28/04/2013 The Wales Report


Current affairs. There are warnings that changes to legal aid will deny thousands in Wales access to justice. Plus, the economy has grown - but is Wales feeling the effects?

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racing interval of access to justice under threat because of radical


changes to legal aid? There was better news for the British economy


this week. No triple-dip recession. But is the Welsh economy feeling the


benefit? And would more ethnic diversity in public life combat


Wales Report, where we look at the issues of lives throughout Wales and


question some of the decisions. Tonight we start with the right of


every individual to access justice. The UK has one of the most expensive


legal aid regimes in the world, �2 billion a year. Ministers believe


that is not defensible when pressure on Government budgets is so intense.


Legal aid is being removed from entire cases of civil law including


some family cases in order to make cuts. Ministers insist it is right,


despite protests from senior Justice is supposed to be accessible


to all, rich or poor. And in the past, each year, 25,000 people


across Wales have used legal aid to help them pay for advice and


lawyers. That huge cuts to the legal aid budget, which came into effect


earlier this month, will change all that. Legal aid no longer applies to


entire areas of civil law, including some family and medical negligence


cases, and lawyers here in Wales are warning that could have serious


consequences, not just for the legal profession but crucially for people


who need financial help in accessing justice. People like the Weaver


family from Bridgend. Emily Weaver is now 26. She was born with


cerebral palsy but when she was two doctors failed to spot that a tube


training fluid from her brain had blocked. The difference between


Emily before and Emily after that happened was heartbreaking. After


the incident, it was literally like bringing home some one who was


lined, death and like a plank of wood. -- lined and death and like a


plank of wood. Legal aid funded the family's medical negligence claim


which gave the family equipment and help for the rest of her life.


is now able to have everything she needs. She needs sensory equipment


and sensory programmes. We were not able to give her any of that


before. What would you have done without legal aid? I do not think we


could have done anything. I do not think anyone could understand how


traumatic being a parent and care of somebody like Emily is. Every day


you are living a nightmare. So legally, coming along at that time


am a was our saviour and Emily's saviour. Now the changes to legal


aid in civil law are in place, next the UK governments want to reform


legal aid and the criminal law. Barristers across Wales have said


enough is enough. This week, the Wales and Chester circuit of


barristers voted unanimously to strike at the UK Government's


proposals. The justice system in Wales is in danger. The effect of


these cuts to Wales in particular would be absolutely devastating.


Freedom of choice will go. The provision of legal services in Wales


will be very much reduced. People will be denied access to justice. We


take this very seriously. This is not a hollow threat. This is a


threat that the Government will see coming into force sooner rather than


later. So in future, will more and more people without legal aid or


money for a lawyer end up being forced to come to court themselves


to argue their case? The bar Council certainly thinks so. They have even


issued a new guide to representing yourself in court. It is full of


handy hints and tips about what to bring to court, including key


documents and highlighter pens. It even tells me to dress for success.


And it does have quite a lot of information about the law in it, but


what it cannot give anyone is a legal qualification or years of


experience. For parents like John Weaver, the idea of DIY justice is a


nonstarter. Could you possibly have represented yourself? It is hard


work for any solicitor to represent us in a complex case like Emily's


was. No way I could have done that. Fighting for Emily on a day-to-day


basis is one thing. Standing in court and trying to do that is


another. So without legal aid, without the solicitors that we used,


we could not have had the result but we have got. In a statement, the UK


jail and -- the UK Government's justice minister defended the


be a turbulent time for the legal system. There may well be short-term


savings, but for a growing number of professional legal bodies and


families like the weavers, the long-term effects will be nothing


short of devastating. What do you think of the changes? In a word,


unethical. At the very least I am very disappointed. At the most I am


very angry. To attack the most vulnerable people in society, people


who already have a great disadvantage...


The controversy surrounding the cases was very much in evidence at


yesterday's Welsh Conservative Party conference in Swansea. Andrew Taylor


insisted on asking the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, a


question after his speech. I would like to tell the Welsh people about


the losses that are likely to come about as a result of his law


reforms. We are having to take tough and difficult decisions and I know


different to the Ministry of Justice are having to take tough and


difficult decisions, so we are making changes to legal aid, to the


way we read our prisons, in our courts to bring down costs. There is


no option. The alternative is the Labour way which is to carry on


spending the money the same way, pass on huge debts to our children


and leave the country in the kind of crisis we are seeing in other parts


of Europe, and I am not prepared to do that.


You do not need to be a lip reader to see that Mr Taylor was not


entirely convinced by that response. Joining me is a consultant solicitor


advocate and a former member of the Law Society Council. The legal aid


system is eye watering the expensive. It needs radical reform,


and that is what you are getting. do not agree, nor do many other


experts. If you go back to 1991, the last time a Government try to


introduce price competitive tendering, it is what is going to


affect solicitors and barristers, there were 1400 firms of solicitors.


