The funding of individual citizens advice bureaux is a matter for local decision, and my Department is not involved in those discussions. I have however met representatives of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and of Citizens Advice Scotland in recent months and among the topics discussed was their funding requirements.
Will the Minister take this opportunity to express his appreciation of the invaluable work carried out by CABs in giving free and confidential advice to members of the public? Will he acknowledge that the CABs are now dealing with a vast increase in the number of inquiries about, for example, unemployment benefit, health and social security payments, cuts in housing benefit and now problems about debt repayment following the increase in interest rates? Given that many of those problems stem directly from the Government's social and economic policies, does he think that he has a moral responsibility to ensure adequate and continuing funding for the CABs?
I certainly join the hon. Gentleman in praising citizens advice bureaux all over the country for their marvellous work in advising people who come to them for advice on a range of matters. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Government have funded the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux to the tune of £9·9 million this year, an increase from less than £2 million 10 years ago. That demonstrates the Government's recognition in funding as well as praise, which I am happy to give to the work of the national association. I emphasise that, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, the funding of local bureaux has always been and remains a matter for local authority decision. Local authorities can amply take care of that and I expect them to do so.