There is little that I can add to the statements made by my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and myself on 30 October. The report is substantial, and time for consideration, consultation and reflection is required before decisions can be taken. This process has already begun, but it is too soon to say when it will be complete.
While the Attorney-General will appreciate that I set down the question before I knew that he proposed to make a statement, and before last week's Adjournment debate, may I ask him whether he has directed his mind to the implications of the Royal Commission's concern for the future of law centres? While we appreciate that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his noble Friend will require time to consider the recommendation for central funding, may I ask whether he appreciates that some law centres will not exist by then unless they receive some help in the meantime? Has he any proposals to give them some help in the meantime?
The Commission's report threw light on a number of important and immediate problems in the legal service field, which included criminal legal aid criteria, remuneration, inflation-proofing of legal aid limits, funding the CABs and law centres and, in general, how to make the best use of the limited amount of money available, and those consultations are going on.
As a matter of urgency, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider what the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) has just said—namely, that if law centres are to continue a statement of principle as to their central funding, or not as the case may be, is urgently required? Is he aware that I think that the recommendation for central funding is correct?
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the Government's attitude to closed shops appears to be nothing short of hypocrisy when one compares it with their attitude to the legal services, which have one of the tightest of closed shops?