HC Deb 11 March 1964 vol 691 cc421-2
21. Mr. Millan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects legal aid in criminal causes in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act, 1963, to be made available.

Mr. Noble

A considerable amount of preparatory work has still to be done and it will not be possible to bring criminal legal aid into operation before October.

Mr. Millan

Did not the Under-Secretary of State during the passage of the Measure give a promise that legal aid in criminal causes would be introduced on 1st April, 1964? In view of the long history of Government procrastination over a period of many years, is it not extremely disappointing that there should be this further delay in introducing this scheme? Can nothing be done to hurry things up?

Mr. Noble

It is true that my noble Friend made it clear that she could not give a firm date, during the passage of the Bill, for the introduction of criminal legal aid, but she hoped, as we all did, that it would be possible to bring it in in April. A great deal of work has had to be done. Subordinate instruments have to be made by the Secretary of State, the High Court and the Law Society of Scotland, and the Law Society has had to undertake a great deal of preparatory administrative work. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there has been no slackness among these people, who are all keen to bring this in as soon as possible.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is the Minister aware that, whatever the nature of the preparatory work in bringing this very necessary part of the Act into operation, the delay is perpetrating a continuing injustice in the case of many poor people who cannot bring their cases before the court because they have not the money to do so, and will he take steps to get on with this preparatory work and see that this part of the Act is brought into operation?

Mr. Noble

I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that everyone is as keen as he is and I am to bring this in at the earliest possible moment, but we must have the preparatory work completed.