HC Deb 07 April 2000 vol 347 cc625-6W
Mr. Dismore

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on progress in implementing the extension of conditional fees. [118212]

Mr. Lock

On 1 April, sections 27, 29 and 30 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 were commenced by the Access to Justice Act (Commencement No. 3; Transitional Provision and Savings) Order 2000 (2000/774). On the same day, the Conditional Fee Agreements Order 2000 (2000/823), the Conditional Fee Agreements Regulations

Helpline Telephone number(s) Number of people working on the helpline Cost to run on a monthly basis (£)
Benefit Enquiry Line1 0800 882200 149 163,000
Textphone0800 243355
CSA National Enquiry Line2 0845 7133 133 85 95,726
Child Benefit Enquiry Line3 08701 555540 over 300 288,207
Minimum Income Guarantee4 0800 0281111 69 49,818
War Pensions Helpline5 01253 858858 23 27,818
Winter Fuel Helpline6 08459 151515 up to 70 570,000 per year
1 Staffing figures include part-time staff and equates to 132.8 full-time staff.
2 Staffing includes casual and part-time and equates to 79.4 full-time staff. Average monthly cost as at February 2000.
3 Staffing figure includes part-time staff.
4 This Helpline opened on 29 March 2000. The running costs are based only on average staffing costs for 69 staff.
5 Running costs do not include accommodation, as this is not available. The staffing and running costs also cover internal DSS callers.
6 This Helpline is seasonal with a maximum of 70 at peak times of the year when casual staff are employed. The costs, therefore, vary considerably according to the time of year. They also include the Helpdesk which is for internal DSS callers.


  1. 1. Overseas Telephone Liaison is just a switchboard; they do not give advice.
  2. 2. Pensions Direct (0191 203 0203) is a Teleservice not a Helpline. They take change of circumstances over the phone. They do not offer general advice.
  3. 3. Working Family Tax Credit and Disabled Person's Tax Credit Helplines are now the responsibility of the Inland Revenue.
  4. 4. Disability Living Allowance (main number 08457 123456/textphone 08457 224433) is a Teleservice not a Helpline.

2000 (2000/692) and the Access to Justice (Membership Organisations) Regulations 2000 (2000/693) came into effect together with the Access to Justice Act (Transitional Provision) Order 2000 (2000/900) relating to existing agreements. Rules of Court providing guidance on the recovery of success fees, disclosure of the success fee, information to be provided to clients, and other issues will be published after Easter and come into force shortly after that.

The reformed scheme for conditional fees will make access to justice more affordable to more people who wish to assert their legal rights, will encourage the early settlement of disputes and will protect consumers of legal services. In particular it will make sure that damages awarded to people winning cases are not significantly reduced by having to pay their solicitors' success fees, or the cost of litigation insurance. It will make the use of conditional fee agreements and insurance suitable for defendants or those who are not claiming money, or only modest sums, by making the costs involved recoverable from the losing party. It will also enable membership organisations, such as trade unions which provide legal services to members and their families, to recover a sum for legal costs to reflect the provision of legal help for members and their families. Making success fees, and insurance premiums recoverable for everybody is a major improvement in access to justice.