Andy Burnham will commit to reverse the declining access to legal advice for the low paid by reviewing legal aid and scrapping employment tribunal fees.
The leadership contender make this announcement this week as he unveils what his team are calling “a highly personal” manifesto.
This comes as figures show legal aid payments for people in debt, on benefits benefits or with employment and housing concerns fell to 10% before the Conservatives’ budget. They also showed ministers cuts £500 million from the legal aid budget – amounting to one quarter of the £2bn fund – and removed the majority of ‘social welfare’ cases from within its scope. Social welfare cases now covered by legal aid are limited to a few exceptions, including those at immediate risk of homelessness and cases about disability discrimination.
Burnham has announced that he is going to commission an urgent review of civil legal aid. It will be to be co-Chaired by the current Shadow Attorney General, Lord Bach, and Yvonne Fovargue MP, former Chair of the APPG on Legal Aid and former Chief Executive of a local Citizens Advice Bureau.
He previously announced at that he would scrap employment tribunal fees if he were to become Prime Minister.
In his manifesto this week, Burnham will say:
“From introducing fees for workers taking a case to an employment tribunal, to making drastic and devastating cuts to the civil legal aid budget, David Cameron’s Government have made access to justice dependant on ability to pay.
“I believe that it is the hallmark of a civilised society that everyone can access justice, defend their rights and receive help in navigating the legal system, regardless of their income. So under my leadership, a Labour Government will commission an urgent review of civil legal aid and scrap the unfair system of employment tribunal fees to make sure that everyone can access quality legal advice on social welfare law problems.”