To ask the Attorney-General how many claims for taxation at the central taxation units are still awaiting taxing; what is the change over the last six months; and when it is expected they will be dealt with.
At the end of February 1992, there were 1,545 claims awaiting determination by the central taxing teams. At the end of August 1991, there were 2,201 claims outstanding. Targets have now been established that 75 per cent. of claims should be determined within three months of the claim becoming ready to tax—when all related claims have been lodged—and that all claims should be determined within six months of becoming ready to tax. At the end of January 1992 three out of five teams were meeting this target. All the teams are expected to be meeting their targets by the end of July 1992.
To ask the Attorney-General what estimate he has made of the effect on public expenditure of the setting up of the central taxation units for barristers and solicitors' fees; and how much of this is due to notional interest saved to the Treasury by reason of changes in the timing of payments.
The central taxing teams were established last year in order to group together those officials most experienced in the assessment of bills submitted for the most complex and weighty claims for work done by solicitors and barristers in Crown court cases. The purpose of the establishment of these teams was to ensure that these assessments are dealt with in a consistent and proper way, in accordance with the legal aid regulations. No estimate has been made as to how those bills might have been assessed if the teams had not been in existence.
To ask the Attorney-General how many claims, which will be dealt with by the central taxation unit, have been submitted to the local court and are waiting to be called for from those courts by the central taxation units.
It is not possible to give the information requested. When a claim is submitted which may be for the central taxing team to determine, it is held until all other claims in relation to that case have been lodged. It is not until that stage that a decision can be taken about whether the claim is to be determined by the team or within the court. Under the regulations, practitioners have three months after the completion of the trial in which to lodge their claims.