Earlier this week the Haldane Society’s executive committee approved its policy setting ‘to defeat the government’s vicious legal aid cuts’. The Society will be calling for ‘an immediate and co-ordinated 24 hour strike at all levels of the profession’ and for ‘a programme of increasingly intsense strike action’.
The strategy is below:
Policy on Fighting Legal Aid Cuts
The Society Notes
- The proposed cuts to criminal legal aid will devastate the profession and will in many cases render justice inaccessible to the vast majority of defendants.
- The attacks on civil legal aid are a harsh and unabashedly political attack on some of the most vulnerable in society.
- Responding to the government consultation is only one small part of the fight against the legal aid cuts.
- A critical mass of barristers and law firms are prepared to take strike action to stop the legal aid cuts.
- If an economic response is limited to a refusal to tender for new contracts, this will fail. When law firms have agreed not to tender for new contracts previously, such agreement fell apart at the last minute. In this case, outsourcing firms such as G4S and Eddie Stobart will tender for contracts even if law firms refuse to, thereby undermining any collective resistance to the cuts. An unprecedented wave of militancy is sweeping the profession. The Society must shape that militancy.
The Society Believes
- If, as an organisation dedicated to a socialist approach to the practice of law, The Society cannot encourage militancy in the profession at this critical time, there is no point to The Society’s existence.
- As Lord Neuberger stated in the conclusions of his recent speech, we all need to ‘be able to adapt to realities’. The fight against the cuts is an economic and political struggle. It cannot be successful solely by lobbying or seeking to mould public opinion. The government will ignore this. Economic pressure from the government necessitates an economic response, in the form of the collective withdrawal of our labour, paralysing the legal system.
- Because outsourcing firms will undermine any collective agreement not to bid for new contracts, we must take action to prevent the tendering process taking place.
- This cannot just be a fight fought by lawyers, but rather must be one which captures the public’s attention as a fight for their access to legal remedies and enforceable rights. It should also provide ways for members of the wider public to get involved and get active in the campaign.
The Society Resolves
- To campaign not just to protect the existing legal aid system, but for free legal advice and representation for all natural persons in all proceedings reasonably brought or defended (as appropriate) before the courts.
- To prioritise the campaign on legal aid above all other campaigns.
- To support every event organised to oppose the legal aid cuts by:
i. Funding or being supporters of as many such events as possible;
ii. Attending and sending speakers to as many such events as possible;
iii. Producing and distributing a bulletin for every event;
iv. Informing our members by email regularly of all such upcoming events.
- To distribute leaflets in robing rooms and outside court, and to chambers, law firms, trade unions, and community groups, outlining upcoming actions and reasons to participate.
- To produce a strategy leaflet to distribute at the 22 May meeting.
- To centrally prepare points for whoever gets to speak at large meetings.
- To call for a stepped programme of increasingly intense strike action starting with a call for a one day strike by the whole of the profession.
- To utilise our contacts, including those in the activist community, the media, our membership base, law students, trade unions, our colleagues, and the not-for-profit sector to inform, rally support for the campaign, and publicise the upcoming demonstrations against the legal aid cuts on the 22 May and 20 June.
- To organise within every organisation opposed to the legal aid cuts, to push for militancy, direct action, and a socialist response.
- To work with other organisations and individuals to immediately form a united front organisation which The Society would participate in as a leading partner, to co-ordinate a militant response to the legal aid cuts. In so doing, the Society should strongly encourage the participation of all our members.
- To push, in all our work, for immediate, co-ordinated, and sustained strike action by all members of the profession.
- To adequately fund the activities listed in the “The Society Resolves” section of this policy.