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Legal Aid

Volume 608: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2016

Before the process of legal aid reform began in 2010, our legal aid system cost the taxpayer over £2 billion each year. During the period 2014-15, the legal aid spend was £1.64 billion.

Ours is still the only country in the world that pays foreign nationals to sue our own soldiers, and last week the Supreme Court told us that the Government did not have the power to curtail legal aid for that purpose. The only solution, apparently, is primary legislation. Will the Minister tell us how he intends to make progress on this matter?

I refer my hon. Friend to some of the comments that I made earlier. However, he has made a good point about the residence test. He will appreciate that, while I have enormous sympathy with his view—as do many other people, including, in particular, millions in the country outside—we for our part await the written judgment of the Court, and will reflect on it.

Every solicitor who practises in England and Wales, as I did, has a client account. In some jurisdictions in north America, the interest earned on moneys held in client accounts is devoted to legal aid. Would the Government consider introducing such an arrangement in England and Wales?

We already have one of the most generous legal aid budgets in the world. As for what solicitors’ firms do with the interest on client accounts, the regulation of the legal profession is independent of the Government.

When it comes to legal aid, I wonder what help will be given to the family of Lance Corporal Young. They have been refused legal aid and therefore cannot take civil action against John Downey, the republican bomber who is believed to have been behind the Hyde Park bomb, and who was let off as a result of the “on the run” letters.

All decisions on whether or not legal aid is paid are made independently of Ministers. They are made by the Legal Aid Agency, on the basis of individual cases and individual facts. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I cannot comment in the House on a specific case.