On 31 January, Stephen Timms challenged the Government about future of free legal advice in oral questions to the Secretary of State for Justice.
Stephen Timms tackled Jonathan Djanogly, the Parliamentary Under-Sectary of State for Justice, asking‘what assessment he has made of the availability of free legal advice’. The Minister side-stepped the issue and said that since legally aided lawyers are paid for by the taxpayer, it is important that we get value for money.
Stephen Timms then pinned down Mr Djanogly about the excellent legal services provided by Community Links. Stephen asked him whether he was aware that that funding cuts will mean that the service will have to stop providing all welfare benefits advice next year, shortly before the massive upheaval that will follow the introduction of Universal Credit. Mr Timms ended by challenging Mr Djanogly, ‘is not that a recipe for disaster?’
Mr Djanogly was forced to agree that ‘that is indeed something that is on the horizon’ and could only make the weak assurance that the government were ‘looking to put in place transitional arrangements’ – but did not provide any details as to what these might be.