Legal Aid and Advice

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:14 pm on 19th November 1984.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells 10:14 pm, 19th November 1984

In that case I shall direct my remarks also to the second motion relating to England and Wales: That the Legal Aid (Financial Conditions) Regulations 1984, dated 16th October 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 31st October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.

Last year my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor decided to revert to a November uprating for the financial limits. That was more administratively convenient because the legal aid dependants' allowances are automatically increased in line with those for supplementary benefit which are, of course, uprated annually in November. The first two motions increase, respectively, by 4·7 per cent. the income and upper capital limits for civil legal aid and for legal advice and assistance. The increase maintains the present relationship between legal aid and supplementary benefit. However, there is no increase in the lower capital limit for legal aid. The alignment of this limit with the supplementary benefit capital limit was introduced last year, and the supplementary benefit level is to remain the same as last year—£3,000—because last year it was increased substantially in excess of the rate of inflation.

The legal advice and assistance regulations raise the upper disposable income limit for the green form scheme from £103 a week to £108 a week. The capital limit above which assistance is not available increases from £730 to £765. The legal aid regulations raise the lower disposable income limit—the level of disposable income below which no contribution is payable—from £2,050 a year to £2,145. The upper income limit—the level above which legal aid is not available—increases by the same proportion from £4,925 a year to £5,155. The lower capital limit is to remain at £3,000. The upper capital limit above which legal aid is not normally available is to be increased from £4,500 to £4,710.

My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor proposes to increase the capital limit for assistance by way of representation. It is an extension of the legal advice and assistance scheme and provides representation for certain specified proceedings before courts and tribunals to £3,000—the same level as the lower legal aid capital limit. As this increase requires primary legislation, it will have to wait for an appropriate opportunity. That opportunity will arise on the Administration of Justice Bill, which is to be introduced this Session. It is intended that the Bill should contain an appropriate amendment of the Legal Aid Act 1974. I believe that the increases are useful.