Oona King

ghostbustersAbout a year or so after I first became MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, a group of residents came to my advice surgery to complain about the conditions in their tower block – Brodick House. Nothing unusual in that you might think. Until I tell you that one of their concerns was a luminous green gunge oozing out of the electrical sockets.

It turned out this wasn't a scene from Ghostbusters come to life in the East End. The wiring was so long past its sell-by date that it was melting its plastic coating. Tenants themselves were equally bothered by the wind blowing through their windows, the leaking pipework, unreliable lifts, dodgy heating and junkies in the stairwell. But the ghostly gunge always struck me as emblematic of Brodick House's malaise. 

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I'm sitting in the ancient environs of the House of Lords library listening to loud snoring from various quarters. But despite the snoring I'm confident the Lords will shake themselves into action shortly. After all, the last time the Government's Legal Aid bill came before this House we defeated it not once or twice but 14 times. It's not really because the House of Lords is packed with revolutionaries. It's because the Government's changes to Legal Aid are extraordinarily reactionary, disgraceful, and hit the weakest the hardest. And on top of that, the Government have broken the promise they gave us, which helped them get other amendments through.

Liberty, which has campaigned for years on access to justice, says that if today's business is passed it will "dramatically reduce access to legal aid for individuals seeking to challenge an administrative decision through Judicial Review," and that "Judicial Review is woven into our constitutional fabric as a core means by which the Courts can hold public authorities to account... Changes proposed will work to undermine an original legislative commitment to retain legal aid for Judicial Review."

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