HCLC Chair Ian Rathbone responds to Ken Clarke after BBC Radio 4’s ‘Law in Action’ programme (broadcast Tuesday February 21st 2012)
Last night as I listened to Kenneth Clarke, the Justice minister on the BBC iPlayer talking to Joshua Rozenberg on Radio 4′s ‘Law in Action – Legal aid changes: long overdue reform or denial of justice?‘ programme I noticed that on screen underneath was a picture of a gun and the words ‘For you – how to commit murder‘. I say no more.
Mr Clarke is fond of over stressing words like ‘vast‘ as in sums of money spent on legal aid and ‘flood‘ of legal claims. Such is his considerable and pudgy grasp of figures. He seems to think that the House of Lords acting as a second democratic chamber is hastening their reform. Very threatening but then you realise it’s all empty rhetoric because it becomes apparent he is hoping to join them (Memo to David Cameron: Send the hush puppy kid upstairs. Make it soon).
But then Mr Clarke (now awaiting ennoblement) says: “We have by far the most generous system in the world. It has to be cut back“. Of course. We absolutely cannot have such generosity to the poor but to bankers seeking ‘vast‘ bonuses … and to the ‘flood‘ of pawnbrokers and loan sharks … well, that’s different isn’t it. In the same way that being a Director of British Tobacco (for example) would not in the least influence your decision – making skills on the hazards of smoking.
And just to jazz it up a bit, Mr Clarke thinks most of the legal aid advice is just about “some reasonable general knowledge of the welfare system“, not even really ‘legal’, and “some quizzing of the claimant to check they haven’t left out some vital aspect of their claim“. So, quite easy then. Even a Minister of Justice could do it.
But what is really to blame for all the vastness and flooding and even the odd amount of ‘huge‘ is the heavy legal lobby. They are the real villians of the piece who have got all this legal aid. But strangely, he’s not cutting the lobby. It’s so much easier to attack the poor because they can’t hit back.
But not to worry because after the amptutation there will be a magical settling down with a structure of fees eventually emerging, like beautiful butterflies from their legal aid cocoons and everything will be lovely once more in the garden, and Lord Clarke of Hush Puppy (for such will he be) can at last rest in his nook, puffing away on his fag and trying to interest passers-by in old gramophone records of ‘I aint gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more‘.
What we are seeing here is the clock being turned back but as we know, whatever manipulation of the timepiece you do, time and the gap between rich and poor keeps moving on. Clarke seems not concerned at all that 600,000 people are being taken out of scope, preferring to focus on the difficulty of estimating the cost, but it’s probably around £350m, which is not too bad for a day’s work for a banker actually.
Vast in fact. One might even venture huge.
*Read Ian’s Chair’s blog HERE: