Teeven skeptical over alternatives cuts

State Secretary Fred Teeven (Justice) sees little scope for cuts in the judicial system to be found elsewhere, so the legal aid can be spared.

He stated this Thursday to D66 during the debate.

The Justice department has to cut a billion euros. It would suit the State Secretary if D66 could come up with some alternatives, because he is out of options. Teeven checked with the Prime Minister if D66, ChristenUnie, and SGP committed themselves to the agreed budget cuts of  85 million.

D66 MP Magda Berndsen accused the State Secretary during the debate of a "hatchet exercise" to meet his budget. She offered to come up with alternative coverage next week during the  debate.

Several parties pointed the Secretary to the impact of the cuts for the accessibility of the judicial process and the financial position of the social lawyers.

Accessibility to the legal system will not be limited, but more cases will be dealt with through dispute mediation, according to Teeven.

Jos van Zetten
Wikimedia commons

One of the measures the government intends to implement is to lower the hourly rates for large cases with a third. In some cases the personal contributions increase and rental and consumer disputes will be excluded.

Teeven agreed to look into a proposal from the lawyers to limit the reduction of rates in complex cases.

Together with Minister Henk Kamp (Economic Affairs) he also wants to look into a proposal from the lawyers  and the Labour Party to partially work with rate regulation. With this system the PvdA wants to guarantee the incomes of lawyers by paying them a fixed income, rather than an hourly rate.

Teeven, however, is afraid this may lead to higher costs in the end, because the market mechanism is taken out of the system.

On the other hand, Labour MP Jeroen Recourt sees an opportunity to soften the cuts. Specialized offices will be able to keep serving the weaker members of society, such as the homeless and asylum seekers. The system of "billing by the hour" offers a perverse incentive to lawyers to accept only easy, short-term cases. Difficult cases will be less appealing, which can be a disaster for the client, according to Recourt.