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Legal Opinion

Defence written question – answered on 29th November 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) how many times his Department sought legal advice from external counsel in (a) 2007, (b) 2009, (c) 2010 and (d) the first six months of 2011;

(2) what the cost was of (a) internal and (b) external legal advice commissioned by his Department in the first six months of 2011;

(3) how much his Department spent on (a) legal advice and (b) instructing counsel in (i) 2007, (ii) 2009, (iii) 2010 and (iv) the first six months of 2011; how many times (A) his Department was taken to court and (B) a decision taken by his Department was subject to a judicial review; and what the outcome was of each such (1) case and (2) review.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Information on the number of times that external legal advice has been sought is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The amounts spent by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) on instructing counsel via the Treasury Solicitor's department in England and Wales were as follows:

2007-08: £2,924,728

2009-10: £4,062,823

2010-11: £4,511,062.

In the first six months of 2011, we estimate that a sum of £1,811,634 has so far been spent on instructing counsel in England and Wales. Instructing via the Treasury Solicitor's department accounts for the majority of our costs for external counsel.

Information on the amounts spent by the Department on legal advice in Scotland, where the MOD is represented by solicitor-agents, was as follows:

2007-08: £1,088,448

2008-09: £1,399,101

2009-10: £1,370,447

2010-11: £1,034,126.

The Treasury Solicitor's department also reports that the numbers of new cases involving the MOD opened by them in the years in question were as follows:

2007-08: 446

2009-10: 603

2010-11: 610.

The numbers of new judicial reviews in each year involving the MOD were as follows:

2007-08: 24

2009-10: 64

2010-11: 74.

I would stress, however, that analysis of the number of new cases opened in England and Wales needs to be treated with caution as, for example, large group actions are often treated as one case in these figures. In Scotland, there was only one judicial review between 2007 and 2011.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 7 November 2011, Hansard, columns 82-3W, in which I provided the numbers of staff currently employed in the five different legal sections within the MOD. We estimate that the costs of this internal legal advice for the first six months of 2011 to be in the region of £8.6 million. Not all of these staff, many of whom are uniformed, provide legal advice to the Department as the sole part of their duties.

With regard to external legal advice commissioned in the first six months of 2011, figures are not centrally held that would help detail an accurate grand total figure. Nevertheless, I can supply the following information which reflects our major areas of legal expenditure for this period. Fees and disbursements paid to the Treasury Solicitor's department totalled £6.7 million. Sums paid to firms working for the Department's commercial framework panel totalled £2.5 million. Fees and outlays paid to the providers of legal advice to the Department in Scotland totalled £697,929. The RAF legal service also report spending £64,750 on external legal advice relating to employment tribunals during this period.

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