§ Mr. Dismore
To ask the Minister of State, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on his Department's policy when(a) conducting legal proceedings and (b) seeking legal advice as to the circumstances in which Queen's Counsel should be instructed; and for each of the last three years (i) on how many occasions his Department instructed Queen's Counsel and (ii) what was the total cost of instructing Queen's Counsel.
§ Mr. Hoon
[holding answer 27 April 1999]: The Department predominantly uses junior Counsel when it is necessary to instruct Counsel to conduct legal proceedings or to provide legal advice. In many important matters, the Department will instruct First Treasury Counsel (Common Law) to represent or advise the Department without the assistance of a Queen's Counsel. In the great majority of other legal proceedings, and for advice on other matters, Counsel will be instructed from one of the Panels of junior Counsel maintained by the Attorney-General.
In a small minority of cases, the Department will seek the approval of the Attorney-General for the instruction of Queen's Counsel. In seeking this approval, the Department will take into account, among other things, the importance and sensitivity of the case, the complexity of the law, and the degree of experience and expertise required.
The Department has instructed seven Queen's Counsel since 1 May 1997, one of them in two different matters. On the information so far available to the Department, the cost of doing so was £21,749.25. Information on Queen's Counsel instructed before 1 May 1997 is available to the Department only at disproportionate cost.