Clause 182 - Grant of free legal aid: Northern Ireland

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 16th January 2003.

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Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System IT) 3:45 pm, 16th January 2003

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

I was not sure whether the hon. Member for Surrey Heath already said that he would withdraw the amendment, but I will not surprise him by inviting him shortly to do so. I think that he can guess why, and there are two grounds. First, I am concerned that the amendment would change the arrangements for legal aid in Scotland, which is a devolved function and responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Any such changes should be left to Edinburgh and its Committees. Having said that, the hon. Gentleman's understanding is correct. Scottish Executive officials, to whom he referred, have said to the Law Society of Scotland that proceedings under the Bill will be exempt, and when the Bill comes into effect, the necessary regulations will be amended in the Scottish Parliament. I understand that the Scottish Executive have already given a commitment to make the changes, so there is nothing between us.

Secondly, it is perhaps worth pointing out that the amendment is technically flawed as well, as it refers to regulations rather than primary legislation. As we know, regulations have a habit of changing titles, often simply because of consolidation, and it would be impractical for the House to amend the legislation every time that the Scottish Parliament approved a new system of fixed payment regulations. The amendment also refers to amendment regulations rather than the main regulations, which are the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 1999.

I hope that on the basis of that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.