To ask the Attorney-General what is the estimated cost of extending legal aid to cover representation of claimants at social security commissioners' hearings.
The current estimate of the cost of extending legal aid to cover representation of claimants at social security commissioners' hearings is £300,000. This figure, however, assumes that the remuneration rates will be the same as those for matrimonial proceedings, that 90 per cent. of claimants will receive legal aid, that barristers will not be instructed and that hearings will be on average two hours long. None of these assumptions may prove to be correct.In addition, this figure assumes that the number of appeals would not increase if legal aid were to become available, which is unlikely to be the case. These additional resources may therefore be available only if savings can be made from elsewhere in the legal aid scheme.
To ask the Attorney-General whether he will make arrangements for representation at social security commissioners' hearings of claimants who would otherwise be unrepresented.
In line with my answer to the hon. Member on 16 July about legal aid for representation at Social Security Commissioners' hearings, my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has no current plans for the representation of appellants to the commissioners, because the necessary additional resources cannot be provided at present.