Yes, Sir, my noble Friend has given active encouragement to the development of law centres ever since he first took office. Hon. Members will note from the Supply Estimates, which were published on 2nd April, that financial provisions for law centres by my noble Friend will amount to £150,000 in the new financial year—an increase of 50 per cent, on last year.
I appreciate my hon. and learned Friend's reply, but does he agree that it is intolerable that the Law Society should have powers to obstruct the development of community law centres? Does he further agree that the present provision for the Lord Chancellor merely to express his opinion is quite inadequate? Will he therefore seek legislation to ensure that the control of community law centres is either under the Lord Chancellor himself or under an independent legal commission?
My hon. Friend and I will no doubt be discussing this matter at greater length on the Adjournment later today, Mr. Speaker. The practice rules, of course, are a form of consumer protection, and the important thing is to hold the balance evenly, because rules are made for man and not man for rules.
How does my hon. and learned Friend justify the position in which the Law Society can, on criteria known only to itself, refuse to issue waivers to those solicitors who want to practise in the courts? Why should the Law Society be able to decide which solicitors can practise and which cannot?
As I replied earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), the practice rules are a form of consumer protection, and I am sure my hon. Friend would not wish to see them dispensed with. How they are to be administered is a matter being discussed between my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and the Law Society. We shall be reporting on that later today.
With regard to considering the need to extend the provision of legal services, is it not regrettable that the White Report has not yet been prepared for publication? Will the Solicitor-General tell the House when his right hon. and learned Friend is likely to be making a statement about it?