HC Deb 06 March 2001 vol 364 c211W
Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what decisions have been made on the changes proposed to the financial conditions for funding civil and family cases by the Legal Services Commission. [152740]

Mr. Lock

We have today published a report giving details of the Government's conclusions following consultation on these proposals. The introduction of these changes to the financial eligibility tests for funding in civil cases will move towards alignment of the eligibility limits for all levels of publicly funded legal services, provide simplified means testing arrangements for both applicants and suppliers and ensure a fair balance between publicly and privately funded litigants.

We are raising the income and capital threshold for legal help so that an estimated 5 million more people can get the advice and assistance on everyday problems that they need. We will not be introducing contributions for legal help so all eligible clients will be able to receive legal advice entirely free of charge.

We have listened carefully to the responses and we will not be introducing capital contributions from equity at the present time. We believe the implementation of these proposals might deter low-income homeowners from seeking legal advice.

We will fully equalise the income eligibility limit for legal help with legal representation as soon as it is financially prudent to do so. This will bring a further 2 million people into the scope of the Community Legal Service Fund.

The cost of these changes is £30 million over three years. We have been able to spend this money on increasing eligibility because of the success of our legal aid reforms in controlling and refocusing expenditure on priorities.

We undertook to consult on the new eligibility limits for all levels of service once they were available and a consultation paper has been published today. Consultation will run until 1 May 2001. These changes will be implemented on 1 October 2001.