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The current civil and criminal legal aid schemes in England and Wales are governed by Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 – also known as LASPO – and by an array of supporting secondary legislation.

LASPO was introduced by the Coalition Government, which argued repeatedly that it had to make savings from the legal aid budget in England and Wales. It also wished to discourage cases from coming to court when they might better be resolved by other means, such as mediation. Critics of the changes, on the other hand, argued that people seeking help with legal problems might be left with nowhere to turn.

Commentators such as the National Audit Office and Commons Public Accounts and Justice Committees agree that the changes have reduced spending on civil legal aid (as was one of main policy intentions behind LASPO) but have questioned whether they have increased costs elsewhere in the legal system.

In 2017-18, total legal aid expenditure was £1.62 billion. This was 2% higher than in the previous year but 37% lower than in 2010-11, prior to the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), when it was £2.55 billion.

On the 30 October 2017, the then Lord Chancellor David Lidington presented the Government’s post-legislative memorandum for LASPO to the Justice Committee: see Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012: Post-Legislative Memorandum, Cm 9486, October 2017. The Government has said it is committed to completing the review by the end of 2018.

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