Curbs feared on legal aid in civil cases

State help with civil legal costs will be restricted to people with assets including homes worth less than £1,000 under cost-cutting measures, it was reported yesterday.

Measures aimed at slashing 350m from the legal aid bill are expected to be unveiled this week, as the Ministry of Justice grapples with massive cuts to its budget.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has warned payments in England and Wales will be restricted to those "who need it most" as part of a fundamental rethink of the 2.1 billion-a-year scheme.

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The Sunday Telegraph said the measures would include a drastic tightening of the eligibility criteria as well as restrictions on the types of cases it is paid out for.

At present, anyone with assets worth less than 8,000 qualifies – with those worth up to 3,000 paying nothing and others expected to make a contribution.

Under the new system, the limit would be a flat 1,000 with property values included for the first time – excluding anyone with equity of more than that on their home, the paper said.

The contribution expected from claimants would rise from 20 per cent of weekly income to 30 per cent.

Ministers are also expected to restrict the types of case that attract legal aid.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said this week that it should apply only to matters of "genuine legal concern or personal liberty or security".