HC Deb 09 November 1966 vol 735 cc1310-1
42. Mr. Ellis

asked the Attorney-General if he is aware that cases are occurring where, despite judges' recommendations concerning costs in certain legal aid cases, the whole amount awarded is being taken in legal charges; and if he will take steps, by legislation or otherwise, to remedy this.

The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)

The Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949, provides that damages recovered by legally-aided plaintiffs shall first defray any costs of the case that have not already been met from a contribution by the assisted person or from costs paid by his opponent. Only the residue shall be paid to the assisted person. It very occasionally happens that there is no residue. To waive this provision, even at the request of the judge, would place assisted persons in a much better position than ordinary litigants, and might encourage litigation which would otherwise be fruitless and discourage settlements. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor regrets that he cannot intervene.

Mr. Ellis

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that this Question arises out of the tragic incident involving one of my constituents, Mr. George Simmonds, who sustained a broken back? Is my right hon. and learned Friend further aware that Mr. Justice Havers said that the case was so tragic that, in the circumstances, the £300 awarded as an ex gratia payment should not be taken in legal charges and that he would recommend accordingly to the Lord Chancellor? I have been in communication with my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and the answer of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General does not satisfy the main point. Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment?

The Attorney-General

I am aware of that most unfortunate case, which was one of the exceptional happenings I have referred to, but for the reasons I have given I regret that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is not able to intervene in the case.