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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, my noble friend used the word "redevelopment". Was I right in detecting in that word the idea that the building might be rebuilt and therefore might not be recognisable on completion? If I was right, does my noble friend accept that the art of politics includes at least an element of recognition of public perceptions, sensitivities and good taste? It would be unpardonable to redevelop a building which is an important relic of the time when London was the capital of the world.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, not for the first time, my noble friend Lord Marlesford is not right. It is a Grade II starred listed building and English Heritage has been involved. My noble friend knows perfectly well that one cannot knock down old buildings without all sorts of permission. That is not intended. What is intended is that better use should be made of the space available within the building, which consists of
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, the Government consulted publicly on this very point last year. The overwhelming weight of the responses supported the view that it would not be right to impose nationality restrictions on the availability of legal aid. The Government announced their decision to that effect in April, and I am not aware of any grounds for altering it.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, now that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has given the total cost of legal aid, will he speak to the newly appointed Lord Advocate in Scotland about the incompetence of the Crown Office over cases which have failed at Falkirk Sheriff Court? Those cases were legally aided. They failed because the sheriff court was closed due to the lack of procurators fiscal to prosecute the cases. Yesterday a major fraud case in Aberdeen collapsed. Would it not be in order for the legal aid costs which had been incurred in those cases to be transferred from the Legal Aid Fund to the Crown Office because of its incompetence?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, the Question on the Order Paper refers to holders of UK citizenship. I do not imagine for a moment that the noble Lord is seeking to distinguish between the Scots and others on that basis. Unless it is on some such basis, I cannot for the life of me see any connection between the noble Lord's question and the Question on the Order Paper.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor agree that there is a distinction between the provision of legal aid for those in real need--for instance, asylum seekers or those accused of crime--and for non-UK nationals who merely litigate their commercial contractual disputes in the courts of this country at public expense, for whom there is a less compelling case? Have the Government had further thoughts, since the last occasion upon which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and I adverted to this subject, about a degree of reciprocity being required in the latter category of case? That is to say, if a foreign government does not provide reciprocal legal aid in commercial disputes why should its nationals have it, as of right, in this country?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am not certain what exactly the noble Lord is proposing. I do not believe that he is proposing a distinction based on UK nationality. So far as concerns other matters, obviously there is a means and merits test in the legal aid system. If the courts of this country have jurisdiction and the case is proceeding here, it is not easy on grounds of fairness to distinguish between one litigant and another. Of course the connection between the case and the courts of this country requires to be fairly strong. Otherwise some other jurisdiction might have charge of the case. There is authority for saying that, in considering whether to send a case to another court, the question of whether legal aid is available in that court is not a relevant consideration.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, obviously I cannot speak in detail about every country, but my understanding is that in the legal aid systems of most countries where a legal aid system operates--that is by no means all--the principles upon which legal aid is available are principles similar to those which apply here; namely, that, where the courts of the country have jurisdiction, legal aid will be available and a nationality test is not applicable. That is my understanding.
The Earl of Bradford: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to prohibit the levying of service charges and cover charges other than for advertised entertainment in restaurants and premises offering similar services; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
(1) Every instrument which is laid before each House of Parliament and upon which proceedings may be or might have been taken in either House of Parliament, in pursuance of an Act of Parliament; being
(b) a scheme, or an amendment of a scheme, or a draft thereof, requiring approval by statutory instrument;
(c) any other instrument (whether or not in draft), where the proceedings in pursuance of an Act of Parliament are proceedings by way of an affirmative resolution; or
(d) an order subject to special parliamentary procedure;
(2) Every general statutory instrument not within the foregoing classes, and not required to be laid before or to be subject to proceedings in the Commons only, but not including Measures under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 and instruments made under such Measures;
(ii) that it is made in pursuance of any enactment containing specific provisions excluding it from challenge in the courts, either at all times or after the expiration of a specific period;
(iii) that it purports to have retrospective effect where the parent statute confers no express authority so to provide;
(iv) that there appears to have been unjustifiable delay in the publication or in the laying of it before Parliament;
(v) that there appears to have been unjustifiable delay in sending a notification under the proviso to subsection (1) of section 4 of the Statutory
(vi) that there appears to be a doubt whether it is intra vires or that it appears to make some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the statute under which it is made;
(vii) that for any special reasons its form or purport call for elucidation;
(viii) that its drafting appears to be defective; or
That the Committee have power to appoint one or more Sub-Committees severally to join with any Sub-Committee or Sub-Committees appointed by any Committee appointed by the Commons; and to refer to such Sub-Committee or Sub-Committees any of the matters referred to the Committee.
That it be an instruction to the Committee that they do not consider any instrument which is directed by Act of Parliament to be laid before and to be subject to proceedings in the Commons only; and that the Committee do not join with any Committee appointed by the Commons in considering any such instrument.
That it be a further instruction to the Committee that, before reporting that the special attention of the House be drawn to any instrument, the Committee do afford to any Government department concerned therewith an opportunity of furnishing orally or in writing to them or to any Sub-Committee of the Committee such explanations as the department think fit.