HL Deb 17 February 1993 vol 542 c71WA
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their proposed changes to eligibility for civil legal aid and advice and assistance in Scotland.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

I have carefully considered the various representations received on the proposals to change the eligibility criteria for legal aid in Scotland as set out in the reply of 16th November 1992 given by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to the honourable member for Ayr [Official Report, Commons, Vol. 214, No. 74, col. 64].

Given the distinctive features of the Scottish legal system and in particular the interface between advice and assistance and full civil and criminal legal aid, I have decided to retain a contributory band of advice and assistance. Those on income support or family credit or with a weekly disposable income of less than £61 will be eligible for free advice and assistance. Those whose weekly disposable income falls between £61 and £147 will receive advice and assistance subject to the payment of a contribution on a sliding scale set by reference to the level of the applicant's disposable income. The retention of contributory advice and assistance will ensure that those on moderate incomes above income support level will continue to benefit from advice and assistance.

We intend to proceed with the changes to eligibility for civil legal aid as announced. The current eligibility criteria for criminal legal aid will remain unchanged.

These changes will ensure the achievement of our objective that reasonable access to legal aid continues to be provided for the most needy. Planned expenditure on legal aid is expected to rise by 40 per cent. over the next three years and more people than ever before are expected to be granted legal aid.

I have today written to all Scottish MPs explaining the revised proposals in more detail.