Oral Answers to Questions — Community Law Centres

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1976.

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Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

asked the Attorney-General if he proposes to encourage the development of community law centres; and what steps he proposes to take.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

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.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

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?

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

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.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

What protection could a community law centre give to a British Rail clerk dismissed for the alleged misconduct of not joining a union, when other people go virtually scot-free after bringing our car industry to its knees?

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

If the hon. Gentleman has a Question to address to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, no doubt he will table it.

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Haringey Tottenham

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?

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

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.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

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?

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

Mr. White is an official in the Department of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, and it is not normal for reports by an official to a Minister to be published. My noble Friend is hoping to be able to make a statement in the very near future.