HC Deb 17 May 1993 vol 225 cc17-8
39. Mr. Jonathan Evans

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what progress is being made in extending rights of audience to solicitors in the higher courts; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John M. Taylor

The Law Society submitted its formal application for extended rights of audience in November 1992. The Lord Chancellor and the four designated judges will be in a position to reach a decision on the application when they receive the advice of the Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct and of the Director General of Fair Trading later in the summer.

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend will be aware that there is widespread concern about the savings that have had to be made by the Lord Chancellor's Department in relation to legal aid. There is also great concern about the committee's slow progress in extending solicitors' rights which, in the circumstances, would clearly lead to a substantial financial saving. There have been recent reports that the Government legal service and Crown Prosecution Service's lawyers are not to be recommended to receive the extended rights of audience in the higher courts. Will my hon. Friend consider those proposals carefully because, in the circumstances, there is clearly an unanswerable case for solicitors to be granted those rights?

Mr. Taylor

I take my hon. Friend's question in exactly the spirit in which it was put. The mechanism for determining wider rights of audience is extremely complicated, not least because the House, in its wisdom, chose to make a complex mechanism when it passed the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. I think that there will be progress fairly soon, but I am bound to say that it will not be quick enough to satisfy my hon. Friend.

Mr. Skinner

Can the Minister explain exactly what is meant by wider rights of audience? Has it got something to do with the Lord Chancellor trotting off to Cyprus to see Asil Nadir? It seems like a shady business to me. A man hands over £440,000 to the Tory party and a member of the Cabinet goes to Cyprus to have some private discussions. Would that apply to anybody else in Britain?

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. That is not at all relevant. Does the Minister wish to answer?

Mr. Taylor

I did not want the afternoon to come to an end without Asil Nadir getting in somewhere. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased, but not surprised, to know that Mr. Nadir's legal aid certificate has been frozen.

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