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Legal Aid And Advice Act (Implementation)

Volume 530: debated on Monday 19 July 1954

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asked the Attorney-General whether he will now make a statement with regard to proposals for implementing the provisions of the Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949, in order to avoid injustice being done to persons who through lack of means are unable to obtain professional advice when necessary so as to be adequately represented in county courts and magistrates' courts when necessary.

Does the Attorney-General feel that he is entitled to be so complacent about this matter in view of the fact that 6 million houses will be affected by the new Housing Repairs and Rents Bill? Does he realise that it is impossible for laymen to understand the complications involved in that Measure and similar Measures? Does he not think that something ought to be done to help the laymen to conduct his case in the county court in a proper manner?

I am not in any way complacent about the matter. I fully appreciate the paint of view of the hon. Member, and I hope that the time may come when we shall be able to do something.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman familiar with the procedure adopted by the Assistance Board in assessing the needs of applicants for legal aid and advice certificates? Is he aware that a constituent of mine was recently granted a certificate and commenced a serious legal action in the High Court on the strength of the certificate, but later had the certificate withdrawn on a reassessment of means, which intervened while the action was pending? Will the Attorney-General look into the procedure, which seems to me to be highly contentious?

I think that is a slightly different question from the one I was asked, but if the hon. Member will give me particulars of the case he mentioned. I shall be glad to look into it.

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what would be the cost of implementing the Act? Could he say, also, when he is likely to bring forward proposals to implement the Act?

I cannot give any figure for the cost. The matter has been considered, but it is extraordinarily difficult to arrive at a figure. As for when the Act may be implemented, hon. Members will appreciate that I am not in control of a matter of that kind. I cannot give any undertaking about what may be done in a future Session.

Would the Attorney-General reconsider this matter? With the greatest respect, is he not aware that he himself would find it considerably difficult to understand many of the provisions of many of the new Acts now coming into force? Is it not a very serious thing to expect a layman to know when he ought to take a case to the county court and when he ought not to do so? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not realise that the new Act will enable agreements to be entered into between the parties and, in consequence, people will be compelled to enter into them not knowing their legal position?

I certainly appreciate that legal aid is a very valuable social service, but, as the hon. Member will know, there is a great demand for the extension of social services of all kinds and the matter has to be dealt with as one of priority.