HC Deb 16 May 1972 vol 837 cc236-7
Q4. Mr. Meacher

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Social Services in the provision of legal assistance for persons of limited means appearing before administrative tribunals; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

Like our predecessors, the Government accept the recommendation of the Legal Aid Advisory Committee that legal aid should not at present be extended to administrative tribunals other than the Lands Tribunal. This policy is followed by all Departments.

Mr. Meacher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a speech to the Society of Conservative Lawyers not long ago he said, It is time to extend legal aid to proceedings before administrative tribunals."? Since this reform has been omitted from the present Legal Advice and Assistance Bill, why, after two years of Conservative Government, has he ratted on this promise?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows—because he follows this closely—the Legal Advice and Assistance Bill extends the help which is available because it enables solicitors to advise people who are appearing before administrative tribunals on how to conduct their case and how to conduct the correspondence which has to be carried on. What is now being done is that, through the Nuffield Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, a specific investigation is being made to determine whether legal aid ought to be extended further. This matter was thoroughly examined in 1968 and the conclusion then, from the Legal Aid Advisory Committee, was that it should not be extended to further administrative tribunals. We can now await the outcome of the research being carried on.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend look again at the question of the non-unionist who appears before the Industrial Relations Court? Is he aware that such a person cannot get legal aid, yet under the existing system members of unions are legally represented? Is this not an important point which ought to be looked at?

The Prime Minister

The point raised by my right hon. Friend is separate from that raised in the Question but I am prepared to have this examined.

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