Report (3rd Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 12th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 9:30 pm, 12th March 2012

No, I fully appreciate the noble Lord's position. We are aware that the current wording in paragraph 12 could be read as preventing funding for claims which involve a breach of convention rights, even where the client is not seeking damages under the Human Rights Act 1998 for that breach. The amendments are intended to make it clear that paragraph 12 of Part 2 excludes only a claim for damages for a breach of convention rights which is brought in reliance on Section 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

As I have said previously, the Government's view is that damages claims are generally of a lower priority for funding than other claims; for example, claims concerning domestic violence or homelessness. Therefore, the Bill allows funding only for damages claims in certain areas. These include in relation to a contravention of the Equality Act 2010 or a previous discrimination enactment, or if they satisfy paragraphs 3, 19, 20, or 34 of Part 1 of Schedule 1. These paragraphs allow funding respectively for: claims concerning abuse of a child or vulnerable adult; abuse of position or power by a public authority; significant breach of convention rights by a public authority, and claims concerning allegations of a sexual offence.

The exclusion in paragraph 12 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 is lifted for the purposes of paragraphs 3, 19, 20 and 34, so that claims under these paragraphs can include a claim for damages made in reliance on Section 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Government have also tabled an amendment to make it clear that where a claim for damages is made in the context of a judicial review under paragraph 17 of Part 1 of Schedule 1, the grant of legal aid would cover the work associated with the damages aspect of the claim. This includes a claim for damages for a breach of convention rights brought in reliance on Section 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Therefore, paragraph 12 of Part 2 has been lifted also for the purposes of judicial review proceedings.

I again assure noble Lords that these are technical amendments to the drafting of the exclusion for damages claims under the Human Rights Act 1998, but I appreciate that the noble Lord might want to read at leisure what I have just said, as will I. If there are still areas of confusion, I will be glad to engage with the noble Lord on them.