LASPO - Let the Ping Pong commence :-) Mar 28, 2012 17:20:38 GMT 1
Post by nickd on Mar 28, 2012 17:20:38 GMT 1
Anyone for Ping Pong?
Let's explain what a game of ping pong has to with legal aid and why you should get involved..
Here is an important date for our game of 'Ping Pong', it is one you should have firmly etched in your mind, or just written down somewhere to remind you...
This is the date when the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offender's bill (LASPO) get's 'pinged' into the House of Commons for a very important debate.
Some of Mylegal's regular viewers will be all too familiar with The Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offender's Bill or 'LASPO' for short. For those of you who are not and would like to find out a bit more, you can access the Justice for All, Scope & Sound off for Justice LASPO campaigns through the following link which takes you to much more information.
For those of you following LASPO on Twitter, you may have seen a fair mention of 'Ping Pong' and 'April 17'. No, we haven't given up on our day jobs and started a new found obsession with bat and ball; - we're keeping an eye out for a much bigger game taking place - it's being played out between two of the biggest houses in the country.
With one bat in hand we have the House of Lords.
With the other bat, we have the House of Commons
What's the batting order?
As things stand, as far as LASPO is concerned, the House of Lords is the house we want to win in our game of ping - pong. The bill has completed its passage through the report stage in the second chamber and will return to the Commons where they will consider the amendments made. Both Houses need to agree to the exact wording of the bill and the bill may 'ping pong' between both houses until this happens. When the exact wording of the bill has been agreed by both Houses the bill is ready for royal assent. Once a bill receives royal assent it becomes an Act of Parliament (proposals in the bill become law).
The reason we back some of the Lords (mainly the Labour Party, but some cross-benchers & other parties as well) is because they passed 11 important amendments to the legal aid part of the LASPO bill; - it doesn't make it perfect, but it makes it a whole lot better than it was when it last left the House of Commons. What happens next is that LASPO will be batted by the Lords back to the House of Commons who could then overturn the amendments passed by the Lords. To some politicians it may be a big game;- to us it's more about doing all we can to leave LASPO as it stands and thus do our best towards preserving social welfare justice for those who need it most; - our clients.
Here's more information about the LASPO amendments which went to a vote in the House of Lords. These are the 11 amendments which government lost when they voted to oppose them. This means they are now part of the bill as it stands - but this could be reversed on April 17th
These are all of the amendments considered in the House of Lords as of the 29th March 2012. These includes ones which were agreed, voted out, voted in or withdrawn.
This is how the LASPO bill looks including the amendments voted for in the House of Lords up to March 21st, further amendments were then voted on March 27th; - these are not yet included in the following link to the revised bill:
The LASPO Bill as of the 21/3/2012 (this could be updated soon)
We now take a closer look at the 11 amendments which we are asking people to try and convince their MP's that they should stay as they are. The best way of doing this is to persuade MP's that it makes financial sense to agree with the amendments proposed by the Lords. It means putting pressure on MP's to speak with their own leaders to see the sense in not undoing everything the House of Lords voted on when carefully considering the bill. The full details of each of the 11 amendments are to be found in the posts which follow. There is also some further advice on what to do.
What now follows are some brief summaries on each of the 11 voted for amendments, for the full details you will need to look at the posts which follow on. Remember that the numbering from 1 to 11 is not the number of the amendment, we've just used it to identify the 11 amendments which Government lost when put to the vote in the House of Lords; - in each case the government voted against them and lost the vote. The House of Commons could reverse any of the amendments made by the House of Lords (even those which were agreed). These are in the link to the full list of amendments. The government is much more likely to want to overturn amendments that they did not vote for.
Where you see 'contents' this means the numbers of Lords who agreed with the amendment, where it says 'not contents' these are the numbers of Lords who disagreed with them. A higher number of 'contents' wins.
Where you see 'amendment agreed upon division' this means the House of Lord divided between the numbers of 'contents' and 'not contents' and voted at what is called a 'division'. A division is called when the House cannot agree whether to accept or withdraw the amendment, in some cases the Lord agrees not to 'move' the amendment, which means they decide not to put it to the vote.
A summary of the 11 amendments
Here's a run down of the votes which government lost during the 'report' stages in the House of Lords.
(1) Amendment 1 sets out a clearer definition of the Lord Chancellor's functions
(Change of wording regarding the Lord Chancellor's functions in clause 1 of the bill)
(2) Amendment 2 sets out how Lord Chancellor must ensure victims of domestic violence can access legal services
(Lord Chancellor must ensure victims of domestic violence can access legal services in accordance with the financial criteria on financial resources in section 20 of the bill)
(3) Amendment 3 sets out how the Lord Chancellor must set out the role of the 'director of legal services' on matters such independence from the Crown.
(The Lord Chancellor must ensure that the terms on which the designated person holds the post of Director are, as regards the making and termination of the designation and otherwise, such as to ensure the Director's independence from Ministers of the Crown (subject to any direction or guidance given under subsection (3) in relation to the carrying out of the Director's functions under this Part.)
