§ 5. Mr. Elwyn Jones
asked the Attorney-General whether he will now make a statement on the Government's intentions with regard to extension to proceedings in the county court of the provisions of the Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
The question of extending the application of the Legal Aid and Advice Act is receiving the close consideration of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement.
§ Mr. Jones
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that that is a somewhat disappointing answer? May we express from this side of the House the hope that in his new office he will take steps to obtain quicker results in this matter? Is he aware that at present some tenants who may well have good 1572 grounds for resisting notices of rent increases from landlords are unable or afraid to take appropriate action in the courts because of lack of means? Is it not time that some urgent step was taken to deal with this apparent denial of justice?
§ The Attorney-General
I am sorry that the hon. and learned Genleman should think that the statement that the matter is now under close consideration is disappointing. I recognise, with him, that the passing of the Housing Repairs and Rents Act has strengthened the case for extending legal aid to the county courts.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that these proceedings might be too close, so that no one gets to know what is going on? Does he not agree that this is a matter which will brook no more delay? The magistrates' court and the county court are, relatively at all events, the poor man's courts; and is it not right that legal aid and advice under the 1949 Act should be in force in the inferior courts to exactly the same effect as in the superior courts?
§ 6. Mr. Janner
asked the Attorney-General whether he will now arrange for legal aid to be available to litigants in the county courts.
§ Mr. Janner
Perhaps I should declare an interest in this matter, as with several other Questions this afternoon.
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that he was answering a Question in respect of the 1949 Act? Is he aware that in recent cases considerable expense was incurred by tenants who pursued their cases to a successful issue in spite of the fact that they had to pay heavy costs? Does he realise that considerable injustice is bound to prevail throughout the length and breadth of the country because tenants and owners who should take their cases to county courts and magistrates' courts are not in a financial position to pay to have 1573 their cases heard? If there happens to be an unscrupulous landlord, it is virtually impossible for them to do anything.
§ The Attorney-General
I have already said that the passing of those two Acts has strengthened the case for extending legal aid to the county courts.