§ Mr. Ross
The Legal Aid (Scotland) Act, 1967, places on the Law Society of Scotland the responsibility of making arrangements for securing that legal aid is available as required by the Act. I am in touch with the Law Society about the present situation.
§ Mr. Dewar
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proportion of summary and sheriff and jury trials, respectively, in which the defendant was in receipt of legal aid, resulted, in the last financial year, in payments under Section 13 of the Act of Adjournal (Criminal Legal Aid Fees), 1964 in excess of the normal maximum fee laid down.
§ Mr. Dewar
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made 363W of the cost on the basis of the last financial year of restricting payment to the relevant maximum fee in all cases in which an excess fee was paid under Section 13 of the Act of Adjournal (Criminal Legal Aid Fees), 1964.
§ Mr. Ross
I have been unable to make any such estimate in terms of money because the Central Committee established by the Law Society of Scotland to administer the criminal legal aid scheme have not hitherto kept summarised records of the sums involved where claims by solicitors have been paid at a higher rate than the maximum fees prescribed by Act of Adjournal. I have, however, asked them to consider doing so in future.
Since the proportion of cases in 1967-68 in which such higher fees were paid was 25 per cent. in respect of summary trials, 50 per cent. in respect of sheriff and jury trials and 80 per cent. in respect of High Court trials—involving some 2,600 cases in all—I should expect that restricting payment to the relevant maximum fee would result in a substantial saving in public expenditure. However, such a proposal would import into the system for determining solicitors' remuneration under the scheme a rigidity which is absent from both the present arrangements and the arrangements for which the new Act of Adjournal provides. These arrangements permit the payment of a higher fee in cases which have necessarily been exceptionally lengthy, complex or difficult and where the Law Society are satisfied that the prescribed fee would not provide fair remuneration for the work actually and reasonably done.