Law Centres

Oral Answers to Questions — Lord Chancellor's Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17 February 1998.

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Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Labour, Wythenshawe and Sale East 12:00, 17 February 1998

What plans he has to improve the funding of law centres [28107]

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

Law centres are primarily funded by local authorities. In addition, nine law centres currently receive grants under the Legal Aid Act 1988, and all law centres employing appropriately qualified solicitors can be paid through the legal aid green form scheme for the advice and assistance they provide. In August 1997, following changes approved by Parliament, the Legal Aid Board extended its pilot for the provision of advice and assistance by not-for-profit advice agencies, to allow the funding of salaried lawyers at law centres.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Labour, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which clearly demonstrates the complex way in which law centres are funded. In view of the need for impartiality and, in poorer areas, the growing need for access to free legal services, will he consider reverting to the original idea? Is he prepared to fund law centres directly from his Department?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

I cannot commit the Department to funding the entire costs of law centres, but I hope that my hon. Friend will be pleased to hear about a number of developments. In particular, the green form scheme will be replaced with fixed-price contracts by the end of 1999. The Government intend to introduce contracts generally for publicly funded legal services once the necessary legislation is in place. It will be open to law centres, along with other suppliers of legal services, to seek contracts. I am sure that that will improve their funding position.