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Is the UK really going to make it even harder for poor communities overseas to access justice?

Author: Anne Lindsay, Catholic Overseas Development Agency, Published on: 2 February 2012

This week in London peers in the House of Lords have been discussing a crucial question for the UK’s record on business and human rights. In the middle of hundreds of amendments to the huge Legal Aid and Punishment of Offenders Bill which is currently passing through Parliament, the peers reached amendments designed to make sure that overseas victims of abuses committed by UK-based companies will still be able to bring cases in the English courts...Lord McNally said the Government didn’t believe such an amendment was necessary but promised at least to look again at the issue...Foreign victims do not of course have any access to Legal Aid so these claims already depend on ‘no win, no fee’ agreements with lawyers...The changes proposed in the Bill now going through parliament would mean the situation of South African asbestos miners or Peruvian campesinos would become even more difficult...The UK has committed its support for the UN Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework and is due to unveil its strategy for putting the Guiding Principles...The first test of how seriously the UK Government takes that commitment will be whether it amends the Legal Aid bill.

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