HL Deb 12 November 1992 vol 540 cc441-2

11.6 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 28th October be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the draft statutory instrument is designed to extend the legal aid scheme to prisoners serving discretionary life sentences who appear before the Parole Board in specified circumstances.

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 defines discretionary life prisoners as those who have received a life sentence, not required by law, for a violent or sexual offence and who have had a part of their sentence specified by the court for these purposes. Once the specified part of the sentence is served, the prisoner's case is referred to the Parole Board and, if the board is satisfied that his confinement is no longer necessary for the protection of the public, he is released. Prisoners whose cases are turned down, or who are released but recalled, may require their cases to be referred to the board at set intervals.

The draft statutory instrument would provide legal aid for such prisoners appearing before the Parole Board in these circumstances. It amends the Legal Advice and Assistance (Scope) Regulations 1989 by including these proceedings among those for which an eligible person may receive ABWOR; that is, advice by way of representation. The means test will be that which is applicable to all ABWOR, but the merits test will be the more generous one that is applied to applicants for ABWOR for mental health review tribunals; that is, that ABWOR will be granted unless it appears unreasonable that it should be granted.

The statutory instrument also brings the Scope regulations up to date by submitting a reference to disciplinary proceedings before a prison governor for references to proceedings before a board of visitors; this reflects changes to the Prison Rules 1964.

I should mention that remuneration for this work will not be at the ordinary ABWOR rate but at the higher rate which applies before mental health review tribunals. This is because the Parole Board hearings are modelled on and similar to those of the mental health review tribunals, the rules of which have been used as the basis for the rules for the board's arrangements. This is provided for by a separate instrument, subject to negative resolution procedure, which was laid before the House on 2nd November.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 28th October be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].—(The Lord Chancellor)

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, my noble friends who cannot be here this evening have asked me to say how pleased they are at the terms of the regulations. We give them a very warm welcome.

On Question, Motion agreed to.