HC Deb 08 May 2001 vol 368 cc14-5
33. Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

What recent action the Lord Chancellor's Department has taken to improve access to justice in Macclesfield; and if she will make a statement.[159322]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Jane Kennedy)

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a statement, but it might take me a little time, as we have been extremely busy in improving access to justice in Macclesfield.

The Cheshire community legal service partnership, which covers the Macclesfield area, has been formed to improve access to legal information and advice throughout the county. In Cheshire, the first phase of the project to have a single, national, standard computer system in magistrates courts was delivered in February 2001. A private finance initiative project is in the pipeline. In the county courts in Macclesfield—as elsewhere in England and Wales—the court service is examining how best to use modern technology to improve and increase access outside the traditional court environment.

Mr. Winterton

As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) flattered the Minister, may I do the same and thank her for that extremely helpful reply? However, she knows that if justice is to be effective, it needs to be local. She talks about a private finance initiative project for a new magistrates court in Macclesfield. Will she give a commitment today that that is part of a firm plan, subject to all authorities agreeing, and that we will have a new magistrates court in Macclesfield to serve the town and the surrounding area?

Jane Kennedy

The details of the project are still being considered. It would be wrong to give a commitment at this stage to proposals before I have been able to consider them. However, I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's comments, as I will to the representations that I know that he will make in future.