Written Answers. - Equality Treatment Arrears.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

554 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare if there was an agreement or guidelines laid down regarding the solicitor's fees which should be charged to a client in relation to equality arrears payments paid through a solicitor; if so, if he will give details of the agreement or guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16810/96]

Under the terms of the court orders applying in the various legal proceedings taken in relation to the payment of equal treatment arrears, my Department will, in accordance with normal legal practice in such circumstances, meet the plaintiffs' legal costs. The costs which solicitors are entitled to recover from my Department are those costs which are known as party and party costs.

In addition, there may be separate solicitor and client costs which are directed at the client. As these costs are entirely a matter between the solicitor and the client, the question of an agreement regarding solicitor and client costs is a matter for the individual clients and their solicitors. The Chief State Solicitor's Office has advised my Department that where a solicitor presents such a client bill of costs, the client can refer the matter for taxation by signing a requisition to tax, which the solicitor lodges in the Taxing Master's Court together with a copy of the solicitor client bill of costs.
When taxing the solicitor client bill of costs, the Taxing Master takes into account the amount agreed or taxed in the party and party bill of costs, i.e. the Department of Social Welfare and solicitor.
Women who approach my Department regarding solicitor client costs are being advised of their right to have such costs adjudicated by the Taxing Master. Where any woman is of the opinion that she has been overcharged by her solicitor, she can also make a complaint to the Law Society who will investigate the complaint in accordance with the provisions of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 1994.