Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Monday, 15 November 2010

Clarke unveils cuts to legal aid budget

Plans to cut £350m a year from the legal aid budget in England and Wales have been unveiled by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.

State help will be removed from certain family law, clinical negligence, education, employment, immigration, benefits, debt and housing cases.

Exceptions will be made where domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction is involved, as well as other areas protected by law.

In a statement to MPs on 15 November 2010, Mr Clarke said: "It cannot be right that the taxpayer is footing the bill for unnecessary court cases which would never have even reached the courtroom door were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying."

"I propose to introduce a more targeted civil and family scheme which will discourage people from resorting to lawyers whenever they face a problem, and instead encourage them to consider more suitable methods of dispute resolution.

"Legal aid will still routinely be available in civil and family cases where people's life or liberty is at stake, or where they are at risk of serious physical harm, or immediate loss of their home."

Mr Clarke also announced plans to introduce a means-tested contribution in legal aid cases and reform the way lawyers are paid, as well as to overhaul conditional fee arrangements in no-win-no-fee cases.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the proposals were "among the most important published by the government to date", acknowledging that the budget had grown to levels that were "not sustainable".

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