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Road Traffic Cases

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the number of road traffic cases which will be brought under the European Convention on Human Rights; and if he will make a statement. [131487]

Jane Kennedy: No assessment has been made of the number of cases likely to be affected as the Government anticipate that the vast majority of human rights points will be raised in existing cases, rather than new cases. We expect a significant number of human rights points to be raised in all areas of the law in the months following implementation, but it is anticipated that the level of challenges will reduce subsequently as the higher courts determine the basis on which the Human Rights Act 1998 and Convention are to be applied. The Government have

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made annual provision for the overall costs of implementing the Human Rights Act in the courts-- £60 million, including £39 million for legal aid. In addition, £4.5 million has been set aside to ensure that all full and part-time judges, lay magistrates and their legal advisers, are trained to deal with Convention points effectively, which should reduce the impact on court time.

Public Trust Office Executive Agency

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what the key performance targets are for the Public Trust Office Executive Agency for 2000-01. [133032]

Jane Kennedy: The following table sets out the key performance targets that the Lord Chancellor has set for the Public Trust Office for 2000-01.

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Public trust office executive agency key performance targets 2000-01

1. To carry out accounting transactions within target times.To bring to account at least 99 per cent. of receipts and payment transactions within turnaround targets.
2. To achieve investment performance targets.(a) On an annual basis to ensure that 85 per cent. of all measured funds perform in line or better than their model based on stock market indices.
(b) On a three year rolling basis to ensure that 80 per cent. of all measured funds perform in line or better than their model based on stock market indices.
The benchmark to be the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers (APCIMS) indices. The Office will aim to introduce an income element from 2001-02.
3. To achieve service standards.To achieve 95 per cent. of the Public Trust Office Service Standards.
4. To achieve targets for collection of private receivers' annual accounts (Protection Division) and for review of annual accounts field by both private receivers and in Public Trustee receiverships (Protection and Receivership Divisions).(a) To review 95 per cent. of accounts received within eight weeks of receipt (to apply to both Protection and Receivership Divisions). (b) To collect 90 per cent. of accounts within six months of the due date; 95 per cent. within nine months of the due date; and 100 per cent. within 12 months of the due date (to apply to Protection Division only).
5. To achieve targets for the visiting of Public Trust Office clients.(a) To visit all existing Receivership Division clients in the course of the year.
(b) To visit all new clients within one year of the Public Trustee being appointed receiver.
(c) To double the number of visits undertaken to Protection Division clients in 2000-01 from 2,000 to 4,000.
(d) 100 per cent. of urgent visits at the direction of the Court of Protection to take place within four weeks of the direction being given.
6. To achieve financial performance and targets.(a) To come within the Change Programme budget for 2000-01.
(b) To lay the PTO's Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000 before Parliament before the summer recess.
(c) To reduce debtor days in the Office's Protection Division from 94 to 85 days and in the Receivership Division from 96 to 85 days.


Fuller details of the Office's plans and targets are given in its Business Plan, which is available from the Public Trust Office.

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Stipendiary Bench

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, when section 78 of the Access to Justice Act 1999, concerning the unification of the stipendiary bench in England and Wales, will come into force. [133033]

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Jane Kennedy: The Lord Chancellor has decided that section 78 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 will come into force on 31 August 2000. Section 78 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 contains certain provisions relating to the Stipendiary Magistrates Bench; namely the amalgamation of the Metropolitan and Provincial Benches to form one national jurisdiction throughout England and

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Wales, and a change of title from Stipendiary Magistrate to District Judge (Magistrates Courts).

The Unification of the bench will mean that it will have a single, judicial head, the Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate), who will be responsible for the administration of the bench. The Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate) will be supported by a Deputy Senior District Judge (Magistrates Courts). Acting Stipendiary Magistrates will be known as Deputy District Judge (Magistrates Courts).

These changes are part of the Access to Justice Act reforms to improve the efficiency of Magistrates Courts. The newly unified bench will allow greater flexibility in the allocation of judges to hear cases and respond to fluctuations in workloads.

District Judges (Magistrates Courts) will continue to complement and work alongside the 30,000 lay magistrates, providing an efficient partnership in delivering the criminal justice process.

The Lord Chancellor is very pleased to announce these measures. They will recognise the professional standing of the Stipendiary Magistracy and the importance of the work undertaken by the Magistrates Courts as a whole.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, how many unfilled vacancies for permanent staff his Department has; what percentage of staff positions in his Department are vacant; what the monthly cost would be to his Department of employing civil servants in these positions; how many and what percentage of staff his Department employs on a temporary basis through employment agencies; how much his Department paid employment agencies to supply temporary staff in each of the last 12 months; and how much he expects to pay employment agencies to supply temporary staff in each of the next 12 months. [131430]

Mr. Lock: The Lord Chancellor's Department Headquarters currently has 80 unfilled permanent vacancies (a percentage of 12.9). If the positions were filled permanently by civil servants it would be a monthly cost of £148,000. Headquarters currently employs 44 temporary staff from employment agencies--a percentage of 7.1 of total staff. The total spent on staff from employment agencies for the period April 1999 to March 2000 was £553,452 (VAT included). We are unable to quote the expected cost for the present year as demand constantly fluctuates.

Access to Justice (Cheshire)

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on access to justice in Cheshire. [130600]

Jane Kennedy: The Lord Chancellor's aim is to provide a fair, swift and effective system of justice.

There are nine county courts which are situated in or cover parishes within Cheshire, nine magistrates courts and three Crown Court centres.

In Cheshire, as elsewhere, courts are being modernised, fit for the 21st Century. For example, one of the aims of the Crown Court Programme is to improve efficiency and

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enhance the facilities at all Crown Court centres, irrespective of size, location or current accommodation limitations.

The Community Legal Service (CLS) will improve access to good quality legal advice, through creating local networks of legal services based on local needs, so that people can resolve potential or actual legal disputes and enforce their rights effectively. A local CLS network is being set up in Cheshire, consisting of local solicitors and advice agencies, and it will be supported by the work of the Cheshire CLS Partnership. The CLS Partnership will co-ordinate funding and provision of services, based on meeting local needs and priorities. I had the pleasure of launching the Cheshire CLS Partnership on 19 May.


Co-operative Capability Programme

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the costs and benefits of United Kingdom participation in the United States Navy's Co-operative Capability Program. [130379]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Robert Walmsley to Mr. Mike Hancock, dated 25 July 2000:

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