Ipswich MP, Sandy Martin, sets out why Suffolk needs a law centre.
Until 1948 if you needed medical attention, you had to pay for it. If it was an emergency and you were lucky there might be a doctor or a charity hospital that would provide you with care “pro bono” – for the common good. But to a large extent the common good did not exist – medical care for the poor, and even the averagely well-off, was patchy or non-existent. There was a lot of resistance to the founding of the National Health Service, in particular from the Conservative Party who said our country couldn’t afford it – I believe the overwhelming consensus now is that we couldn’t afford NOT to have it.
Prior to the 1870 Education Act most children got no education at all, or a very rudimentary one. Even after that, the education you received depended very much on wealth and class. It was only during the Harold Wilson government that we introduced comprehensive secondary education, where at last most children were no longer “failed” at the age of 11 and relegated to a second-rate education. Labour believes education should not be dependent on wealth and class, and that is why we will fund pre-schools and nurseries properly to deliver free sessions to all, and make universities free for all with a maintenance grant and with equivalent support for vocational studies as well.
But surely that sense of natural justice extends to access to justice itself. The phrase “one law for the rich and another law for the poor” is all too true even today. For the last 7 years the government has cut back funding for the Citizens Advice Bureaux, has reduced the availability of legal aid and has attempted (unsuccessfully I am glad to say) to abolish any legal support for employment tribunals. I want to see a proper National Legal Service, taking the whole area of personal law out of the market place and putting it on the same financial footing as the National Health Service.
But until that happens, we desperately need an organisation that will enable all those local lawyers who are so generously willing to give their time pro bono – just as the most dedicated doctors were prior to 1948 – to help people most effectively. That organisation is A Law Centre for Suffolk. ISCRE, a non-political charity, and other organisations have been dedicated in their efforts to help those who have no other recourse to justice, but the time has come to have a fully-accredited body.
There will be grant money available, but we need to raise substantial funds ourselves. If you want local people to have better access to justice then go to
Please do contribute - even a pound will help. As importantly, spread the word on social media, especiallyhttps://www.facebook.com/SuffolkLawCentreSteering/
Many ordinary people simply cannot afford to pay for a lawyer when something goes wrong, causing stress and uncertainty. This is why we are creating a Law Centre for Suffolk. Why not join us.