HC Deb 09 December 1991 vol 200 cc602-3
30. Mr. Jessel

To ask the Attorney-General what discussions he has had with the chairmen of the Bar Council and the Law Society concerning the impact on the effective operation of the legal system of the quality of recruitment to the legal professions.

The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

Neither the Bar Council nor the Law Society has raised with me the question of the quality of recruitment to the legal profession.

Mr. Jessel

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I could not hear as an hon. Friend was standing up.

The Attorney-General

Neither the Law Society nor the Bar Council has raised with me the question of the quality of recruitment to the legal profession. I think that I put it the other way round last time.

Mr. Jessel

Whatever the quality of recruitment of barristers and solicitors, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the deep weakness in the British legal system in that justice is readily available to the poor who can get legal aid and to the rich who can easily afford it anyway but that to a large proportion of people in between it often seems barely accessible and yet they have to pay taxes to provide justice for others? Is not that in itself an injustice, and should Government and Parliament tolerate it?

The Attorney-General

I am well aware of the widespread anxiety about the thresholds of eligibility for legal aid. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor expects to issue a consultation paper next year on the financial conditions for legal aid in criminal proceedings. He has already done so in respect of civil non-matrimonial legal aid and is considering the responses to that. His purpose is to try to target legal aid on individual need and he continues to seek ways—as we all must—to reduce the cost of litigation, both criminal and civil.

Mr. Fraser

I am sure that the Attorney-General will agree that it is important that women, blacks and other ethnic minorities, and working-class people should be able to get into the legal professions. Is he aware that at the moment there is great difficulty in obtaining discretionary grants for professional training and for the final qualifications for both professions? Will he discuss with his Cabinet colleagues whether the discretionary grants for vocational training for the professions might be made mandatory or whether the training and enterprise councils might provide money to help those with little means to train for entry into the professions?

The Attorney-General

I very much agree with the desirability of the objective expressed by the hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his question. As for the remainder, I shall draw the suggestion to the attention of the Lord Chancellor.

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