As someone who grew up in the Apollo era and who often dreams of that career I never had with NASA I am still fascinated by space launches, and try to watch as many as possible. This morning I watched the launch of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. If all goes well, the mission will put a satellite around the Red Planet next year.
Meanwhile, back here in England we are preparing to launch our own rockets, albeit of a somewhat less ambitious kind. Tonight is Guy Fawkes Night, the annual celebration of the failure of that infamous attempt to blow up Parliament. Personally, it’s not something that partake in – I have long since grown out of fireworks, although I would still light the odd fuse if we had been celebrating a successful attempt to blow up those politicians…
What has all of this got to do with a family law blog? Bear with me.
The Indian space programme has attracted considerable criticism from some quarters. It reportedly costs the Indian Government around £600 million a year. Some commentators have questioned whether a country such as India, where many live in poverty, should be spending such a sum on an unnecessary ‘luxury’ like a space programme. After all, the country has one of the highest rankings for childhood malnutrition in the world.
Meanwhile, back here in England, in April the Government saved the rather more modest sum of £350 million a year by slashing legal aid. As a result, many people with family law problems can no longer obtain legal advice. In other words, proper advice and representation in private law family matters (i.e. those not involving a local authority) is effectively now the preserve of the better off. In reality, this means that many will be left without rights, as they cannot access the law to enforce them.
I suppose it all boils down to a matter of priorities. It does, however, strike me as somewhat ironic that a country that can’t feed its children spends so much on a space programme, while a country like ours that, by most measures, is considerably richer per person chooses to take away the rights of its less well- off citizens.
Lawyers have, of course, been protesting about the legal aid cuts, but the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling is adamant that there is no longer money available for such things. Politicians, after all, always know best.
Which brings me back to Guy Fawkes Night. As they prepare for the celebration I suspect that many a legal aid lawyer has had the idea of putting a Chris Grayling mask on their guy, ready for the bonfire this evening. It may not bring back legal aid, but it may just make them feel a little better.
So, if you should see Chris Grayling out on the street today, give him a penny – he clearly needs the money.
Photo of Mars by NASA via Wikipedia
John Bolch is a family law commentator