Legal aid cuts to go ahead

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The Independent Online
THE Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, has signalled his intention of pressing ahead with swingeing cuts to legal aid, despite criticism and an offer by lawyers to look at alternative ways of saving money, writes Adam Sage.

The cuts, which it is estimated will affect 12-14 million people, are almost certain to come into force in April, Lord Mackay made clear to the Independent.

He all but ruled out a package of proposals put forward by the Law Society and the Bar Council with the aim of saving pounds 43m this year. These included a pay freeze and a reduction in the number of lawyers attending court hearings.

Lord Mackay said that most of the suggestions put forward by lawyers had 'already been discussed very fully . . . and disappointingly, as yet they have produced very little in the way of prevention of the rise in costs of legal aid'.

Under Lord Mackay's plans, millions of people will lose the right to financial help with their cases while millions more could have to pay sharply increased contributions.