My Department greatly appreciates the great work that law centres are doing across the country. We support law centres with grant funding and through legal aid contracts. In April, I met Julie Bishop, the director of the Law Centres Network, and I was pleased to share a panel with LawWorks at our party conference last week. My officials are engaging actively with law centres as part of the review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
I declare an interest, having been an employee of the Hillingdon legal resource centre and the Ealing law centre before entering Parliament. Since the Government’s disastrous cuts to legal aid, many law centres have been forced to close, leaving advice deserts in parts of the country. Will the Government commit to new funding for solicitors and paralegals to work in law centres in those parts of the country that have the greatest unmet legal needs?
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work he did in his community before becoming a Member of Parliament. I should also declare that I did voluntary work in a law centre for a very brief period as part of my work as a barrister. We must encourage people to volunteer to do that work, because it is greatly appreciated. As part of the LASPO review, we are looking at how we provide advice to those who need it most, and the work that law centres do is a key part of that advice. We will be reporting on that by the end of the year.