Tuesday 11 October 2011

Lawyers, advice, and politics

There have been a few comments this week about the story which first appeared, according to Dylan J-E, in the Sunday Times.  It was based on an anonymous source who said that the Scottish Government had considered a similar approach to that in Wales for paying fees for Scottish students studying in England, but had rejected the idea on the basis of legal advice received.
The motive for the anonymous source who started this particular hare running is unclear, although the motivation of those who’ve jumped on the issue to attack the Welsh Government is all too clear.  Both the Tories and the Lib Dems are hostile to the way in which Wales is giving its students a better deal than they are receiving from the coalition in London, and are only too willing to undermine the policy in any way they can.  They will be happy only when Welsh students face the same crippling levels of debt as those from England.
But I wonder for how long they can go on demanding the impossible level of assurances which they seem to be seeking.  The initial report was based on ‘legal advice’.  Now I’m no lawyer, but I’ve had enough dealings with those offering ‘legal advice’ to know that it is often no more than an opinion on how the law might be interpreted, and that different lawyers might well come to different conclusions.  And so might judges.
I haven’t a clue how robust the advice given to the Welsh Government was.  It clearly does not draw the same conclusion as the advice given in Scotland, but as is ever the case, it only becomes clear who is right when a ruling has been made.  For the Welsh Government to give the absolute assurance being demanded by the Tories and Lib Dems is unlikely to be possible without a test case being brought.  Up until that point, it’s just a difference of legal opinion, compounded with a whole lot of political bluster.
And, apart from politics, I can’t see any motive for bringing a test case.  If the Welsh Government won, then the current situation could continue; and if they lost, then they’d have no choice but to scrap the current provision as it relates to Welsh students in England.  There’d be no winners, only losers.
And even at a political level, the Tories and Lib Dems might take some satisfaction if they were proved right, but I can’t think that many students or parents of students would share their satisfaction.  It doesn’t even look like good electoral politics.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Excellent post.

I just doesn't make any sense for the Tories and Lib Dems to attack a popular policy for the sins of their colleagues in Westminster.