In 1942 William Beveridge, an economist, published the 'Beveridge report which identified five "Giant Evils" in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease, and went on to propose widespread reform to the system of social welfare to address these. While the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party quickly adopted Beveridge's proposals, the Labour Party was slow to follow.
Seventy years later the horrible irony is that the same liberals and conservative are consigning Beverage to the scrap heap. They will say we must cut because of the debt mountain which has built up over the last forty years have finally caught up with us all. The unsustainable of 'borrowing for the future' decade by decade: from the inflation in the 1970's, through the public debt of the 1980's, the private debt of the 1990's and early 2000's and finally exploding in the financial crisis of 2008. But this is not the real reason for these cuts in legal aid and there are other options.
Sound off for Justice campaign groups against the bill all recognise that we must save the taxpayer money. What we are arguing over is how we do this and what is 'fair and reasonable'. We believe the governments bill will not do this. Instead the lord chancellor's bill will cost the taxpayer between £129 - £372 million in knock on costs. We know because the Kings College report is the only piece of empirical evidence into this bill.
The Beveridge report went on and formed the basis of the welfare state. This gave us the nhs, social security, grammer schools, state education and national insurance care from cradle to grave. It paved the way for the Rushcliffe report in 1949 and the creation of legal aid. Many would agree that these are great things and the foundation for a good society. A healthy educated society where citizens have access to justice is surely a thing that all citizens and politicians can agree is a good thing. This is surely what we want for our children and all politicians want for the people who vote for them into office.
This week their Lordships set out very clearly the moral, economic and political case for not making this cut from all parties and none. In the face of these powerful arguments, most cogently and movingly from Lord Newton, Mrs Thatcher's Secretary of State for Social Security, the Minister had not a single argument in response.
Lord Newton told the government "nobody believes that the savings the Government have claimed for these proposals will actually be realised. The CABs, the Law Society and the report produced by King's College all reckon that a lot of theses savings are illusory and that the knock-on effects on other government departments will be substantial but have so far been completely unquantified".
This weekend Liberal democrats have one more chance to stop the cuts in legal aid. They will vote on a motion to ensure "the protection of fair and equal access to justice" through, among other things "a properly funded system", "the continued provision of legal aid for those who cannot afford to pay, in serious cases, where a failure to provide legal aid may lead to injustice" as well as asserting that the Party should seek the implementation of the Lib Dems own policy on legal aid recently reaffirmed at the parties Spring Conference.
Campaign groups have all been disappointed with the liberal democrats over the NHS, Welfare reforms, tuition fees to name a few failures. This week people have been talking of 'yellow belly' lib democrats turning on the amendments they put down on the legal aid bill. This happened in the house of commons when Tom Brake and Alan Beith talked a good game and then voted with the government.
Well let's hope they pass the motion at the spring conference and do something for the 645,000 people who need legal aid.
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