§ Dr. Lynne Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans the Government have to ensure that people appealing against decisions to reduce or withdraw benefit entitlement have access to free advice and representation at independent tribunal hearings. 
§ Mr. Keith Bradley
People who appeal against decisions to reduce or withdraw benefit entitlement already have access to free advice and representation at tribunal hearings, through various welfare organisations and Citizens Advice Bureaux. Most advice agencies which offer free tribunal representation are funded by local authorities, by Department of Health section 64 grants or by a combination of the two.
The appeals leaflet, NI 246, which is attached to the appeal form, provides information about the options open to appellants for obtaining advice. Some people may receive advice from a solicitor through the Legal Advice and Assistance scheme.
There are no plans at present to extend the scope of legal aid to allow representation before tribunals.