. The government had wanted to impose a 12-month time limit for victims - mostly women - to claim.