(4) Amendment 11 of schedule 1 brings welfare benefits up to First Tier Tribunal level back within the scope of the bill.
(Civil legal services provided in respect of a social welfare decision relating to a benefit, allowance, payment, credit or pension under various acts to include independent advice and assistance for a review, or appeal to a first-tier tribunal, of such a decision)
(5) Amendment 12 of schedule 1 brings welfare benefits up to Upper Tribunal & higher courts back within the scope of the bill
(Civil legal services provided in respect of a social welfare decision relating to a benefit, allowance, payment, credit or pension under various acts to include (a) independent advice or assistance for an appeal to a second-tier tribunal; and (b) independent advice, assistance and representation at a higher court of such a decision)
(6) Amendment 13 of schedule 1 concerns obtaining expert reports in medical negligence cases.
(Civil legal services provided in relation to the obtaining of one or more expert reports in clinical negligence proceedings.)
(7) Amendment 119 of clause 26 opens up access to services other than just by through a single point telephone gateway
(Imposes a duty upon Lord Chancellor to provide access to legal services other than just by telephoning, bringing face to face advice at initial interview stage back within the bill)
(8) Amendment 132AA before clause 43 helps claimants with claims for respiratory illness/disease arising out of industrial exposure to harmful substances
(Makes exceptions for sections not to apply in relation to proceedings which include a claim for damages for respiratory disease or illness (whether or not resulting in death) arising from industrial exposure to harmful substance)
(9) Amendment 132AB before Clause 43 makes an exception for industrial disease cases for other sections not to apply where an employer has been in breach of their duty owed to an employee
(The changes made by sections 43, 45 and 46 of this Act do not apply in relation to proceedings which include a claim for damages for a disease, condition or illness (whether or not resulting in death) resulting from any breach of duty owed by an employer to an employee)
(10) Amendment 3 (Schedule 1, page 140, line 5) would make legal aid available for children in all current cases - this includes clinical negligence cases.
(At present, legal aid helps just over 40,000 children every year who have civil justice legal problems in their own right. If the Bill is left as it stands, legal aid for around 35,000 children every year will continue, but legal aid will not be available for around 6,000 children under 18 who would qualify if the current rules remained in place)
(11) Amendment 4 (also Schedule 1, page 140, line 5) affects Children and clinical negligence which took place when the individual concerned was a child
(Civil legal services provided in relation to clinical negligence in the course of the provision of clinical services which took place at a time when the individual was a child)
Hopefully, by now you will know a bit more about LASPO and have a clearer understanding of the amendments we are trying to protect.
Further debate will take place on the 17th April when the emphasis will be on the Government asking its MP's to overturn these LASPO amendments on the grounds of 'financial privilege'. It happened in the welfare reforms when amendments were won in the House of Lords following a great deal of Peer pressure from disability groups including major charities; - it was also the hard work of the 'Spartacus' campaign which persuaded many of the Lords to support them. The Government then overturned the Lords in the House of Commons.
Many disabled people will be adversely affected by the welfare reforms and will rely upon agencies funded by legal aid to help advise them. These agencies do work on two fronts, (a) helping clients directly and (b) through valuable social policy work. Social policy work is very important because it enables specialist agencies to tell Government where it has got things wrong, it also helps in challenging unfair laws which always exist after large scale reform has taken place. Legal aid specialists feed in to social policy work by telling their representative bodies where the law is wrong in practice. They have a great deal of experience on the front - line in First Tier & Upper Tribunals; - if amendments 11 and 12 are reversed they will no longer be able to do the work they do.
Some of these amendments are going to be more important to you than others. It is important for all advice agencies and the clients who rely upon them for advice to get involved in trying to persuade their MP to challenge any attempt to overturn these hard fought for amendments.
Choose the amendments which you believe to be most important to you.
For instance without amendments 11 and 12 CAB & Law Centres will have their funding dramatically cut in their welfare benefit work - this will mean many won't be able to help any clients with welfare benefit appeals; - this could affect many who currently seek advice. Likewise, we need as many people to put pressure on their MP's to keep amendment 119 to keep face to face advice when accessing legal aid for the first time. Victims of domestic violence will relate to amendment 2, clinical negligence victims will relate to amendment 13 and 3 & 4 in schedule 4. Remember to refer to the actual amendment number rather than the listing number which we have used from 1 to 11. Victims of industrial related illness (such as asbestos poisoning) will relate to amendments 132AA and 132AB. The first three amendments relate to clause 1 of the bill which is connected with the 'Lord Chancellor's functions' in delivering legal services via the 'director' of legal services.
Advice agencies & CAB help thousands of people every year, not many people will realise how reliant we are on legal aid funding. Now we are asking you to help us and we would be very grateful for your support.
We give you some further advice in the next post.