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26 Apr 1995 : Column WA81

Written Answers

Wednesday, 26th April 1995.

''Legal Aid for the Apparently Wealthy''

Lord Mountevans asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take in the light of the responses to the consultation paper Legal Aid for the Apparently Wealthy.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): Fifty responses to the consultation paper were received. I am grateful to all those who expressed views. As a result of the consultation exercise, I am planning to take the following action: 1. I intend that a special investigations unit should be established to handle means assessments in both civil and criminal cases where the applicant's financial circumstances are unusually complex. I have invited the Legal Aid Board to advise me on the feasibility of establishing such a unit, and on the practical arrangements necessary to establish and run it. 2. I intend to amend the legal aid regulations to provide those assessing the means of applicants for legal aid with a discretionary power to include in the means assessment the assets of friends, relatives and children where these appear to be providing a significant material advantage to the applicant. 3. I intend to examine further the practical implications of allowing the trial judge in criminal cases to release details of the statement of means of an applicant for legal aid in specified circumstances. 4. I intend to take powers to require applicants for legal aid to transfer ownership of any assets that they fail to declare in their application to the legal aid authorities so that the money disbursed in legal aid can be recovered from those assets. 5. I intend to amend the legal aid regulations to provide that there shall be a limit of £100,000 on the amount of equity value in a house that is ignored in the legal aid means assessment. I also intend to limit the maximum amount of mortgage that can be offset against the equity value of a house to £100,000, and to limit the amount of mortgage repayment allowable against income to the amount due on a £100,000 mortgage.

I was persuaded by the weight of the responses that the other proposals in the consultation paper should not be pursued.

The overwhelming weight of the responses supported the view expressed in the consultation paper that it would not be right to impose nationality restrictions on the availability of either criminal or civil legal aid. I therefore propose to make no change in the present arrangements on this point. Assets held abroad by those applying for legal aid in this country will continue to be taken into account in the means assessment process.

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Ambassadors: Remuneration Committee

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any recent changes to the pay of the most senior ambassadors.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My right honourable Friend the Prime Minister announced on 9 February that parallel arrangements to those established for the pay of permanent secretaries would be made for the most senior ambassadors—that is those with a rank equivalent to permanent secretary.

A remuneration committee has now been established to advise on the pay of those ambassadors. The full terms of reference are below. Though the final decisions on the pay of individual ambassadors will be for my right honourable Friend, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Goodlad) to take, we would expect normally to accept the recommendations of the committee.

As in the case of the remuneration committee dealing with permanent secretaries pay, there will be five members of the committee, three from the private sector, the head of the Diplomatic Service and the chief clerk of the Diplomatic Service. The recommendations made will be those of the three private sector members and the terms of reference provide that the chairman be drawn from their number.

Sir Denys Henderson has agreed to be the first chairman of the committee. Sir Michael Perry and Mr. Allan Gormly have also agreed to serve on it. We are grateful to them. The presence of Sir Michael Perry, who is also chairman of the senior salaries review body and of the Committee on permanent secretaries' pay, will help ensure that awards made to senior ambassadors are in balance with those made to permanent secretaries.

The salaries of individual ambassadors will be published in £5,000 bands in the departmental report each year.

Terms of Reference of the Remuneration Committee

Membership 1. There shall be a committee on the pay of Grade 1 ambassadors of whom the members will be:


    Three members drawn from the private sector, including one member of the senior salaries review body (SSRB)


    the head of the Diplomatic Service


    the chief clerk of the Diplomatic Service.
2. The chairman of the committee will be one of the private sector members.

Remit 3. The purpose of the committee is for the private sector members to make proposals to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on the pay of individual Grade 1 ambassadors save in so far as their pay is determined by the terms of an individual appointment.

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4. The pay of Grade 1 ambassadors will be accommodated within the pay range for permanent secretaries to be determined from time to time by the Government. The committee may not propose other forms of remuneration or benefit than pay falling within this range. 5. In making proposals the committee shall take the following factors into account in relation to individuals:


    the relative level of responsibility of the post occupied;


    the performance of the embassy in meeting its objectives and executing the policy of Ministers and, in particular, the personal contribution the individual has made in terms of policy advice and efficient management, including where appropriate meeting the measured objectives of the embassy;


    the particular demands placed on the individual, including those stemming from his or her public role;


    the experience of the individual in the present post or in others occupied at Grade 1 level;


    in the case of those newly promoted, the level of pay in their previous post;


    the individual's own assessment of his/her achievements and the main requirements of the job.
6. The committee shall also take into account these wider factors:


    the pay levels of permanent secretaries in the Home Civil Service and of other senior staff in the Diplomatic and Civil Services, and in particular those immediately below Grade 1/Permanent Secretary;


    the increases recently given, or likely to be given in the period ahead, to DS staff and civil servants generally, and the pay progression available to them;


    the extent of the change for any individual as well as the absolute level of pay, and the presentation of both;


    any movement in the pay range as a whole;


    the nature and terms of the Civil Service Pension Scheme;

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    any statements made by the Government on public sector pay;


    the maintenance of the confidence of the individual, that recommendations have been properly and fairly determined;


    the need to ensure recommendations are consistent with the Government's equal opportunities policies.

Trident

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that Trident is included in any future five-power arms control negotiations.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): We have stated at the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review and extension conference of states parties that a world in which the nuclear forces of the US and Russia were counted in hundreds rather than thousands would be one in which we would respond to the challenge of multilateral talks on the global reduction of nuclear arms.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the doubling of the number of warheads on Trident as compared to Polaris will strengthen or reduce the United Kingdom's nuclear capability following the withdrawal of the remaining free-fall nuclear weapons by the end of 1998.

Lord Henley: With Trident we will continue our policy of deploying only the minimum nuclear capability necessary for deterrence purposes.

MI5 and MI6

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they decided to relocate MI5 and MI6 from their former sites.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): Consideration was given to the relocation of the Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service from the mid-1980s. The decisions on the locations to which they subsequently moved were taken in 1988.

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