HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc1148-50
4. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement concerning the system of allocation of criminal legal aid work by magistrates' courts consequent upon the study made by the Nuffield Foundation's Legal Advice Research Unit in consultation with Mr. Michael Zander, a copy of whose report has been sent to him.

Mr. Carlisle

The method of assignment of solicitors to the minority of applicants for legal aid in criminal proceedings who do not make their own choice is a matter for the justices' clerk concerned, acting under the general direction of the magistrates, to determine. The study referred to has been widely publicised and commented on, and no doubt magistrates and justices' clerks generally are aware of its contents.

Mr. Davis

Having regard to the serious allegations in that report, coupled with the latest generalised and un-substantiated attack by Sir Robert Mark upon a minority of lawyers and upon the jury system, should not a full investigation be carried out by the Home Office in which the police would provide the evidence available to substantiate those allegations? Was Sir Robert Mark's speech read and considered by the Home Secretary before it was delivered?

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman starts by asking me about Mr. Michael Zander and ends up by asking me about Sir Robert Mark. I will take the questions in turn. In the article by Mr. Michael Zander certain specific allegations of corruption were mentioned which have been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for his consideration.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was provided by Sir Robert Mark with the text of his speech before delivery. He was not consulted about the theme chosen, and Sir Robert, during the course of his speech, made it clear that the views he was expressing were his own.

Mr. William Price

Is the Minister aware that some hon. Members share those views?

Mr. Carlisle

Everybody—including Members of this House and others—is entitled to his own views.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

To revert to the original Question, are not the disquieting findings of Mr. Michael Zander an illustration of the difficulty of administering the criminal legal aid scheme in its particular form rather than in the form of the civil legal aid scheme, which means that these cases are considered by a committee of lawyers? Given that criminal legal aid has to be dispensed more quickly, could not this be done by emergency certificate?

Mr. Carlisle

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are considerable differences between the systems of civil legal aid and criminal legal aid which would make their assimilation difficult. Mr. Zander in his article was dealing with the nomination by the court of solicitors to deal with particular cases where the client himself did not mention a solicitor by name. I do not think that is relevant to the point made by the hon. Gentleman about the Law Society.