JUST a month ago I was among many local people at a packed town hall meeting in which Amber Rudd unequivocally stated that, if the cuts to the essential service of legal aid for the most vulnerable were not removed from the bill, she would vote against it.
Now I read in your pages that she abstained. What a let down.
In the debate she said: “The cuts as currently set out fall too harshly in an area that has as its sole objective the support for people who are least able to speak up for themselves. That area is not replete with fat cat lawyers; it is mostly populated by men and women who are committed to helping the most needy in their communities. As we know, not everyone is able to speak up for themselves.”
She added: “I therefore ask the Government to consider carefully the issue of taking welfare benefits out of scope. What it means is professional advice going to people who need it, regarding their welfare claims on the ground. It sounds trivial but it is absolutely not. This is about critical sums of money for families who need every penny—and, by the way, most of these situations do not involve a lawyer.”
How can somebody who understands the problems with the legislation so clearly not vote against it? It doesn’t matter if she agrees with 80 per cent of the bill if the remaining 20 per cent will have the sort of devastating effects she described.
The money to be set aside for advice agencies is only a fraction of what is needed.
She should have kept her word. She should have put her neediest constituents ahead of her political career prospects.
It may not be easy to defy the whips but we need an MP who will stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
It can’t be as difficult as the situation so many of the poorest in our community will be faced with when legal aid is withdrawn from them.