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Special Advisers

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the persons employed as special advisers in his Department since 2 May 1997, indicating their salary bands, in each financial year. [115063]

Mr. Straw: The information requested is as follows:

NamePeriod of employmentPay band 1998-99Pay band 1999-2000
Lord WarnerMay 1997 to October 1998----
Ed OwenMay 1997 to dateAB
Justin RussellOctober 1998 to dateBB

Lord Warner stepped down as my Senior Special Adviser prior to the introduction of pay bands. Prior to that salaries paid to special advisers fell within pay ranges which were, in 1997-98, £24,349-£73,484. From 1 April 1998 to 1 December 1998, the pay range was £24,836-£74,957, and after 1 December 1998, £26,000-£76,050.

In addition, a special adviser, Ruth Allan, was employed between 1 September 1997 and 30 September 1998 to work with the Youth Justice Task Force. Her salary was also within the pay ranges mentioned above.


Courts (Closures)

Mr. Burnett: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many courts have (a) been due for closure and (b) closed in each of the last four years; and what estimate he has made of the costs saved by each closure. [114732]

Jane Kennedy: The number of magistrates courts assessed by local Magistrates Courts Committees (MCCs) as due for closure is: 1996--20, 1997--24, 1998--25, 1999--8. The number of courts closed is: 1996--20, 1997--22, 1998--24, 1999--8. The Government's policy is that magistrates courts are best managed locally by MCCs, and that decisions and costings concerning the number of magistrates courts in its area are for the MCC to determine. The cost saving achieved by the closures is not collected centrally.

The Chief Executive of the Court Service has supplied the following information.

Since 1 March 1996 to date, public consultation on the question of closure has been authorised in respect of 37 county courts, of which 25 have been closed or amalgamated.

The number of county courts closed in each of the last four years since 1 March 1996 is: 1996--7, 1997--8, 1998--6, 1999--2. Two county courts have been closed to date since 1 January 2000.

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The financial savings to the Court Service are chiefly in terms of rent and accommodation charges, running costs such as telephone, postage, and maintenance of buildings. Figures on all the savings accruing from county court closures since 1996 are not kept centrally by the Court Service. However, a broad conservative estimate of accommodation charges saved and general running costs would indicate a minimum saving of around £3,000,000 over the four year period since March 1996. During the period there were no Crown court closures, actual or contemplated.

Legal Aid

Mr. Burnett: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what estimate his Department has made of the cost to the civil legal aid fund of increases in court fees in each of the last four years. [114731]

Mr. Lock: Court fee increases in November 1996 were estimated to cost the legal aid fund some £14 million. No estimate was made of the small increase in fees in 1997 and there were no increases in 1998.

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We estimated that the overall effect of increases in some and decreases in other court fees, in April 1999, would provide savings to legal aid of around £6 million per annum.

Damages Act 1996

Mr. Burnett: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans the Lord Chancellor has to use his powers under Section 1 of the Damages Act 1996. [115239]

Mr. Lock: The Act allows the Lord Chancellor to set a rate by which lump sum awards for damages are discounted to offset the advantage to the claimant of receiving his money all at once. In Wells v. Wells [1999] 1 A.C. 345 the House of Lords ruled that the rate should be based on the return available from Index Linked Government Securities (ILGS) because the claimant must be assumed to pursue risk-averse investments. The Lord Chancellor has today issued a consultation paper seeking comments on how the discount rate should be set and reviewed. In the light of responses he will decide whether, and if so how, to exercise the power under section 1 of the Act.

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