§ Mr. Dismore
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 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.33W
§ Mr. Chris Smith
In relation to sub-paragraphs(a) and (b) of my hon. Friend's question concerning my Department's policy when conducting legal proceedings, and when seeking legal advice as to the circumstances in which Queen's Counsel should be instructed, this Department would normally expect the Treasury Solicitor's Department to instruct Counsel on its behalf. I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by the Solicitor-General on 26 April 1999, Official Report, columns 1–2.
With regard to each of the last three years, as far as my officials have been able to ascertain without incurring disproportionate cost, from April 1996 to March 1997 Queen's Counsel were instructed in one case; from April 1997 to March 1998 Queen's Counsel were instructed in three cases; and from April 1998 to date Queen's Counsel were instructed in five cases.
As far as my officials have been able to ascertain without incurring disproportionate cost, the total cost of instructing Counsel during the periods referred to above was:
for 1996–97: £146,689.75; and
for 1997–98 £11,350.50; and
for 1998 to date £25,168.51.
It should be noted that the total figure given for the period 1996–97 covers work for two cases—it includes a sum attributable to Counsel's fees for work undertaken before April 1996 but paid after that date. It should also be noted that the figure given for 1998 to date excludes Counsel's fees for work undertaken in that period which are yet to be agreed.