§ Mr. Soames
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what steps he plans to take to strengthen the principle of local justice dispensed through magistrates courts. 
§ Mr. Hoon
My hon. Friend will be aware that on 29 October 1997,Official Report, columns 901–05, I made a statement to the House setting out in some detail the Government's plan for the future structure of the magistrates courts service. As part of that statement, I made clear my commitment to the concept of local justice dispensed through a locally administered magistrates courts service. We will shortly be embarking upon a joint working group with the service and local authorities which will examine the financial and legal relationship between them, define their relative responsibilities and enable the close local relationship which is already in evidence to develop further.