HL Deb 21 July 1977 vol 386 cc565-7

8.33 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 be approved. This order will bring the law governing legal advice into line with the rest of the United Kingdom and will also make some changes to the existing legal aid schemes in Northern Ireland for both civil and criminal proceedings.

The main purpose of the order is to introduce the £25 or "Green Form" Legal Advice and Assistance scheme into Northern Ireland. The green form scheme was introduced in Great Britain in 1973 and has proved extremely successful. I am sure your Lordships will welcome the fact that this order brings the legal advice scheme in Northern Ireland broadly into line with the Legal Aid Act 1974. The financial conditions governing the scheme are the same as those currently applying in Great Britain and it is intended to amend these by regulation in the light of any future increases which may be approved for the rest of the United Kingdom.

There is one respect in which this order differs from the original £25 scheme. Section 7A(4) enables a court in certain circumstances to authorise a solicitor to assist a person who is party to proceedings. Experience of the operation of the corresponding provision in Great Britain has shown that on some occasions this facility has been misused by solicitors to represent a client in proceedings where an application for legal aid has been made and has been refused. Paragraph 4(c) of 7A will, it is hoped, prevent such abuse. The Order also makes certain changes to the existing legal aid schemes in Northern Ireland, again to bring the law in Northern Ireland into line with that in the rest of the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, laid before the House on 5th July, be approved.—(Lord Melchett.)


My Lords, I welcome the Order. As the green form scheme was introduced into Great Britain over four years ago this order is obviously necessary, as is Article 6 which enables the means of an applicant for legal aid to be inquired into. That is done in Great Britain, of course, in order to fix the maximum that an applicant can be required to contribute towards legal costs. If my reading of Article 6 together with the Schedule is correct, then that will now be the system in Northern Ireland as well. My Lords, with those few words I certainly support the passage of the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.