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Oral Answers to Questions — Poor Persons (Legal Aid).

– in the House of Commons on 29th July 1925.

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Photo of Dr Alfred Salter Dr Alfred Salter , Bermondsey West Bermondsey


asked the Attorney-General (1) whether he is aware that before a poor person can be granted legal aid in the High Court he must pro vide a deposit of at least £5 and pay all out-of-pocket expenses, and whether any assistance is projected for persons unable to meet such charges: whether he is aware that no assistance is at present granted to persons in receipt of an income of more than £4 per week or worth more than £100: and whether it is proposed in any way to aid those who are able to pay something towards, but not the whole of, the costs and expenses of High Court litigation;

(2) whether the Report of the Poor Persons Rules Committee proposes any extension of legal aid to new categories of poor persons in respect of High Court actions;

(3) whether the terms of reference to the new Departmental Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice Finlay, will enable that Committee to consider and, if thought desirable, recommend the provision of legal aid for persons so poor that they cannot pay any deposit or out of-pocket costs and those able to pay part but not the whole cost, both categories of whom are now excluded from legal aid by the existing Poor Persons Rules?

Photo of Sir Douglas Hogg Sir Douglas Hogg , St Marylebone

With the permission of the House I will answer these questions together. The deposit of 5 required by the existing Rules is directed only in matrimonial cases. Under the new Rules, which have not yet come into operation, it is optional to the Solicitors' Committee whether they will require a deposit. Out-of-pocket expenses are payable, not before a poor person is granted legal aid, but from time to time during the progress of the suit when the conducting solicitor has paid out money for the litigant. The payments for out-of-pocket expenses come out of the £5 deposited so far as that deposit suffices for the purpose, and any balance of the £5 remaining over is repaid to the poor person. The limits of income and capital are as stated in the question, except that wearing apparel, tools of trade, and the subject matter of the proceedings are excluded from the calculations of the capital sum. When the poor person is successful in the litigation, out-of-pocket expenses incurred by him, or on his behalf, are recoverable on taxation from the unsuccessful party.

The Report of the Poor Persons' Rules Committee (by which I understand the Committee presided over by Mr. Justice Lawrence, which reported in February last) does not propose any extension of the. categories of poor persons as set out in the existing Rules, and it is not pro posed to afford further monetary assistance to poor persons suing or being sued in the High Court. They have already, both under the existing Rules and under the Rules now proposed, exemption from Court fees, the free services of solicitor and counsel, and, when successful, the right to recover out-of-pocket expenses properly incurred from the unsuccessful party. Civil litigation in the High Court is outside the scope of the terms of reference of Mr. Justice Finlay's Committee.