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Legal Aid

Volume 86: debated on Monday 11 November 1985

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65.

asked the Attorney-General what has been the increase in the last year in the time taken by the Law Society to issue civil aid certificates.

The Law Society estimates that in the financial year 1984–85—which is the latest period for which information is available—it took an average of 56 days to issue a civil legal aid certificate. This compares with 55 days in 1983–84. These are actual days. The comparable figures for working days are 39 for 1984–85 and 38 for 1983–84, an increase of one working day.

asked the Attorney-General what representations have been received from solicitors practising under legal aid certificates regarding delays in the payment of fees; what is the problem of staffing as regards certifying payments; and whether he is satisfied that all payments are currently made as expeditiously as possible.

The payment of bills arising under legal aid certificates is a function of the Law Society. It is for it to allocate staff to this and the other functions that it carries out in respect of legal aid administration within the provision allocated by the Government. In the context of the sums available for the overall total of public expenditure provision has been allowed to enable the Law Society to employ up to 1,300 staff in this financial year compared with 1,275 and 1,250 in the past two years. During 1985, the Lord Chancellor has received a small number of letters from solicitors about delays in the payment of bills. Such delays are never satisfactory but the Lord Chancellor is confident that the Law Society does everything it can to keep them to a minimum.