Page last updated at 20:34 GMT, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Legal Aid Bill clears Commons

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill containing the government's reforms to the criminal justice system has cleared the House of Commons.

MPs voted the bill through by 306 votes to 228, majority 78. It now goes to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

Opening the debate on 2 November 2011 Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said the "balanced" legislation would deal with the problems created by the last Labour government.

But Labour opposed the bill, with shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan telling MPs: "This bill is bad for the most vulnerable in society, it is bad for the victims of crime, it is bad reforming offenders, it is bad for the safety of our communities."

Under the government's plans the Legal Services Commission will be abolished and responsibilities for legal aid in England and Wales will be transferred to the Ministry of Justice.

The bill also makes changes to the system of no-win no-fee cases and to the sentencing framework, and it creates a new offence of aggravated knife possession, with a mandatory prison sentence of at least six months.

Legal aid will end for most family cases, clinical negligence and employment law but remain for criminal cases. The government says the current system is in need of urgent reform, but critics say the changes will be a disaster for the public.

Watch part one of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill from day three.


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