Clause 1 - Lord Chancellor’s functions

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:45 pm on 19th July 2011.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice) 1:45 pm, 19th July 2011

That is true, and I will not try to second-guess what happens in the constituency of the hon. Member for Broxtowe. There may be private firms there that have legal aid franchises. I am not talking about the current position, which I explained this morning, whereby my constituency is sadly becoming an advice desert. Two or three years ago, it had good advice provision on paper, but even at that stage it was still difficult for people to get housing advice. Notionally, three different organisations in quite a small local authority area had an LSC contract for housing advice, but demand was such that, even when they were all running at full volume, there was a long wait—perhaps of two months—to get an appointment.

We are not talking about either the luxury of having advice or the lack of need for advice, or even everyone having a plentiful supply. On the contrary, the service has been a patchwork for the past 10 or 20 years. There are only 56 law centres in the country, so it is not surprising that there is not one in every constituency. There is a larger number of CABs; about half have LSC contracts and about half do not. There are other advice agencies that have LSC contracts, and there are a lot of  private firms. Constituents of the hon. Member for Broxtowe might not have to travel if they need advice, but I am sure that there will be people who have to do so.