Oral Answers to Questions — Legal Aid

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 April 2001.

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Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Labour, Kilmarnock and Loudoun 12:00, 3 April 2001

If she will make a statement about the implications of the Human Rights Act 1998 for fixed fees in legal aid. [155195]

Photo of Dr Lynda Clark Dr Lynda Clark Advocate General for Scotland, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Advocate General for Scotland

My hon. Friend may be aware that a case on the subject of legal aid is due to be heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on 25 and 26 April. The case concerns fixed payment levels under the criminal legal aid regulations in Scotland, and it is argued that such a system is incompatible with article 6 on the right to a fair trial. I have intervened in the case so far to make written submissions to the Judicial Committee.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Labour, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

As my hon. and learned Friend will be aware, in the longer term, it is intended to address issues of exceptional cases in legal aid by the mechanism of regulations made under the Convention Rights (Compliance) (Scotland) Bill which is currently before the Scottish Parliament. As she invariable ends up arguing the difficult cases before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, what discussions have there been between her as Advocate-General and the Scottish Executive on the shape of those regulations?

The Advocate-General:

The merits of the case to which I have just referred have still to be determined. However, on the general issue raised by my hon. Friend, I am pleased to say that there is a great deal of discussion on policy matters of common interest between policy officials and Ministers in United Kingdom Departments and those in Scotland. As Advocate-General, I have also encouraged my lawyers to have discussions on relevant legal issues as soon as possible to try to sort out any specific difficulties.