We are now down to far fewer than that and we are now going to be


asked to reduce it in total to 400 firms of solicitors for the whole of


England and the. And you more concerned about the impact on your


profession than on people's ability to access justice? I think they go


hand-in-hand. Access to Justice will be virtually impossible. Let's take


two areas that are going to be badly affected. Industrial South Wales, as


it was, is going to be one procurement area. There are 1.25


million people living in that area. I suspect the number of firms


servicing that area at the moment is somewhat over 40. It will come down


to eight to cover all of those people and that whole area, and that


system is going to be applied equally to rural areas. In my area


there are 515,000 people in an area that covers 4500 square miles. At


present, probably something in the region of 22 or 23 firms that do a


measure of criminal legal aid work. That will come down to four. And the


worst of this is that the client will not have a choice. You will not


go to the solicitor you have had before. What will happen is you will


go on an automated system which is replacing the call centre, and they


will allocate you a provider. But what they are going to do now is


literally sweep the legs from under the system, because you are going to


find a lot of firms going to the wall, giving up, and there will not


be access to justice. But ministers would come back and say again those


who need it will have access to it. This reform is about stripping it


away from those who do not really need. I do not agree. Let's have a


look at the barristers who very sensibly issued a guide to people to


do their own cases. That will happen. There will not be solicitors


available. A lot of people will have to represent themselves. I applaud


the bar Council for issuing the guide they have but I have to point


out that quite a number of my clients are not able to read will


stop a number of them would be absolutely flummoxed if they were


put before a court and told to present their own case. How can the


Government have an adversarial system when you are in a situation


where one of the adversarial is does not have the appropriate weapon? It


is like putting a person into a gunfight with a banana against a man


with a machine gun. When will we see the practical results of what you


say will happen when these changes go through? -- if these changes go


through? I am told that the changes will be implemented in Dover. A lot


of the firms will say, we cannot do it. And I agree with Andrew,


rubbish. So the UK economy has afforded a


triple-dip recession after recording 0.3% growth in the first three


months of the year, according to the Office for National Statistics. One


minister David Cameron says that the economy is healing, but does that


apply to Wales, to? Figures show the people in Wales have the second


lowest disposable income in the UK. Of course there have been difficult


decisions but in Wales there are 39,000 more people in work and there


were at the time of the election. There are 30,000 fewer people on out


of work benefits. So it is healing. It does take time. Getting the


deficit down is difficult. What welfare changes are about is trying


to make sure people have access to a job. The best way out of poverty is


work. The Labour way of doing things where you park people on incapacity


benefit and you leave them there, never doing anything to help them,


is wrong. We are spending sometimes up to 14,000 on one individual to


help them find work, so this is the right thing to do. Labour tried to


prove the point that you can just heel problems with benefits. You


cannot. The way is to help people by helping them get work. A very


forthright message from David Cameron, speaking yesterday. Joining


us is Gerald Holtham, economic adviser to the Welsh Government.


With me in the studio, Emma Watkins, director of CBI country. Is the


economy healing, as David Cameron says it is? It is pretty flat still.


It is tough out there that we can see a light at the end of the


tunnel. 0.3% growth or 0.3% down is marginalise away. Businesses are


rolling up their sleeves and working hard, but we can see a chink of


light. Healing or not? I do not know. There is a great mystery about


this which is there has been some rise in employment and some decline


in unemployment despite the fact there has been virtually no growth.


The economy is still more than 2% lower than it was before the last


recession five years ago. We are producing less output now than we


were five or six years ago and yet, as he rightly says, employment has


gone up. Nobody quite knows why. One factor certainly is that it is


low-grade employment. There are more people working part-time, people


taking worst jobs, graduates working in McDonald's, all that sort of


thing, and wages are down. Inflation is running faster than wages so


instead of taking people through unemployment we are taking them


through lower pay. How long can that continue? If growth does not pick


up, will this decline in earnings go on or will that start to be a rise


in an employment which has not happened so far? What are your


members telling you about what is needed to Mack -- what is needed?


Businesses are not yet interesting. But there is one key thing and that


is an investment in infrastructure from UK Government and Welsh


Government. We need to see action. We need investment in big industrial


projects. We talked about the need to improve the M4 relief road. We


also need to see a used in the construction market. For every


pounds you spend in construction you get �2 84 back. That is a big


return. And in terms of employment and jobs. It is all about the


infrastructure but about delivering on it. Is the Welsh Government doing


all it can to kick-start investment to Mack -- is the Government doing


all it can to kick-start There are certain things that have


already been done but they would like to do more. What about the way


businesses are prepared to invest in their own industry? Is there an


incentive or even a disincentive that would force them to do more


than they are doing? The Government could temper actually increase the


business allowances it gives to businesses to invest. Maybe it


could temporarily raised, not lower, but raised the rate of corporation


tax. People will have horror as if you say that but if you temporarily


raised ate and offset it with generous investment allowances.


