HC Deb 12 December 1988 vol 143 cc639-40
61. Mr. Brazier

To ask the Attorney-General what steps the Lord Chancellor is taking to monitor decisions on the granting of legal aid by the Law Society.

The Solicitor-General

Individual decisions on legal aid in civil cases are a matter for the local legal aid committees. The Law Society reports annually to the Lord Chancellor. It provides details of the number of applications granted and refused and whether the reasons for those refusals are on legal or financial grounds.

Mr. Brazier

I welcome the changes planned for next April in the administration of legal aid, but they should go further. Is the Minister aware of two cases in my constituency? In one, a woman suffering from heart trouble was refused legal aid on the ground that her husband had not committed violence against her "for several weeks". In the other, legal aid was granted to a man who a few months earlier put in a substantial planning application and said that he could finance it without borrowing.

The Solicitor-General

It is important to remember that these decisions are taken by independent authorities. There would be a right of appeal from local legal aid committees to the area committee. The Legal Aid Board, when it takes over the functions of the Law Society, will examine the working of the entire system.

Mr. Madden

Will the Minister arrange for a new legal aid fund to be established in Bradford to help the many ratepayers of that city who wish to take legal action against the injustices heaped upon them by the new Conservative administration? Will the Minister explain how, when there is a High Court action in London on Wednesday and Thursday of this week involving the sale of old people's homes which we have been prevented from discussing on the ground that it is sub judice, Bradford council can debate these matters tomorrow and propose to sell homes and adjust the sale price on the life expectancy of the old people living in them?

The Solicitor-General

Even in Bradford, those are matters for the independent decision of the legal aid committee, with the usual appeal process. I am sure that Bradford would not wish, any more than any other area, to interfere with the operation of the courts.

Mr. Bowis

Will my hon. and learned Friend monitor the cost of legal aid? Is it not true that too often clients who win their cases do not actually receive compensation or damages because the whole of the award has been soaked up by legal costs?

The Solicitor-General

I am sure that that is one of the matters that the Legal Aid Board will be studying when it takes over from the Law Society.