§ Ms Coffey
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans there are to extend public funding for proceedings before the VAT and Duties Tribunal, the General and Special Commissioners of Income Tax and the Protection of Children Act Tribunal. 
§ Mr. Lock
The Lord Chancellor has today issued for consultation a direction which extends publicly funded representation to some tribunals: certain proceedings before the VAT and Duties Tribunal, certain proceedings before the General and Special Commissioners of Income Tax and all proceedings before the Protection of Children Act Tribunal.
The direction will authorise the Legal Services Commission to fund legal help and legal representation in these proceedings, subject to applications passing the statutory tests of an applicant's means and the merits of the case.
The Commission will be able to fund representation in proceedings before the VAT and Duties Tribunal and the General and Special Commissioners of Income Tax, in the minority of those proceedings which concerns the imposition of penalties which may be considered criminal in ECHR terms. This will ensure that the Government's commitments under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights are met in full.
Although the Protection of Children Act Tribunal does not impose financial penalties, we consider that the overwhelming importance of the proceedings to the 601W individuals involved means that legal representation should be provided at public expense to those who cannot afford it.
The consultation period will last one month. We intend to bring in the new arrangements with effect from 2 April 2001. Copies of the direction have been placed in the Library of the House.