Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Llanelli boy must make good

It is not many people in  my circle who can say they have shaken hands with a future Lord Chancellor, but many years ago I met the young Robert Buckland. It was in the armistice period of a long-forgotten campaign (possibly the European Parliament elections of 1994) between the closing of the ballot and the counting of the votes when the agents, candidates and their guests guardedly socialise. Then, although I found him personable, I rather dismissed him as an ardent Thatcherite and all that this entails. Following his career over the years since, I came to realise that he was more of a one-nation Tory (to quote Iain Macleod) than that. Although I am sorry to seen that he has taken the Johnson coupon of a disorderly withdrawal from the EU, his is probably the best of the new appointments of the new administration.

His pledge to reform courts, tribunals and criminal legal aid is most welcome, though, as Liberal Democrats have pointed out, the restoration of civil legal aid to the just-managing is more pressing. The cuts to criminal legal aid have received more publicity because, dare I say it, that is where barristers are most affected and the bar is very good at achieving media coverage. That is not to deny that young barristers struggle to make a living now, and something must be done to prevent any accused being denied a proper defence in court, but there are ordinary law-abiding people  put at a disadvantage in disputes over state benefits or tenancies because of the cuts made by successive governments. One trusts that the new Lord Chancellor will listen to solicitors and Citizens Advice as well as his fellow-barristers.

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