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UK: Legal aid bill is "cack-handed attempt to change the legal system to benefit large corporations when they are being sued" says former Deputy Prime Minister

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Article
2 February 2012

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

Author: Anne Lindsay, Catholic Overseas Development Agency

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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Article
30 January 2012

Legal aid bill: why the media's silence?

Author: John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister in Guardian [UK]

New legislation [in the Legal aid bill] would stop people taking on big corporations...the second part of the bill, which is nothing less than a cack-handed attempt to change the legal system to benefit large corporations when they are being sued...[It] is going to affect a lot of people...[including:] victims of human rights abuses like those in the Trafigura case, and victims of media corporations' desire to print half-truths and invade privacy. Yet the same part of the bill has been sold to a willing media as an attempt to reduce motor insurance premiums. [also refers to BBC, British Sky Broadcasting, Guardian, Daily Mail (owned by Daily Mail and General Trust), Daily Express (owned by Express Newspapers)]

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