HC Deb 01 March 2001 vol 363 c751W
Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the potential savings arising from the Community Legal Service receiving a portion of the damages awarded in civil cases funded by legal aid. [151548]

Mr. Lock

A contingency fund was considered during the passage of the Access to Justice Act 1999, and the Act contains a power to create one. However, the Government have no plans to do so.

It would be virtually impossible to operate a contingency fund in relation to family litigation or cases where victims are seeking injunctions to prevent domestic violence. Costs are often not awarded at the end of these cases, or they are unlikely to be enforced, or there may be no damages out of which costs could be recovered from the funded client. Such a fund cannot operate where funding is provided for some Children Act cases, since funding is granted without a merits test. It would also be impossible to operate Legal Help (formerly Green Form advice) on a contingency fund basis, since cases rarely become formal proceedings where costs or damages would become recoverable.

The Government believe that, as far as possible, litigants should receive the full amount of compensation to which they are entitled. That would not be the case with a contingency fund.

The Government also doubt the practicality of operating a contingency fund where the private funding of litigation through conditional fee agreements and after-the-event insurance is possible. Adverse selection would result in cases with higher prospects of success funded privately on a conditional fee basis, leaving cases with weaker prospects of success to be supported by the contingency fund. That would leave the fund vulnerable to significant financial problems.

Accordingly, and while not ruling out the possibility of operating a contingency fund in any circumstances, the Government have no plans to introduce such a fund in England and Wales.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what his estimate is of the total financial awards from successful civil cases funded by legal aid in the latest financial year for which figures are available. [151549]

Mr. Lock

Due to changes to the Legal Services Commission's computer systems the latest available figures are for 1997–98. The total amount of moneys awarded or agreed in publicly funded civil cases was £1.37 billion. This information relates principally to one-off payments, and excludes most payments by instalment, whether in matrimonial or non-matrimonial cases.

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