HC Deb 12 January 1981 vol 996 cc747-8
33. Mr. Archer

asked the Attorney-General when it is next proposed to uprate eligibility limits for legal aid and advice and assistance.

The Attorney-General

No decision has been taken.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I could state that we were one minute late in getting on to this subject. That is why I called another question.

Mr. Archer

I am most grateful, Mr. Speaker.

Does the Attorney-General realise that it is a matter of concern that the regulations should keep abreast of inflation? Is he prepared to say that the doubts canvassed in the December issue of the LAG bulletin are without foundation? Is that the measure of the Government's commitment to the rule of law?

The Attorney-General

The problem is that there has been a substantial increase in legal aid expenditure in the current financial year. Until the overall implications for the legal aid programme are clearer, it would be premature to take a decision on uprating. The House may be interested in the following statistics. Criminal legal aid, for example, between 1970 and 1979 increased two and a half times. The original Estimate provision for 1980–81 for legal aid across the board was £85.1 million. There has had to be a winter Supplementary Estimate of £12.6 million to keep abreast of what happened.

Mr. Adley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you have responsibility for enabling Members of Parliament to get to this place, may I ask if you were notified of any obstruction that might have befallen the entire Liberal Bench, as no Liberal Member was here for industry questions?

Mr. Speaker

We will continue.