HC Deb 17 March 1998 vol 308 c1095
37. Mrs. Ann Winterton

What plans he has to ensure that people entitled to compensation are able to claim it. [33191]

Mr. Hoon

We set out the first stage of our plans to improve access to justice in a consultation document published on 4 March. We plan to reform the civil justice system to make it quicker, cheaper and more certain. We will improve access to justice by extending the availability of conditional fees so that the vast majority of the population who, at present, cannot afford to go to court can do so. We shall also take control of the costs of legal aid and concentrate scarce taxpayers' money to bring the right help at the right time to those most in need in our society.

Mrs. Winterton

Is the Minister aware that I have consulted most solicitors' firms in my constituency, which could perhaps be described as provincial firms, and that they are fearful about the abolition of legal aid for personal injury cases, because they believe, as most people do, that many deserving cases will not go to court? What does he say about that? It is the most appalling state of affairs. Surely he should not be in the least proud of what he is doing.

Mr. Hoon

I have had a considerable number of letters from the hon. Lady complaining about the operation of the existing legal aid scheme and complaining that her constituents are not eligible. She has indicated her anxiety to make sure that more people have access to court. The Government's proposals achieve precisely that, and I am sorry that the hon. Lady is not welcoming them instead of criticising them.

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