HC Deb 13 March 2001 vol 364 cc569-70W
Mr. Kemp

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the constituency, the effects on Houghton and Washington, East of the Lord Chancellor's Department's actions since 2 May 1997. [152988]

Jane Kennedy

The Lord Chancellor's Department is responsible for the administration of the courts and for legal services. We have taken steps to improve the management and effectiveness of the services we provide and to meet customer needs, including working closely with other agencies to provide a fair, swift and effective system of justice, improve the availability of affordable and good quality legal services and to improve the lives of children and help build and sustain strong families.

In particular, the Sunderland Community Legal Service Partnership (CLSP), which covers Houghton and Washington, East constituency, is one of 165 CLS Partnerships throughout England and Wales.

A wide range of organisations have come together to form the CLSP including Sunderland city council, the Legal Services Commission, local solicitors, Wearside Money Advice Unit, the University of Sunderland, the Family Mediation Service, the Benefits Agency, Shirley Row Advice and Resource Project and Washington CAB.

Within Houghton and Washington the Legal Services Commission has awarded contracts to solicitors with a total value in excess of £327,000. The contracts cover a range of categories, including family, debt and employment.

In addition, Wearside Money Advice Unit has a contract form the Commission to provide debt advice. Although based in Sunderland, they offer a service across the whole of Wearside. The contract is worth £41,514.

All of these organisations hold the Quality Mark at Specialist level. In addition a further eight organisations have expressed an interest in obtaining the Quality Mark.

The Magistrates' Courts Committees (MCCs) of Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Sunderland amalgamated to form the Northumbria MCC on 1 April 2000.