HC Deb 06 December 1996 vol 286 c797W
Mr. Austin Mitchell

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his proposals for a public defender service. 7515]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Clause 45 of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Bill seeks to empower the Scottish Legal Aid Board to employ solicitors to provide criminal legal assistance, the aim being to set up pilot studies to assess the realistic cost of criminal legal assistance and to compare the costs and benefits of in-house and external provision. In Committee, I undertook to clarify this power by providing for the number of solicitors to be employed by the board to be restricted to six, for the Secretary of State to be required to report to Parliament within three years of the provisions coming into force and for the provisions to lapse five years after coming into force, subject to any transitional arrangements. I shall bring forward amendments to this effect on Report.