HC Deb 25 March 1976 vol 908 cc716-7

7.50 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)

I beg to move, That the Legal Aid (Scotland) (Extension of Proceedings) Regulations 1976, a copy of which was laid before this House on 10th March, be approved. The purpose of these Regulations is to extend legal aid to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which was established by the Employment Protection Act 1975 and which will come into operation on 30th March this year. Regulations which extend legal aid require affirmative resolutions of each House before they can come into operation.

The Appeal Tribunal will be a superior court of record, whose main function will be to hear appeals on points of law from industrial tribunals and from the certification officer. Most of the jurisdiction of the Appeal Tribunal is at present being exercised in Scotland by the Court of Session, where legal aid is available. It is therefore plainly desirable for legal aid to be available for proceedings in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and I accordingly commend these Regulations to the House. Their effect will be to continue to make legal aid available in cases where it is already available, and they will therefore add little or nothing to the financial burden on the Legal Aid Fund.

7.51 p.m.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)

The Opposition accept and welcome this measure. We believe that legal aid should be made available in this case. In doing so, we note that the cost is stated to be between £50,000 and £75,000, and we note particularly that this Statutory Instrument relates to Scotland alone and is not an extension of present categories. Indeed, I think that it is worth mentioning that the level of entitlement to legal aid would be that of a person who earns not more than £1,790, and that the entitlement is to be determined by a committee of lawyers. Therefore, this is one case in which the lawyers concerned will be saving the State both the cost and the extra bureaucracy which would otherwise be required. I hope that that point will be borne in mind by the Government, the Royal Commission and all those who seek to criticise lawyers.

Question put and agreed to.

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