BOLTON MP and shadow justice secretary Yasmin Qureshi has attacked the Government for wreaking “devasting” damage on the Legal Aid system.

Ms Qureshi was speaking in a debate at London’s Westminster Hall last night.

She said cuts to the service had left hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people without access to justice.

“Even those who are entitled to receive Legal Aid find it difficult to access it, because few solicitors will deal with it, and the justice system is in crisis,” she said.

Legal Aid was established by the Labour Government in 1949 to give the needy, the vulnerable and the downtrodden access to legal services and representation.

But Ms Qureshi said cuts and changes made by the Government since 2013 had “callously tossed this aside” and left it “a shadow of its former self”.

The number of Civil Legal Aid cases has plummeted by three quarters, and the number receiving state-funded legal help has fallen even further – down 99.5%.

Ms Qureshi said: “It has betrayed the very principle of Legal Aid – to allow individuals, regardless of their wealth, to exercise their right to justice.”

She added: “For many, access to Legal Aid no longer exists, their right to justice unachievable.”

She said supplying Legal Aid is no longer viable for many legal professionals because it simply no longer gives them enough to make a living on.

“The lack of legal education amongst the general public in this regard does not help matters,” Ms Qureshi said.

“People are simply unaware of the support that they are entitled to exercise their right – the Government knew this when it cut legal aid, but did nothing to expand the public’s knowledge and awareness.”

Accusing the Government of delaying tactics, Ms Qureshi said: “Quite frankly, the Tory Government knows that it has failed, which is why it is kicking this review along from one deadline to another.

“The debate we should be having today should be on the Government’s review – we were supposed to have it by July, before summer recess, yet here we are months later.

“The deadline now is for the end of 2018, but as with any deadline the Ministry of Justice sets itself, I won’t hold my breath.

“Meanwhile, the Government has been hiding from conducting its own review for fear of what it will find.”

Ms Qureshi added: “Once the Government finally completes its review, it must do the right thing and correct the devastation that its changes caused, accepting its damaging mistakes.”