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Clause 1. — (Power to Award Costs Out of Legal Aid Fund.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Legal Aid Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1964.

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Photo of Mr Leo Abse Mr Leo Abse , Pontypool 12:00 am, 23rd January 1964

But they now usually believe that they will get an equitable settlement without getting involved in too much costs. Lawyers must bring a little common sense to the question of how the legal aid scheme will work. They must not think only of getting their cases before the courts. Solicitors who are within the legal aid scheme try to think of ways of settling cases, not of pursuing them. This Amendment is likely to mean that we would be cluttering up the county courts with a lot of small cases that would otherwise be easily disposed of by a telephone conversation between two solicitors.

We need some sense of priorities. The Attorney-General has indicated that to accept the Amendment would cost £350,000 or £400,000. I know that there have previously been discussions about other needs, such as statutory legal aid at tribunals, and although I concede that there can be cases of injustice, we cannot legislate for every case, and if we are to keep a sense of priority we should be thinking about where we can do the greatest good.

The present legal aid scheme is not without its defects, but it is a good scheme. At the same time, it costs about £3½ million a year, and we should be thinking of how to use it in non- litigious claims. For instance, there is at present great public pressure about the cost of conveyancing—a property-owning democracy is in existence—as a result of which many young people purchasing their first houses are suffering great hardship. Apart from the Attorney-General's duty to look at the Land Registry to see whether there are enough funds to train people in order that the Land Registry system can spread—