HC Deb 18 December 1972 vol 848 cc914-5
34. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Attorney-General if he will initiate legislation to extend legal aid to proceedings before rent assessment panels and rent tribunals.

The Attorney-General

This will be reconsidered in the light of the outcome of research which is now proceeding.

Mr. Davis

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give some indication as to when this research will be completed? Is he aware that there is tremendous homelessness existing in stress areas of inner London and that one of the ways at least of mitigating this situation would be through legal aid to grant representation before rent tribunals, thereby getting at the matter at source rather than waiting until the situation is too late?

The Attorney-General

The hon. Member will recollect that some time ago there were indications that legal aid might not be the most appropriate aid that was needed for this particular kind of tribunal. The Nuffield Foundation is doing the bulk of this research. I understand that it is sufficiently advanced that we may hope that by the summer we may get some advice from it.

Mr. Rose

Is not a general principle involved that where legal representation is permitted, failure to allow legal aid gives one party a distinct advantage in the proceedings? Will the Attorney-General look into this, more particularly in the context of industrial tribunals, where frequently far more complex cases occur than in the county courts and where the administration is often far more difficult for those appearing before those tribunals? Is he aware that legal aid would at least give the parties to those tribunals the equal right to a voice before them?

The Attorney-General

As I said, there was doubt about what was the most appropriate aid which could be given. It was for this reason that the Nuffield Foundation—as were two universities also—was engaged in the research. It is therefore sensible to await the outcome of the Nuffield Foundation recommendations.