Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has said that the Legal Aid Bill, which is being discusses in the House of Lords, is about taking legal aid money away from lawyers and not from women and children in need.
He was repsonding to criticism of the bill by Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, who claimed that it will "deny access to justice for great swathes of population."
"If the poorest and weakest voices in the country can't get legal aid, what does it do our sense of fairness?" he said.
But the justice secretary said the the bill is about "the amount of money we pay to lawyers from the amount of litigation and the sorts of litigation we pay it for".
"Nowhere else in the world do they think it's sensible for the taxpayer to pay anything like as much as we do."
Rather than taking money away from women and children, he said, it was "taking legal aid from lawyers".
"We are just getting back to common sense in the reforms we are making," Mr Clarke said.
*Taken from BBC news: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9702000/9702375.stm