HC Deb 20 July 1994 vol 247 cc223-4W
Mr. Luff

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has for the future of the Legal Aid Advisory Committee.

Mr. John M. Taylor

The Legal Aid Advisory Committee was set up in 1949. Its purpose then was to comment on the way in which the Law Society administered the legal aid scheme and to give the Lord Chancellor advice and recommendations about legal aid. The Committee has done much valuable work over many years and the Lord Chancellor and I are grateful to all its past and present members for the work they have done.

The establishment of the Legal Aid Board in 1989 meant that a significant element of the committee's role no longer existed. The committee was however kept in being in order to establish whether there was a continuing useful role for it to play.

The Lord Chancellor has recently reviewed the position in the light of experience since 1989 and has concluded that the changing circumstances since the Legal Aid Board was established have meant that there is no longer a need for a separate Legal Aid Advisory Committee.

The Lord Chancellor and I have always welcomed advice from any quarter on the operation of the legal aid scheme, and will continue to do so. Unlike the position when the Legal Aid Advisory Committee was established, there are now many bodies and organisations that are interested in, and regularly comment on, developments in legal aid. The Lord Chancellor and I are satisfied that the advice that we receive from them, together with the independent advice, based on its experience of running the legal aid scheme, that we receive from the Legal Aid Board, and the involvement in legal aid matters of the Home Affairs Select Committee, give us access to the widest possible range of views and opinions. We also intend to develop our programme of research into legal aid matters.

The Lord Chancellor will therefore shortly be laying before both Houses of Parliament an order providing for the dissolution of the Legal Aid Advisory Committee.

Mr. Byers

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the 10 highest contributions made out of the legal aid fund to assist individuals in the last five years, the individuals involved and the nature of the proceedings.

Mr. John M. Taylor

[holding answer 25 May 1994]: The table shows the 10 highest gross payments—including VAT—made in individual cases—excluding civil multiparty actions—in the last five years. It is not usually possible to disaggregate payments to individuals in cases involving more than one assisted party.

£ million
1. Barlow-Clowes (fraud) 4.70
2. Strangeways II (riot) 2.77
3. Britannia Park (theft) 2.63
4. Ankara II—Benn & Others (revenue law offence)1 2.42
5. Brinks-Matt (robbery)1 2.16
6. Actie & Others (murder) 1.88
7. Eagle Starr (fraud)1 1.76
8. Hatton & Others (fraud) 1.75
9. Strangeways I (riot) 1.73
10. Aveling-Barford (fraud)2 1.52
1 Subject to redetermination.
2 Subject to appeal.

The table details payments made only in respect of final bills submitted. It does not include cases where proceedings are continuing and where interim payments have been made. Excluding multi-party actions, only two cases involving interim payments of £1 million or more have been identified. In proceedings between Dr. Jawad Hashim and the Arab monetary fund, which concerns the administration of trusts, claims amounting to £4 million have been received to date and some 2.8 million has been paid on account. Some £1.8 million has been paid on account in respect of Graham and Graham, an action for damages to property. In civil proceedings, however, legal aid costs may be recovered, in part or in full, from any costs or damages received on behalf of the assisted party.