Citizens Advice Bureaux

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 2000.

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Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth 12:00 am, 30th November 2000

What steps he is taking to ensure that the citizens advice bureau service is available at a consistent level throughout England and Wales. [139535]

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry

The Government help to ensure that the citizens advice service is available at a consistent level throughout England and Wales through their support for and funding of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. This year, the Government provided £15.7 million to that organisation to maintain standards through support and training to the individual citizens advice bureaux in England and Wales.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

I welcome the Government's support for the national association, to which I pay tribute for its work throughout England and Wales. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the quality of consistently maintained support is of use only if it is accessible to people in all parts of England and Wales? Will he encourage local authorities in every area of the country, especially those providing services to deprived areas in towns and cities, or flexible services in more rural areas, to ensure that local services are adequately supported and funded?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry

First, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his work in the voluntary sector—he has been a great supporter of citizens advice bureaux. Local authorities deal with the local distribution of the service. It is worth noting that the UK gets £30-worth of work for every £1 spent on voluntary support, which makes the service very cost effective. I concur with my right hon. Friend—any local authority that does not take cognisance of that should now do so, to ensure that that valuable service is available to its electorate. Secondly, the consumer support network, which was announced by my hon. Friend the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs in October, is giving a first-class service to many people who have problems with consumer affairs.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

What would the Minister say to any county council that refused to help citizens advice bureaux?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry

I would say that such a council should review its position. Although the Government are very supportive of citizens advice bureaux, the decision rightly rests with local authorities. However, I would ask any such authority to revisit the electorate's need for the service.