I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) for allowing me a brief intervention. I congratulate him on having initiated this debate, and I thank him for his reference to myself.
Concern on this issue is widespread, not least in the borough of Hillingdon, of which my constituency of Hayes and Harlington is a part. In my view, the Law Society has adopted a blinkered approach, which it would be well advised to reconsider. It totally ignores the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. The criterion for permitting the setting up of a community law centre is that of local need, and this should not be interpreted in any narrow or pedantic way.
That there is such a need for this service in Hayes is recognised not only by the borough council but by all these representative individuals and social agencies most involved in the life of this community. As its Member of Parliament, and a lawyer myself, I could, if I had time, speak eloquently and in detail about the very real local need for legal advice and assistance in particular fields.
Finally, let me say to my friends in the Law Society that for all of us there are wider principles at stake in this issue. The general public are growing restive and resentful at what they consider, sometimes justifiably and sometimes quite wrongly, to be restrictive professional practices that are harmful to the social good. There is a real danger that in digging too deep a trench on this issue the profession may be digging a hole from which it will have difficulty in extricating itself. I hope that the Law Society will reconsider its position before sharper public reaction develops.
Be that as it may, this seems to be a matter that is far from intractable, and one that could easily yield to a little common sense. For that reason I am glad that the Lord Chancellor is bringing his wisdom and conciliatory talent to bear on the issue, and at this stage, having said what I have, and my hon. Friend having stated the matter with great clarity, I would think it right to wait for the Lord Chancellor's review of this decision before commenting further, though certainly there are profound issues of principle opening up for inevitable future debate in this House as well as elsewhere.