HC Deb 21 February 1979 vol 963 cc185-6W
Mr. Douglas-Mann

asked the Attorney-General whether he will make a statement setting out an estimate of the proportion of the adult population financially eligible to receive legal aid when the scheme was first introduced in 1948, the proportion financially eligible now, and the proportion which will be financially eligible on the passage of the Legal Aid Bill recently introduced in the House of Lords.

The Attorney-General

It is not possible to make reliable estimates because legal aid limits are based on the "disposable" income and capital which is available after deductions have been made for dependants, debts and necessary expenses, including income tax, national insurance and other matters. A special study in 1973 estimated that in 1950, when the scheme began, over 80 per cent. of the population was eligible on income grounds alone. In 1973, this figure had fallen to about 40 per cent. and has probably remained at about that level.

The improvements in the financial limits for legal aid which my noble Friend proposes to make by regulations under the existing legislation and by the Legal Aid Bill will increase the proportion of the population eligible for legal aid to the approximate level at which it stood when the scheme began.