§ [Queen's Recommendation signified.]
§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No.84 (Money Committees).
§ [Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to relax the financial conditions for legal aid under Part I of the Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949, and under the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act, 1949, and to make further provision for the remuneration of counsel and solicitors in connection with such legal aid or with applications for it, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of the sums required to meet any increased charge falling on the Legal Aid Fund or on the Legal Aid (Scotland) Fund by reason of any such amendments of those Acts as are mentioned below, that is to say—
- (a) any amendment relaxing the financial conditions for legal aid by altering the present limits on disposable income or disposable capital, or the maximum amount of the contribution to the Fund (including amendments applying any alteration in the maximum contribution in respect of income to cases where a legal aid certificate is issued before the Act passes); and
- (b) any amendment providing for increased remuneration to persons giving legal aid, where their remuneration is now limited to eighty-five per cent. of the amount allowed on a taxation or assessment of the costs; and
- (c) any amendment providing for the remuneration of solicitors who act for an applicant for legal aid in Scotland in cases where the applicant is found entitled to legal aid subject to the issue and acceptance of a legal aid certificate, notwithstanding that such a certificate is not issued and accepted.—[The Solicitor-General.]
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Before the Lord Advocate runs away, I should like to ask a question concerning the matter raised just now by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). The Money Resolution undoubtedly seems to be very tightly drawn in respect of Clause 3. The part of the Money Resolution dealing with 718 that Clause is paragraph (c). Am I correct in assuming that it will be impossible for any hon. Member to try to amend Clause 3 in order to extend its provisions under paragraph (c) of the Money Resolution? The wording of paragraph (c) certainly seems to suggest that.
If that is so, does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that the Money Resolution has been drawn very tightly and is denying Scottish Members who are interested in the Bill the opportunity of discussing the matter properly and trying to get something done about a matter which causes a considerable amount of discussion in Scotland?
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)
My right hon. and learned Friend explained at an earlier stage why the provision was not made in the Bill for the purposes that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind. It would not be for me to decide what the discussion could be in Committee; that would be a matter for the Chair. Consequently, that matter must be left to the decision of the Chair. However, my right hon. and learned Friend has fully explained why it is that it is not possible to give legal aid in cases where a legal certificate is not issued and is not taken up.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I should be prepared to argue that the words:…to make further provision for the remuneration of counsel and solicitors in connection with such legal aidd…would cover an Amendment relating to the costs of the successful opponent of an assisted person, but I should not have tremendous confidence in my argument. It is not for me to ask for an interpretation of that now, but I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether, if it is found in the next stage that the Money Resolution does not cover an Amendment such as I have indicated, he will give an assurance that at a later stage the Money Resolution will be amended.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
No, Sir; I am afraid that I cannot give that assurance. The Money Resolution is drafted to cover what is proposed in the Bill and to allow for amendment to be made with 719 regard to the limits of disposable income or disposable capital and with regard to remuneration and, under paragraph (c), for:…any amendment providing for the remuneration of solicitors who act for an applicant for legal aid in Scotland in…certain cases.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The Money Resolution is a fairly good one in respect of paragraphs (a) and (b) because no limits are laid down there and it is quite open to us to try to persuade the Government that the limits which they have set in the Bill are too low. However, in paragraph (c) we are told that money will be provided only in respect of:…any amendment providing for the remuneration of solicitors who act for an applicant for legal aid in Scotland in cases where the applicant is found entitled to legal aid subject to the issue and acceptance of a legal aid certificate, notwithstanding that such a certificate is not issued and accepted.I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will appreciate that that actually rules out the possibility of making any further amendment along the lines on which we were arguing. He rose to say that the Lord Advocate had explained this matter to us.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. W. R. Milligan)
I am asked whether I drew the Money Resolution in such a way in order to avoid a discussion with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). Certainly not. I should be prepared to discuss anything with him anywhere. 720 The Money Resolution was drawn up in accordance with the provisions in the Bill, and at an earlier stage I explained why certain provisions were in the Bill and why there were certain limitations in the Bill.
§ Mr. Willis
The Lord Advocate has not given a very good explanation. He has not told us why the Money Resolution should be so tightly drawn. I can understand why the first part of the Money Resolution is as it is, in order to give us an opportunity of varying the amount of disposable income and so on, but in Clause 3, with which paragraph (c) deals, a new principle is being introduced. Payment is being extended for purposes for which payment was not previously made. Surely, in those circumstances we ought to have the right to discuss during the Committee stage that extension of principle and whether what the Government have decided to do is correct and whether the Bill should not have been extended rather more.
That is a right which the House of Commons should have, but which we are denied by the terms of paragraph (c). We have simply to accept what the Government have put before us, and the terms of paragraph (c) make it impossible to do anything about what they have suggested. That is not playing fair with the House of Commons. We ought to have been given a chance to discuss and to amend the Bill's provisions in this respect, but, as the Money Resolution is drawn, we shall not have that chance.
§ The Lord Advocate
I point out that what we are doing by this Clause is extending the rights of a solicitor. As I pointed out earlier, Clause 1 (6) limits legal grant being made to a person who has a probabilis causa, in other words, a certificate. Technically speaking, that does not include a person who is receiving aid if he does not take up the certificate. It is in order to cover that point that Clause 3 is included and we feel that it is as far as we can go.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow.