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Pro Bono Work

Volume 497: debated on Thursday 15 October 2009

14. What recent progress she has made in encouraging lawyers to undertake pro bono work (a) in England and (b) abroad. (293081)

The domestic and international pro bono co-ordinating committees, which the Attorney-General chairs, continue to undertake excellent work in encouraging lawyers to do pro bono work in the UK and abroad. That includes preparing for the annual pro bono week, which takes place from 9 to 13 November and is intended to raise awareness of pro bono work for lawyers and potential recipients. That week will celebrate the achievements of about 50 pro bono heroes, who have between them carried out 6,500 hours of pro bono work nationally during the past 12 months. If anybody has a non-Latin phrase instead of pro bono, it would be very helpful, because I am stumped for one.

Can I tell the Solicitor-General about some pro bono heroes in my constituency? I do not know whether she is aware of this, but the College of Law at Chester runs an excellent pro bono scheme, whereby members of the public receive free legal advice from postgraduate students—under the full supervision of fully qualified staff, I hasten to add. Does she agree that that is a very good example of how we can encourage the next generation of lawyers to appreciate the value and, certainly, the need for pro bono work?

Absolutely; I agree. The College of Law at Chester has a long and proud history, and it is good that—to use a cruel metaphor—two birds are being killed with one stone: people get much-needed help, and at the same time the younger generation of lawyers start to understand the need for such work and the ethics of the profession into which they are moving. Teesside university near my constituency has a similar scheme.

I wonder whether the Solicitor-General is aware that many pro bono lawyers act on behalf of the victims of human trafficking to get money from the traffickers. What my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) has mentioned is the real problem. The Solicitor-General may be aware from meetings with the Director of Public Prosecutions—otherwise she will just have to accept it from me—that most traffickers have immense amounts of money outside the jurisdiction. That is why most of the police raids never find money. What can she do to extend the jurisdiction, so that traffickers pay the victims whom they traffic?

The hon. Gentleman deserves 11 out of 10 for his ingenuity in linking that question about trafficking to pro bono work. I heartily congratulate him.

Very good—the traffickers are getting away scot-free; a Conservative Front Bencher has come to the rescue of the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen). The hon. Gentleman made a strong point about the position of overseas resources. As I have said, work is going on to try to tackle the issue. Any assistance or examples that can be provided from the front-line contacts that the hon. Members for Totnes and for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) definitely have through their work on the all-party group on the trafficking of women and children would be gratefully received.