Oral Answers to Questions — Legal Aid Scheme

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 1953.

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Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen 12:00 am, 2nd March 1953

asked the Attorney-General whether sufficient experience has now been gained of the working of the Legal Aid Scheme to enable him to make a statement thereon; if he is aware that an unassisted person is at a disadvantage when engaged in litigation with an assisted person; and what measures he proposes to redress this disequilibrium.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

The Report of the Legal Aid Advisory Committee, which has recently been laid before Parliament, gives, on the whole, a favourable judgment of the Scheme. My noble friend the Lord Chancellor agrees with their view, but he thinks there is room for improvement. He has the Report under consideration at present. Section 2 (2, e) of the Legal Aid and Advice Act, which limits an assisted person's liability for costs to what he can reasonably pay in all the circumstances, is based on a recommendation of the Rushcliffe Committee on Legal Aid and Legal Advice. It was fully discussed when the Act passed through Parliament, and no amendment of that particular provision is at present contemplated.

Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen

Since an unassisted person has to pay his own costs even if he is successful in his litigation and an assisted person gets his costs paid for him even if he loses, does not my hon. and learned Friend think that this is a rather dangerous situation—one in which it is almost impossible to induce an assisted person to settle, even though he should settle, because there is no inducement for him to settle? Does he not think that this conflicts with the basic principle of equality before the law?

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I will see that my hon. Friend's view is put before the Lord Chancellor.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that a great many of the present anomalies would be removed if the Government would bring into operation the Sections of the Act in regard to giving advice, and would he say what the intentions of the Government are in that respect?

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I am afraid I cannot make any statement in regard to intentions of that kind, but that also will be considered.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East

Has my hon. and learned Friend's attention been drawn to a case about a dog, which was recently before Mr. Justice Lynskey, in which both sides had all their costs paid, so that, whichever won, either side could not have paid damages?

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I do not think anybody could have helped having had that called to his attention.