asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he will continue to provide support to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux for the next three years, and at what level.
My Department expects to provide over £1·l25 million in the present financial year by way of support to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. We shall maintain our support at no less than this level until March 1981. The form of our support beyond that date will be dependent upon the outcome of a review of advice services generally, which will take particular account of any relevant findings of the Royal Commissions on Legal Services in England and Wales, and in Scotland.
In view of the uncertainty and loss of morale being caused by the lack of any fixed ideas on what the subsidy will be after 1981, would it not be possible, even within the framework of this review, to give an assurance to citizens advice bureaux that their invaluable work will continue to receive help at the same real level as they are getting at present?
I think that it would be difficult to do that so far ahead. Giving an assurance for as far ahead as we have done is a departure from normal practice. I emphasise that the grant is to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, and I hope that local authorities will supplement the figure by grants at local level. I understand that the hon. Gentleman's own citizens advice bureau in Rhyl receives a grant of only £65 a year from the county council.
I recognise the excellent work done by citizens advice bureaux, but does my hon. Friend agree that they cannot adequately discharge the functions of consumer protection which were disbanded by the Tory council in the West Midlands?
I agree. That is why, at the same time as we announced this grant, we announced a grant over the same period of £3¾ million per annum for consumer advice centres.
Will the Minister explain why it has taken so long to make the announcement that he has made today? There has been a great deal of uncertainty among people in the citizens advice bureaux who, as I am sure he will recognise, do tremendously valuable work for the community.
I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the announcement of this form of expenditure has been made rather in advance of other announcements about public expenditure. I hope that he welcomes that. I agree with him wholeheartedly about support for the CAB movement. I do not think that there has been any doubt whatsoever about the degree of my support for that movement in the time that I have been a Minister.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that citizens advice bureaux appreciate the assistance which has been given by the Government? Will he resist the constant demands to cut public expenditure and accept that the public expenditure given to the citizens advice bureaux is welcomed? Will he agree that hon. Members, in dealing with constituency problems, know that many of them can be and are dealt with admirably by citizens advice bureaux?
I have often made it clear that I think that citizens advice bureaux are a best buy. We calculate that the value for money that local authorities get is about four times as much as they spend.