That would give businesses in a pincer where they would have the


incentive to bring investments forward. Why would business need to


that kind of Carrick on stick approach? What is the reluctance


when everyone knows what the benefits of investing are? I think


that was a very good point about incentivise Asian. It is about


prescribing investment or incentivising it. It is a lack of


confidence. The difficult thing is that many of the levers like beyond


the Welsh or a UK Government. There is a lot of stuff out there that is


about with our control. If Germany sneezes and we will catch the flu.


The figures this week were helpful. You might increase that confidence.


Are you really in the position where you want people to start


spending more money. The latest figures short that disposable


spending en Wales is the second lowest of any part of the United


Kingdom. Really can we expect people to spend more money to kick-


start the economy? The answer is No. Not only our household incomes not


rising, they are being squeezed. People still have a hundred and 40%


of their annual income in debt. The household sector got to indebted.


It is saving more now but it has a long way to go. That is not going


to be the engine that drives the recovery in the near term. I think


that is why we need some infrastructure investment,


something else, to move the economy forward. Thank you both very much.


Tomorrow brings the publication of a report into historical child


abuse in children's homes in North Wales. Running parallel with the


inquiry is a separate investigation following claims the Waterhouse


Inquiry did not go far enough to uncover the truth. We can speak to


our reporter who investigated this extensively in the 1990s. It is a


sad story of historic child abuse in North Wales. Two reports will


land on the desk of the Home Secretary and another will land on


the desk of the chief constable. That will be the end of phase one


of this report. The director general of the National crime


agency has 27 very experienced police officers looking at how the


police investigated it going back to the 70s and possibly the 60s.


Most importantly they are listening to new allegations and we will hear


tomorrow what that team has found. My understanding is that it is


anything up to 150 people who have come forward. I understand a lot of


new allegations are being made and the response will be to that. The


chief constable will then have to decide whether or not to act on


that report. Let us help viewers grew that a little more. There are


two enquiries, I the overlapping each other? They do overlap but


they are separate. One is looking at the police allegations. The


other one is overseen by the High Court judge and they are looking


into the Waterhouse inquiry which itself was a very long inquiry. It


went on for three years, cost �30 million, took hundreds of witnesses


and came to certain conclusions. It created some good things like the


children's Commissioner for Wales. There were suggestions that perhaps


it went outside children's homes in the private and public sector. The


justice is looking at that aspect of it and they will be talking to


one another otherwise there would not be much point. There is that


you out there that what is going on is that the Waterhouse Inquiry is,


in effect, being reopened. Not re- run but some of the questions are


being asked again and new questions are being posed. Is that a fair


summary? It is. It will take a long time. I spoke to the team this week


and they were seeing the have a huge paper exercise. -- saying.


They have to listen to what is new in addition to that. This programme


made certain statements and brought things to their attention last


November concerning the way that the privately run homes may have


been concerned. I have given evidence do it so in a sense we are


directly involved. Those are the sorts of things we will be


listening to. At the moment, the timescale is open ended so we do


not know when that is coming. us talk about culture, you mention


it going back to the 70s and possibly 60s. How do you think the


culture of listening and taking victims seriously has changed?


Firstly at that time they were not believed, I am talking about young


people who were trying to raise their voices and say that something


was wrong. They were not being believed. Then the whistleblowers


who tried to raise the subject on their behalf were not believed and


then people like us who were trying to report were not believed. That


is changing. The point of view now is that they have to be supported,


now and if the process of law takes its place, there could be arrests.


People could be brought to book, brought to justice. It does not


mean to say they are guilty, they have a right to apply and that will


take a long, long time. Everybody is now very anxious to make sure


that these people who have had their lives destroyed in some cases


are listened to and supported. That is where we go next. What can we


expect to see in terms of action that is measurable? The chief


constable will have no choice but to act on the recommendations of


what the Palace will officers have found. -- Palu Eyl inquiry officers.


Minority communities make up 7% of the population of Wales yet some


feel areas still work to be done to improve their part in Welsh life.


The Welsh Government has told us it is serious about their equality. A


barrister with Civitas has been sharing her experiences as a Welsh


Muslim living in the capital. Here is Mona Bayoumi. Historically, the


UK has been one of the most progressive countries in Europe


introducing provisions to protect against discrimination from as


early as the 1960s. However, prejudice is still rife in our


communities with certain groups becoming increasingly marginalised


and individuals suffering from hate crimes. As a Muslim living in Wales


There are warnings that changes to legal aid will deny thousands of people in Wales access to justice. Plus, the economy has grown - but is Wales feeling the effects?

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