HC Deb 14 July 1986 vol 101 cc823-4
Mr. John MacKay

I beg to move amendment No. 41, in page 40, line 37 at end insert—

'The Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 (c. 52) In section 9B(4) of the Tenants Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 for the words "Legal Aid and Advice (Scotland) Acts 1967 anti 1972 and to any provision of those Acts for payment of any sum into the legal aid fund" there shall be substituted the words "Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 and to any provision of that Act for payment of any sum into the Scottish Legal Aid Fund".'. The amendment updates a reference to the existing legal aid legislation in the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, which has been inserted by the Housing (Scotland) Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

Queen's consent signified

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. John MacKay.]

2.12 am
Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Douglas Fairbanks.

Mr. Fairbairn

I shall do my best to put on a reasonable performance.

I welcome some of the improvements that have been made to the Bill, but I deplore other alterations, such as the recent one. At this late hour, I should like to raise briefly one matter. The concept of fair and reasonable remuneration for work done was not considered necessary by the Government. They thought it inevitable that a fair and reasonable reward would be given. If that is so, and if the courts are not to be trusted with a penny of public money in order to grant legal aid to someone in exceptional circumstances who is on a summary criminal charge, the Government have a great opportunity to abolish the Act of Adjournal which requires that the moment that a criminal has happily departed from the dock by the front gate or back door—depending on the capacity of those who defended him or on the "interests of justice", as the Minister would obliquely state, without understanding what they are— the unfortunate instructing solicitor should be moved into the dock.

Counsel then has to represent the unfortunate instructing solicitor before the public in court, under the Act of Adjournal, to see whether he measured up to his ex-client's standards. Counsel has to represent the case that his work was, or was not, difficult, exceptional and lengthy, and say whether this or that is a fair or reasonable charge. Now that the Government have deleted the concept of fair and reasonable being a necessary qualification we should also delete the obscenity that counsel has to appear on behalf of the solicitor, or the solicitor has to appear on his own behalf, as if he was the accused.

I therefore hope that the Government will take this opportunity to remove a blot from our system. It is a scar on the solicitor's probity, and we could do without it. The solicitor should be paid according to his work. If these incompetent judges of ours cannot grant legal aid to a little boy, I do not see how they can sit in judgment on whether a solicitor is entitled to payment. The Government should be able to say that they are interested in fair and reasonable remuneration. We are interested that the courts are incompetent to deal with remuneration of any kind or the disbursement of public funds. Therefore, we shall get rid of this abominable situation for ever.

I have to thank the Minister for occasionally being graceful. I regret that his track record deteriorated as the night went on.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.