Lord Bach, a former Justice minister, called for a “full, independent impact assessment” of the legal aid cuts before the Bill was implemented – the Bill, if enacted, would remove legal aid from clinical negligence and large parts of family law, social welfare, housing and other civil areas.
He referred to a report by Dr Graham Cookson of King’s College, London, which found the cuts would generate other costs across taxpayer-funded bodies such as the NHS. Cutting legal aid for clinical negligence, for example, would cost an extra £28.5m per year but save only £10.5m.
Cutting legal aid from private family law would cost an extra £100m each year against projected savings of £170m. Scrapping legal aid for social welfare law would bring extra costs of £35.2m against savings of £58m.
An MoJ spokesperson said: “We have been clear that the costs and benefits detailed in our impact assessment are our best estimate of the potential effects of the reforms.Considered alongside our wider reforms the Department of Health has confirmed that costs to the NHS are expected to reduce.”
Peers debating the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill in the Lords have questioned the Government’s assessment of its impact.