§ Mr. Keetch
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs under what circumstances legal aid is available to those contesting legal cases involving children; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Lammy
Legal aid is available for parties involved in contested proceedings involving children. In certain special cases under the Children Act 1989 funding is available free to people who have parental responsibility, without any means or merits tests. These cases are mostly to do with public authorities intervening in the relationship between parents (or those with parental responsibility) and children, such as care proceedings. All other grants of funding are subject to means and merits criteria. The means criteria are set out in the Community Legal Service Financial Regulations 2000 (as amended) and considered against the relevant merits criteria set out in the Funding Code determining income and capital thresholds above which legal aid is not available. The merits criteria Are also set out in the1418W Funding Code and aim to ensure that funding is only available in circumstances where a reasonable private paying client would be prepared to proceed.
Legal aid must also take into account the Legal Services Commission's (LSCs) published guidance which further encourages cost effective dispute resolution. All grants of legal aid are subject to limitations as to what steps can be undertaken and what level of costs may be incurred.
The LSC also funds family mediation services with a view to resolving cases amicably without contested proceedings. With certain exceptions, funding for court proceedings will be refused unless the client has seen a mediator to assess the suitability of the case for mediation.
§ Mr. Keetch
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what restrictions are placed on the availability of legal aid for use in cases where costs orders cannot be made; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Lammy
Each application for legal aid is subject to the statutory tests of the applicant's means as set out in the Community Legal Service Financial Regulations 2000 (as amended) and considered against the relevant merits criteria set out in the Funding Code.
A funded client's liability for costs is limited to the amount, if any, which is reasonable for him to pay, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the means and conduct of both parties. The awarding of costs is a matter for the court, whether a party is publicly funded or not. Whether a cost order can be made is not taken into account in determining eligibility for legal aid.
Cost protection has always been a feature of the legal aid scheme; it provides that costs orders cannot be enforced against a funded client except to the extent that the court considers it reasonable. In limited circumstances a successful opponent may be entitled to costs from the Community Legal Service fund.