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Tuesday 17th April 2012 | 13:49
Tim Farron is certainly trying to deliver today on his role as the Lib Dems' backbench conscience.
First, he has attacked former Tory shadow Chief Whip David Maclean's lobbying for the Cayman Islands as 'astonishing'
He says: "While the Coalition is trying to make the rich pay their fair share, this exposes an element of the Conservative Party which wants to keep helping their wealthy friends hide their money from the taxman".
Not exactly collegiate.
Second, Farron has tabled an amendment to the Laspo Bill which seeks to stop legal aid cuts for those getting advice on benefits.
Ahead of todays legal aid debate the Liberal Democrat President Farron, has tabled an amendment against the government cuts. The amendment may make it difficult for the government and Ken Clarke to overturn the changes in the Lords.
The amendment has been signed by several Lib Dems. Many Tories will be furious and will hope that this is just political windowdressing and have the numbers to defeat it. But some Tory backbenchers will nevertheless be furious that again the Libs seem to have been given the nod by Clegg to vote against the Coalition.
Crucially, Farron seems to have cut a deal with Sadiq Khan on this one, for the Labour frontbench team have signed up too.
The Lords amended the Bill to retain legal aid in welfare benefits cases for: (1) advice only for official reviews and appeals to the first-tier tribunal; and (2) advice and representation for appeals to the upper tribunal and senior courts.
The Government (on Friday) tabled their own amendment (effectively accepting) part 2 of the above. But this will in fact matter to a tiny handful of people every year as most cases don’t get that far.
The following amendment, to Ken Clarke’s amendment on Friday, has therefore been tabled today which would also accept part 1 of the above Lords’ amendment.
It has been signed by:
TOM BRAKE (Lib Dem – Co-Chair, backbench committee on justice matters)STEPHEN LLOYD (Lib Dem)
DAVID WARD (Lib Dem)
MIKE CROCKART (Lib Dem)
IAN SWALES (Lib Dem)
ANDREW GEORGE (Lib Dem)
TIM FARRON (Lib Dem – Party President)
JENNY CHAPMAN (Labour)
SADIQ KHAN (Labour)
ANDY SLAUGHTER (Labour)
ROBERT FLELLO (Labour)
Here's the detail
Line 22, at end insert
‘Appeals and reviews relating to welfare benefits’Civil legal services provided in relation to any review or appeal concerning a benefit, allowance, payment, credit or pension under –
(a) The Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992,
(b) The Jobseekers Act 1995,
(c) The State Pension Credit Act 2002,
(d) The Tax Credits Act 2002,
(e) The Welfare Reform Act 2007,
(f) The Welfare Reform Act 2011,
(g) Any other enactment relating to social security.’.
"Keeping legal aid for complex welfare cases will help about 100,000 at a cost of £150 per case. This would reduce the current spending on legal aid for welfare benefits cases by about £8.5m per year. Put simply, keeping legal aid for the most complex welfare cases will reduce the current bill for legal aid, whilst protecting advice for the most vulnerable. That is why I am calling upon the Government to do the right thing, the cost effective thing, and bring complex benefit cases back within scope of legal aid".
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