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Title: The Attlee Government and civil legal aid 1945-1950.
Author: Spencer, Maureen.
ISNI:       0000 0001 2433 0483
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 1999
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State funded civil legal aid was one of the major reforms of the Attlee Government but it is one that has been generally ignored by historians. Some writing by lawyers and legal academics on the subject concentrates rather narrowly on a critique of delivery models and resourcing, claiming to identify a linear development historically from a charitable through to a "judicare" or private practice model which, it is claimed, is exemplified by the civil Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949. Others, influenced by sociological and political theories, see legal aid primarily as one of the law's mechanisms for securing popular acceptance of the prevailing political and economic order. Many of these studies tend to draw on past experiences to criticise present day reform strategies rather than to assess legal aid in the context of the more general intellectual history of modern social policy. In this thesis, by contrast, legal aid is reviewed in the light of ongoing debates among historians about the founding principles of the welfare state and in particular such issues as the nature of contemporary concepts of citizenship and rights, primarily the rights of recipients of state benefits. Many factors account for the specific form taken by the 1949 Act. The law's historic aversion to private maintenance and champerty coloured the terms of the Scheme. Partly because of the emergency demands of post- war conditions, particularly the upsurge in applications for divorce, the long-standing preference for voluntarism was overcome. The state began financing representation for certain litigants, but without fully examining the constitutional implications of its new function. The relationships between the state and the legal establishment were subject to pragmatic adjustment rather than serious overhaul. Potential recipients of civil legal aid, inevitably a diffuse constituency, were accorded little input. Neither the responsibilities northe expectations of citizenship were fully defined. Pressures from the Bar, Judiciary and the Church meant that there was no comprehensive reform of the civil justice system. Scant attention was given to long-term financial consequences, though the Legal Aid Scheme's scope was shaped by the government's short-term financial problems. Previous studies have relied heavily on the legal professions' own contemporary accounts of the introduction oflegal aid. This thesis has drawn on papers of the Lord Chancellor's Office as well as those of departments responsible for national insurance and public assistance, the latter largely unexplored in a legal aid context.They reveal that the Attlee Government's approach to the role of legal aid was more complex and historically conditioned than has hitherto been appreciated. This study of the discussions and debates on legal aid policy in the period of the first Attlee Government suggests that there was an attempt to buttress the legislation with an ideological content. However this was a partial and limited one due in large measure to the complicated interplay of interests that had to be satisfied
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available