Lawyers attack Mackay over plan to cut legal aid: The Lord Chancellor tells Adam Sage why people will have to pay more towards their legal costs

LORD MACKAY, the Lord Chancellor, was yesterday the target of fierce criticism from lawyers after he in effect dismissed their attempts to prevent unprecedented cuts in legal aid.

His comments, in an interview with the Independent, are certain to fuel an increasingly acrimonious argument over the Government's plans to cut back on the cost of helping people with their court cases.

Reacting to the Lord Chancellor's claims, one solicitor accused ministers of 'arrogance' and said the public had been 'conned'.

Lawyers estimate that as a result of the cuts, 7 million people will lose their right to free legal advice, while millions more will have to pay sharply increased contributions if they find themselves in court.

In the interview, Lord Mackay said such measures were needed because 'it's necessary for the Government as a whole to control public expenditure. I have to cut my cloth according to what is available to me'.

His legal aid budget had risen 'unacceptably' as more people went to court and lawyers took longer preparing their cases. In 1988-89, pounds 475m was spent on legal aid: in 1992-93 the figure would be about pounds 1,100m and would continue to increase by about 10 per cent a year, even after the cuts.

'Why should the taxpayer be more willing to contribute his or her money to help your case than you are yourself, assuming you're in a position to make a contribution?' he said.

In an effort to stave off the cuts, the Law Society, representing solicitors, and the Bar Council, representing barristers, offered to accept a pay freeze and a restriction on the number of lawyers attending court hearings, a package which would have yielded savings of pounds 43m this year.

These proposals do not appear to have found favour with the Lord Chancellor, however.

'What I fear is that, so far anyway, they haven't produced proposals which I could rely upon as likely to reduce the cost (of legal aid). But there's no reason why they shouldn't seek to put them into effect and see what happens,' he said.

In the interview, Lord Mackay added that he was studying ways of making a new privacy law affordable to ordinary people, a move which Sir David Calcutt QC, urged the Government to consider in his recent report on the press.

'I think that it (a privacy law) is a matter that certainly requires to be looked at carefully because I think it is a way forward in the present situation.'

Most observers say it is highly unlikely that the Government will provide legal aid for people who claim their privacy has been infringed, but ministers might offer instead a short, summary procedure in an attempt to settle disputes of this nature cheaply.

Responding to the Lord Chancellor's comments, Stephen Gilchrist, chairman of the Legal Aid Practitioners' Group, said the cuts were 'an absolute scandal'.

The public was being 'conned' by a government which talked of enhancing rights through the Citizen's Charter, but denied people the chance of enforcing them by cutting back on legal aid.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower