HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1443-5
22. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many individuals who appeared in court in the last year for which figures are available received legal aid ; and what was the average amount paid to the solicitor or barrister representing them.

Mr. Carlisle

I assume that the Question refers to criminal cases. The 1972 figures are : for criminal proceedings in magistrates' courts, 147,181 ; for criminal proceedings in the Crown court, 64,473 ; for appeals to the Crown court, 6,103 ; and for appeals to the court of Appeal (Criminal Division) 984. The average amount paid to legal representatives was £110 for a case in the Crown court and £36 for a case in a magistrates' court. These averages include cases in which co-defendants were jointly represented.

Mr. Pardoe

The Minister of State may be aware that his answer shows that the legal aid scheme is of considerable benefit to the legal profession, but can he be sure that it is of similar benefit to those who really need it? What proposals has he to ensure that people get justice, whether or not they can afford to pay through the nose for it?

Mr. Carlisle

I am sure that the legal aid scheme is of benefit to the legal profession, in the same way as the National Health Service is of benefit to doctors, but I equally believe that it benefits those who obtain legal aid. For example, about 64,473 people were granted legal aid in Crown court proceedings last year and only 328 applications for aid were refused.

Mr. Heffer

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that some people, particularly unemployed male divorcees—and I have two such examples in my constituency—are unable to receive legal aid simply because they are unemployed, although they are giving financial aid to their ex-wives? Will he examine this problem? I can assure him that such people are in a very difficult situation.

Mr. Carlisle

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think the question he asks probably relates to civil legal aid, which is a matter for my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor. If the hon. Gentleman cares to write to me about any case relating to criminal legal aid, I shall consider it.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Will the Minister of State take the opportunity to refute the suggestion made on one occasion by the Lord Chancellor that the legal aid scheme is being abused by lawyers defending clients who have no proper defence? Are not such cases more a matter for the Bar Council, and is it not right that the extension of legal aid means that many more people are being properly represented and their cases being properly put before the courts?

Mr. Carlisle

It is right to say that almost everybody who appears in a Crown court is represented, either by paying privately or through legal aid. On the other hand, we are obviously concerned about the volume of cases before the Crown courts which might be tried in magistrates' courts, and the hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have set up a committee under Lord Justice James to examine the delineation of responsibility between those two courts.