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Legal Aid

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what changes to the criteria for eligibility for legal aid for civil cases have been made since May 1997. (284086)

On 1 April 2000, the Access to Justice Act 1999 came into force and established the community legal service (CLS) in place of the previous civil legal aid scheme. The financial eligibility criteria for legal help and for legal representation through the CLS were set out in the Community Legal Service (Financial) Regulations 2000, which came into force on 1 April 2000. The financial criteria were substantially amended by the Community Legal Service (Financial) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2001, which came into force on 3 December 2001. This brought about the simplification of the means test, with the introduction of a gross income limit and disposable income calculation based on a small number of targeted allowances. The financial eligibility limits are increased from time to time in line with inflation. From April 2005, the income limits for legal help and legal representation were aligned. At the same time the disposable capital limit for legal help was increased from £3,000 to £8,000, and we allowed the disposable income limit to be waived for victims of domestic violence seeking protection from harm. From 9 April 2007 we extended this so that both income and capital limits could be waived for these domestic violence victims. On 6 April 2009 we increased the financial eligibility limits for civil legal aid by 5 per cent.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much has been spent in (a) cash terms and (b) real terms on legal aid for civil cases in each year since 1996-97. (284171)

The information requested is shown in the following table, however, expenditure for 2008-09 is provisional. The figures do not include administration costs. The real terms expenditure is based on 2008-09 prices.

£ million

Total cash civil legal aid expenditure

Real terms expenditure

1996-97

807

1,073

1997-98

793

1,028

1998-99

836

1,061

1999-2000

769

957

2000-01

792

973

2001-02

735

883

2002-03

813

946

2003-04

898

1,017

2004-05

846

932

2005-06

831

899

2006-07

809

850

2007-08

844

862

2008-09

913

913