Legal Aid and Advice

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:34 pm on 19th November 1984.

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Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells 10:34 pm, 19th November 1984

No doubt my hon. Friend can interpret who that is.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West mentioned a pilot scheme in certain parts of England and Wales which is designed to reduce the cost of applications for legal aid. I agreed with him when he drew attention to the increased cost of legal aid. He gave us certain figures with which I do not disagree. I could give others, but it is too late now to do so. There is no doubt that the claims on the legal aid fund have increased alarmingly. But, equally, the number of claims that has passed the scrutiny of the legal aid committee has also increased. The reasons for that are complex. However, I know that the Lord Chancellor agrees that claims for legal aid should be subjected to close scrutiny. I shall certainly draw his attention to what my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West has said.

I was asked by my hon. Friend to say something about the postal scheme. The purpose of the pilot postal scherne was to test whether we could save money without losing the degree of scrutiny that is necessary. It has been rather successful, so to a limited extent it is going to be adopted. I hope that what I have said has reassured my hon. Friend to some extent. We are keen to see that there is the same degree of financial discipline over the legal aid scheme and its administration as we look for elsewhere in the public sector. What he has said about it will, I think, he very helpful.