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Lord Williams of Mostyn: Fundamentally, all litigation is about questions of access to justice. Therefore this particular area of litigation, though extremely important, is not different in principle to any litigant wanting his or her rights upheld in the courts.

It would be quite improper for me to give any indication of Crown policy generally which would attempt to bind my colleagues for the future. After all, any government is the steward of public funds and ought not legitimately to say, "This is going to be our policy in these matters".

However, I reiterate--and I should have thought it would be a source of comfort--what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said in his Cardiff speech and has reiterated today, and what was said by me on his authority in winding up at Second Reading; namely, of course we regard these cases as important. One signpost of that is his fund, about which he is consulting, which would be devoted entirely to this class of case. Beyond that I do not believe that any Minister ought properly and prudently to go.

Again I reiterate the remarks of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. The judges who will try this class of case will be High Court judges, well accustomed, well attuned, particularly over the past 10 years--far more attuned than many political figures--to these important questions. They will be alert and astute to the points put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. I believe it is better to trust the judges on these matters. They know the facts of the case and the importance of the issues. I believe that they will know

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where their duty, judicially, lies in coming to a proper, fair balance in everyone's interest in relation to applications for costs.

Lord Henley: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving such a long and full answer. If I dare say so in the presence of quite so many members of the Bar scattered round the Chamber, and particularly in the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, at whose feet I sat as a pupil some 20 years ago, I, too, am not a great believer in outdoor relief at the Bar. However, that is a matter that others will no doubt address in due course.

I am glad that the noble Lord recognised that the amendment was purely probing. I am grateful on this occasion to receive some support from the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. I give an assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the Chief Whip, that I shall certainly not press this amendment to a Division at this time of night. As I indicated in my opening words,

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I think that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, did full justice to this amendment. Obviously, I shall want to consider that in due course and take some advice on it.

For the moment, all I can say is that I note what the noble Lord has to say. I will take that away and look at it. It is possible that I myself and the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will return to the matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Lord Carter: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

        House adjourned at sixteen minutes before eleven o'clock.

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