§ 34. Mr. Simon Hughes
To ask the Attorney-General what is the best estimate available to Law Officers of the cost per annum, at 1990 prices, of extending legal aid, on similar criteria to those applicable elsewhere in the legal system, to those representing the interests of the deceased at inquests.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)
The latest estimate of the annual cost of extending full legal aid to representation at inquests was made in 1980. At 1990 prices the sum involved is £5.96 million. Advice and assistance under the green form scheme is currently available for such proceedings.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for that answer. Will he undertake to review the cost and the decision that it would not be justified to extend legal aid? He will be aware that verdicts at inquests vary between those producing a liability and open verdicts and that those verdicts may determine whether other prosecutions take place. Legal aid is important. Will there be a review of the right to legal aid at inquests?
§ The Solicitor-General
Matters must be considered as a question of priority, and competing claims are continually examined. The latest claim to be granted by the Lord Chancellor, at a net cost of about £5 million—roughly the same figure as I mentioned earlier—provided assistance to about 5 million child potential claimants and 1.5 million elderly potential claimants in personal injury cases. The matter must be judged against such priorities.