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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 28 February 1994

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Legal Aid

Mr. Maclennan : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) what is the minimum period before which fees are settled for legal aid in (a) England and Wales and (b) Northern Ireland.

(2) what is the average length of time for settlement of fees in legally aided cases in (a) England and Wales and (b) Northern Ireland.

(3) what is the maximum period his Department allows itself for settlement of legal aid fees in (a) England and Wales and (b) Northern Ireland.

Mr. John M. Taylor : There is no minimum or maximum period for settling legal aid claims in England and Wales or in Northern Ireland. For England and Wales, both the Legal Aid Board and the Lord Chancellor's Department have set performance targets for processing claims. Present targets and performance against those targets is as follows :


Type of proceedings                      |Time               |Target             |Performance                            

                                         |taken              |(per cent.)        |(per cent.)                            

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Magistrates' Courts' Bills<1>            |6 weeks            |90                 |<2>95                                  

Civil Bills (taxed and assessed)<1>      |6 weeks            |75                 |<3>84                                  

Other Bills<1>                           |6 weeks            |92                 |<2>95                                  

Criminal Higher Bills (standard fees)<1>                                                                                 

 (i)claim lodged day case                |5 days             |100                |87                                     

  concluded                                                                                                              

 (ii)claim received thereafter           |10 days            |100                                                        

Criminal Higher Bills<1>                                                                                                 

 (courts' non standard fees)             |4 weeks            |70                 |73                                     

Criminal Higher Bills<4>3 months         |75                 |74                                                         

 (taxing teams' non standard fees)       |6 months           |100                |100                                    

<1> From receipt of claim. The process involves the assessment of claims, and in                                         

civil proceedings investigation of the statutory charge, as well as the actual                                           

payment process.                                                                                                         

<2> 99 per cent. within 13 weeks.                                                                                        

<3> 98 per cent. within 13 weeks.                                                                                        

<4> This target relates to final payments and to the period from the bills being ready                                   

to tax. "Ready to tax" means all claims in the case have been submitted. In                                              

certain circumstances interim payments may be made in respect of these cases.                                            

For the first time the Law Society of Northern Ireland set targets for processing claims during 1993-94. These were based on actual performance during 1992-93, which was as follows :


Type of proceedings              |Time taken<4>      |Performance                            

                                                     |Per cent.                              

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Criminal legal aid                                                                           

Magistrates' Courts Bills        |7 weeks            |50                                     

                                 |12 weeks           |93                                     

Appeals from Magistrates' Courts |7 weeks            |50                                     

                                 |12 weeks           |90                                     

Crown Court bills                |12 weeks           |35                                     

                                 |26 weeks           |95                                     

Bails                            |7 weeks            |54                                     

                                 |12 weeks           |94                                     

Civil legal aid                                                                              

County Court                     |7 weeks            |73                                     

                                 |12 weeks           |88                                     

High Court                       |7 weeks            |79                                     

                                 |12 weeks           |91                                     

Appeals                          |7 weeks            |73                                     

                                 |12 weeks           |89                                     

Bails                            |7 weeks            |72                                     

                                 |12 weeks           |90                                     

ABWOR                            |1 week             |100                                    

Legal Advice and Assistance      |7 weeks            |92                                     

<4> From receipt of claim to assessment. A further period of up to 4                         

weeks may elapse before actual payment.                                                      

Public Appointments

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what percentage of public appointments made by his Department in 1993 were of women ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The figure for public appointments made by the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Northern Ireland court service in 1993 is 42 per cent. This answer does not include judicial appointments.

Mr. Bryan G. Davies

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will invoke the services of the Official Solicitor in the case of Mr. Bryan G. Davies, currently in Brixton prison.

Mr. John M. Taylor : As a Minister I have no power to assign the Official Solicitor to a particular case.

Mortgage Repossessions

Mr. Battle : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proposals he has to implement the Law Commission's proposals to allow for a time limit over the period after mortgage repossession during which interest may be charged by the lender.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Law Commission's report on "Transfer of Land--Land Mortgages", Law Com. No. 204, which contains these proposals remains under consideration by the Government.

Mr. Battle : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if his Department will collect and publish statistics on possession proceedings taken by secured lenders.

Mr. John M. Taylor : At present, information is published on possession actions taken in the county courts, broken down between local authority and private lenders, including banks, building societies and other lenders. My Department has no plans to amend the categories used in the collection of these statistics.

Courts Charter

Mr. Battle : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans his Department has to amend the courts charter to ensure that courts provide access and facilities for disabled people and minority language provision.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The courts charter applies equally to all court users. It will be reissued in April 1995


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and revised to ensure that it meets the needs of court users. Facilities for disabled people are provided in all new court buildings and when old buildings are refurbished. However, there are constraints with some of the very old buildings. A register of facilities for disabled people in the Crown and county courts is produced by the Department.

County Courts

Mr. Battle : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what recent discussions he has had with the citizens advice bureaux service and other consumer and advice agencies on providing advice and representations schemes in the county courts.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The citizens advice bureaux are consulted on all proposed county court rule amendments. The majority of county courts hold regular user committee meetings usually at quarterly intervals. The citizens advice bureaux and other advice agencies are represented on approximately 50 per cent. of the committees.

European Court of Human Rights

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he last met the Home Secretary to discuss the method for petitioning the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor and I regularly discuss matters of common interest with the Home Secretary.

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he last met the President of the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. John M. Taylor : I have never met the President of the European Court of Human Rights. The Lord Chancellor last met him on 8 October 1993 at the Council of Europe summit meeting in Vienna.

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what representations he has


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received on the ability of United Kingdom citizens to petition the European Court of Human Rights ; and from whom.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor and I have received representations on this subject from five persons or bodies. I will not say who they are since I have not obtained their consent to do so.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Public Appointments

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of public appointments made by his Department in 1993 were of women ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir John Cope : The latest statistics, for the year ending 1 September 1993, show that women were appointed to 31 per cent. of the public appointments made by the Treasury.

Value Added Tax (Domestic Fuel)

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what average net weekly increase to revenue his Department estimates will be generated by the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel once all bills become subject to the 8 per cent. rate of VAT.

Sir John Cope : There are no plans to charge 8 per cent. VAT on domestic fuel and power. Estimates of the yield of forthcoming changes are given in the Financial Statement and Budget Report.

Crown Estate Commissioners

Mr. Ainger : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the current Crown Estate Commissioners ; how were they appointed ; when were they appointed ; and how long their appointment will last.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The information requested is set out in the table :


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