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Former Cabinet Minister favours Legal Aid for Medical Negligence

22/12/11: Lord Tebbit has joined in the argument to retain legal aid in cases of medical negligence involving children.

Lord Tebbit who was a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government is amongst the growing faction of peers who are trying to ensure that legal aid remains available in cases of medical negligence when they involve children.

He has affiliated with Lord Crisp to request a revision to the reforms which have been proposed by Kenneth Clarke, the current Justice Secretary.

Peers have already voiced several worries about the new legislation, which is set to save £350m by taking away legal aid from each case of clinical negligence, in addition to other areas such as housing, debt, employment welfare and family disputes.

The change which has been proposed by Lord Tebbit is amongst a total of almost 200 revisions proposed by different members in the House of Lords whilst the bill goes to the committee stage.

Lord Newton and Baroness Eaton are also backing Lord Tebbit’s amendment.

Other changes have already been suggested by Lord Woolf, Lady Butler-Sloss, and Lord Macdonald.

It comes at the same time Mr. Clarke defended the bill, writing a newspaper column saying that the legal aid system in Britain is approaching a crisis and will not survive if it isn’t streamlined.

The Justice Secretary has also condemned elements of the legal aid process as being prone to out dated methods as well as unreformed working practices.

He recognises that a fundamental element of a functioning democracy is access to justice.

Mr. Clarke wrote in the paper that legal aid will be retained in cases where people’s liberty, life or home is at risk but the system was never designed to be like the NHS to provide for any need.

He added that he remained committed to streamlining and simplifying the system as well as the introduction of competition at the same time as reducing costs.

I don’t want the revisions to pose any threat to the people who need legal aid, my reforms are intended to address the failures of the current system.