Lord Tebbit fights to save legal aid for children’s medical cases

Lord Tebbit fights to save legal aid for children’s medical cases

Michael Foot once memorably described him as a ‘semi-house trained polecat’ in recognition of his fierce right wing views. So when the same Norman Tebbit, now ennobled, proposes what can only be described as liberal minded amendments to the current Legal Aid bill it is a moment of significance.

He has put his name down to two, linked amendments that would ensure children, or parents on their behalf, will be entitled to legal aid if they need to pursue medical negligence claims. In relation to depriving claimants under the age of 18 from having access to legal aid for medical negligence claims, he told the ‘Guardian’: “In that area [the bill] may be going too far. I want to hear all the arguments. It’s right that it should be debated.” He had taken up the cause, he said, because: “I have listened and read the arguments …and I think there’s sufficient in it that we ought to [examine]. It’s nice to be on the side of the angels for once.”

At the same time the embattled Ken Clarke contributed an article in the ‘Guardian’ in which, almost apocalyptically, he said: “There should be no doubt that the system is facing an existential crisis.” He went on to say: “So for any reasonable individual it is not a question of whether we reform legal aid, but how. My approach has been to take a methodical, first-principles look at the system. The logic is simple: to determine carefully which types of cases most urgently merit scarce resources, to encourage people to use non-adversarial solutions to their problems where appropriate, and to speed up and simplify court processes where not.” He concluded: “The threat I want my reforms to pose is to a failing system, outdated methods and unreformed working practices, not to the needy.”

He will not have been pleased to hear the right wing former MP for Chingford, a supporter of the government’s draconian spending cuts, say that he feared that some of the economies proposed by the Ministry of Justice may be “going too far.”
The bill came to the House of Lords at committee stage on Tuesday. The debate got no further than amendments to clause 1, which defines the Lord Chancellor’s responsibilities. Four amendments were debated but all four were withdrawn without being put to the vote. Once again, reading the debate, it was noticeable that, apart from the ministerial team, the government had not put up anyone to speak in favour of the legal aid proposals. Committee stage continues on 10 January when further amendments will be discussed.

And finally, may I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Image courtesy of The Freedom Association’s photostream on Flickr

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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