To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate he has made of the amount of interest generated on solicitors' client accounts which are not returned to clients in the last year for which figures are available; and what assessment he has made of the practical problems of introducing a policy of using this interest to fund legal aid.
My Department has not conducted any specific research into the likely amount of interest generated on solicitors' client accounts which are not returned to clients, but other sources (new Law Journal, December 17 1993) estimated a figure of £60 million per year in 1993. It was recognised, however, that this would be dependent on the rate of interest to be applied, and also the extent to which solicitors must account the interest to clients. I am aware that many other countries use this interest to fund public legal services. No formal assessment has been made of the practical problems of using such interest to fund legal aid in England and Wales.