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Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, in view of the great increase in the cost of legal aid over recent years, would it not be a good thing to restrict the number of people who are entitled to authorise it?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, some time ago I put out to consultation a Green Paper containing new proposals for legal aid among which are proposals about who might grant legal aid. The object would be to ensure that the amount predetermined as the amount to be spent on legal aid was satisfactorily related to the amount actually spent and to have regard to the interests of justice in terms of accessibility for those who would be entitled to legal aid.
Lord Molloy: My Lords, do lawyers have any responsibility to inform their clients if they feel they should have legal aid or to inform them how to go about getting it? Many people never hear of legal aid or how to get it until they find themselves in a difficult situation.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, lawyers have the responsibility to advise their clients on all the circumstances which may be relevant to their particular situation. Although this may not exactly arise out of the noble Lord's question, I should add that lawyers have a responsibility to inform the legal aid authorities if the case moves against their client in a way that is relevant as to whether legal aid should be continued. Lawyers have wide responsibilities in relation to legal aid.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, some 3.4 million people annually are beneficiaries of legal aid, which suggests at least that knowledge of legal aid is fairly widespread. There may be pockets of people who are ignorant of the possibilities, but I think such pockets are very isolated and rather small.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, so far as concerns civil legal aid, the means assessments are done by the Benefits Agency. The detail of what it does in particular cases is something about which I cannot know in view of the confidentiality provisions. In criminal legal aid, the assessment is done by the court. We have had some problems over the years because of the difficulty experienced by those responsible in the courts in examining fully what is required in the way of support for the means statements of applicants for criminal legal aid. Some illustrations we have had recently of those with complicated financial affairs suggest that it would be wise to have a special unit with specialist knowledge and expertise available to try to unravel more fully than is possible at the moment the affairs of such people. As a result of the consultation carried out earlier on legal aid for the apparently wealthy, I have decided to introduce such a unit. I am advancing plans for it as speedily as I can.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): My Lords, I understand that the long-term benefits generated by the Millennium Exhibition will be considered by the commission in its assessment of applications for grant towards the costs of the exhibition. If these benefits include the provision of permanent exhibition space, the Millennium Commission will take that into account.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that additional exhibition space would greatly enhance our exporting prospects; and that by having no facility in the UK of 200,000 square metres a real advantage is handed to France and Germany?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, there are those who feel that the country's prospects would be enhanced by having additional exhibition space. However, views vary as to where that space should be or whether it should be free-standing or built in conjunction with conference centre and hotel accommodation.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I declare a directorship of an Andry Montgomery company which has interests in using exhibition space but not in owning it. Does my noble friend realise that there are in Europe no fewer
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, any such project which would be of benefit to London and the country is obviously to be greatly welcomed. But inherent in my noble friend's question are some of the problems which would face anyone bringing forward such a project. The devil lies in the detail with such ideas.
Lord Donoghue: My Lords, the millennium is linked directly to the lottery. If noble Lords were to look up the legislation they would find that to be so. Have the Government any Statement to make on any decision they may have made on the position of the regulator of the National Lottery? Whether they have or not--whoever holds that position--will the Minister assure the House that they will firmly inform the regulator that the main purposes of the lottery were to benefit prize winners and good causes and not the fat cats of Camelot?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord's question, if not entirely out of order, is very close to being so. My department has received a preliminary report from Mr. Davis. Officials have discussed it with him this morning. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State needs carefully to consider the issues raised. She does not intend to take precipitate action. It would be inappropriate and unfair to say more on the matter today. She will report to the House in due course.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, is it intended to have just one Millennium Exhibition Centre, or could there be more than one? Will the Minister consider that it might be desirable, quite apart from establishing a new exhibition centre, to build on a successful on-going centre such as Birmingham which was mentioned a moment ago? I understand that it has space for expansion. In view of the facilities that it has, it would be a good idea for that to be extended as well as developing some new centre.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, decisions about the Millennium Exhibition are for the Millennium Commission. It is intended that there will be a wider millennium festival which will be focused on the exhibition itself.
Lord Elton: My Lords, would my noble friend find it reasonable to remind my noble friend Lord Beloff that people who attend exhibitions of the scale about which we are talking number in their tens of thousands and come from all over the world particularly to see British goods?