Legal Aid

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South 12:00 am, 24th April 1995

To ask the Attorney-General how many prosecutions took place in 1994 for fraudulent applications for legal aid. [18742]

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

Specific statistics are not kept in this form, but I understand that there were three prosecutions for offences involving fraudulent applications for legal aid concluded in the financial year 1994–95.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in 1993 there were 1 million applications for legal aid? Does he think that the criminal fraternity suddenly become honest when applying for legal aid? Will he look, in particular, at the application by Mr. Gordon Foxley, who received £160,000 in legal aid despite the fact that he was reputed to be a multi-millionaire who had received many millions of pounds in bribes while working for the Ministry of Defence?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

It is a matter of record that Mr. Gordon Foxley was imprisoned for four years, having been convicted of 12 offences of corruption. He was ordered to pay £1,503,901.80 under a confiscation order. There are currently civil proceedings against him and others connected with him to recover other assets. It is perfectly clear that he had been concealing what he had been doing.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Shadow Attorney General

What consideration is being given to the repayment of legal costs where it is subsequently discovered that assets are available or have been recently transferred to members of a defendant's family? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind the fact that there is grave disquiet about the huge sums that have been made available in some high-profile cases? Very grave concern is felt by, I am sure, both his and my constituents on modest means who are unable to obtain legal aid for civil cases involving personal injury or modest claims of negligence.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

Yes, I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's points. He will know that they are primarily a matter for the Lord Chancellor, who has consulted on the question of legal aid for those who are apparently wealthy. A number of responses have been received and they are being considered.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will also know that it is possible to recover legal aid from assets that are, for example, recovered during the course of litigation. Indeed, if it is subsequently discovered that assets have been concealed, action can and should be taken.

Photo of Mr David Nicholson Mr David Nicholson , Taunton

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take seriously the representations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) and, indeed, by the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) because widespread concern exists that the legal aid system is not helping people who should be helped and that aid is misdirected, whether through fraud or otherwise, to people who have assets of their own and who do not merit that assistance?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. There are a number of investigations, and there have already been charges in one case in relation to alleged widespread defrauding of the legal aid system. I shall take careful note of my hon. Friend's comments, and I know that my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor will also do so.