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Legal Aid

Volume 229: debated on Friday 23 July 1993

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To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many applications for legal aid have been made by solicitors acting on behalf of clients suffering from tranquilliser addiction and seeking to sue drug companies in the past 10 years; how much money has been paid to solicitors' firms over that period; how many such cases have been concluded in a court of law; and how many legal aid certificates have been issued, cases begun and legal aid subsequently withdrawn.

The only significant tranquilliser action to have received funding from the Legal Aid Board is the current Benzodiazepine action, for which 17,000 legal aid applications were made. These applications cover actions against the companies manufacturing the drugs together with the authorities prescribing them. The generic legal aid expenditure on all the Benzodiazepine drugs in the litigation amounts to approximately £3 million, though further, as yet unquantified, costs have also been incurred. In view of the numbers of individual cases involved, these costs may be considerable. None of the Benzodiazepine cases has yet been concluded. A total of 13,168 legal aid certificates were issued. The position on these is constantly changing, but at present more than 7,000 certificates have been discharged and several hundred are awaiting decisions on appeal. There have also been approximately 20 tranquilliser cases where legal aid was granted, but which were not part of the Benzodiazepine litigation. These have all been discharged and none of the cases was concluded in court.