HC Deb 14 April 1965 vol 710 cc1378-9
7. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what consideration he has given to proposals which would enable the Law Society of Scotland to exercise a discretion in the matter of recovery of funds disbursed in cases of legal aid, recovery of which is at present mandatory under Section 3(4) of the Legal Aid and Solicitors (Scotland) Act, 1949.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. George Willis)

The operation of this Section was reviewed about ten years ago. Since then, with the specific exceptions that are allowed by regulation in alimentary cases, the provisions of the Statute have been applied in every case. My right hon. Friend has received no representations that this should be changed.

Mr. Johnston

Is the Minister aware that in fact this subsection begins with the phrase Except so far as other regulations shall apply"; and that in fact there are no modifying regulations? Is he aware that the Law Society has brought to his Department's attention that hardship is frequently caused by the inability of the Society to exercise discretion? Will he look at this matter again, and is he aware that there are real cases of hardship involved?

Mr. Willis

I am not aware of any representations which have been made about this. We are prepared to look at it again, but it is a difficult problem and I cannot promise that there will be a change.

Mr. Wylie

I agree with the Minister's reply on this matter, but will he take another look at the whole Section, because the effect of it is that where a contribution is assessed on the basis of capital distress can result? Is he aware, for example, that in a case of which I know personally the whole of the life savings of a widow were absorbed by the contribution and if she loses her case she will lose her life savings? May I ask the Minister to consider that at some future stage?

Mr. Willis

I have already said that we are prepared to look at it, but I cannot promise that we shall necessarily change it.

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