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Islington LEA

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many of his Department's officials have been seconded to work on the outsourcing of certain education services from Islington LEA; and at what cost to his Department. [137226]

Ms Estelle Morris: No officials have been seconded from the Department to work on the outsourcing process in Islington.

Charter of Fundamental Rights

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if Article 15 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights requires equal working conditions for nationals of third countries working in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [136462]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

The Charter will be a political declaration of rights, freedoms and principles and is not legally binding. Article 15 recognises that third country nationals who are authorised to work in a particular member state should enjoy working conditions such as protection against unfair dismissal and health and safety, equivalent to citizens of the EU. This is consistent with existing UK law.

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Notices of Possession

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the average length of time between serving of a notice of seeking possession on a tenant of a local authority and the granting of possession where the application was successful (a) in England and Wales, (b) in the West Midlands counties and (c) in Birmingham in each of the last two years; and if he will make a statement on his proposals to speed up the process. [136288]

Mr. Lock: Information about the length of time between serving a notice of possession on a tenant of a local authority and the granting of possession is not collected.

The Lord Chancellor's Consultation paper entitled: "Access to Justice: Housing and Land proposed new procedures", was issued on 19 July 2000 and included proposals to streamline possession proceedings and tackle unnecessary delay. The proposals were welcomed by the majority of those who responded to the consultation. Draft rules, taking into account the comments received, are currently being considered by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee.

The Lord Chancellor's review of civil enforcement has concluded that service standards should be introduced to the courts, setting a target for evictions to be carried out no later than four weeks after the bailiff first receives the warrant.

Court Service

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what reports, research or projects have been undertaken for the Court Service in the last three years by Mtic Ltd. [136532]

Mr. Lock: We do not have any information or information to indicate that the Court Service has employed this company in the last three years.

Public Trust Office

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will list the work undertaken for the Public Trust Office in the last three years by (a) FTI, (b) IRC Europe, (c) Mtic Ltd, (d) PriceWaterhouse and (e) Zeldon Health Ltd. [136199]

Jane Kennedy: In the last three years none of these organisations has undertaken work for the Public Trust Office.

Civil Procedure Rules

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment she has made of the implementation of the civil procedure rules; what audit has been carried out of the financial consequences of implementation for the Department and

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the litigating public; and what change there has been in the number of cases conducted by litigants in person following implementation. [136293]

Jane Kennedy: Overall, the civil justice reforms are proving to be a success. A number of bodies have already provided their own independent opinion of the success of the reforms. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Federation of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) have provided helpful presentations to the Civil Justice Council. The Centre for Dispute Resolution (CEDR) commissioned MORI to conduct a poll of lawyers and some judges. In addition, Wragge & Co. (Solicitors) have provided research of FTSE 1,000 companies.

From this research it is apparent that attitudes to civil justice have improved with parties coming together earlier to discuss the case. Anecdotal evidence suggests that parties are more willing to co-operate to reach settlement and, where disputes are taken into court, the litigation is conducted in a less adversarial manner.

The Lord Chancellor's Department has just commenced its own evaluation programme, having allowed 18 months for 'bedding in' factors such as stabilisation of work load and the disposal of the majority of pre-reform cases in the system. The programme comprises academic research projects to assess the qualitative aspects of the reforms, attitudinal research through survey to obtain the views of those who use the system, and evaluation of the quantitative aspects through empirical data analysis. The programme is expected to take two years. The long-term financial consequences for the Department and for the litigating public will form part of the overall evaluation programme. Initial indications are that the number of claims commenced by litigants in person has increased since the implementation of the civil justice reforms, but it will not be possible to confirm this or come to conclusions until the overall evaluation programme is completed.

Access to Justice

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on access to justice in Buckinghamshire. [136476]

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

There are six magistrates courts, two county courts, and one Crown court in Buckinghamshire. Courts in Buckinghamshire are being modernised in order to be fit for the 21st Century. For example, one of the aims of the Crown court programme is to improve efficiency and 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 local networks of legal services based on legal needs. There are now 67 firms of solicitors and advice agencies in Buckinghamshire in the latest edition of the CLS Directory, which means they either have the CLS Quality Mark already or are likely to apply for the Quality Mark in the near future. They will provide the local CLS

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network in Buckinghamshire. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) is also looking to set up CLS Partnerships covering Buckinghamshire, which will co-ordinate the funding and provision of local services. There is a CLS Partnership in Chiltern, and the LSC are looking to form partnerships with the other districts in Buckinghamshire.


Criminal Justice System

Mr. Olner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements have been made to improve the co-ordination and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in England and Wales. [137359]

Mr. Straw: The Government are committed to improving the performance of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in England and Wales and have set out clear aims, objectives and targets for the CJS as a whole. A Strategic Plan for the CJS was published in March 1999 covering 1999-2002 and a Business Plan for the CJS in 2000-01 in May 2000. Copies have been placed in the Library. An updated CJS Business Plan for 2001-02 will be published early in 2001.

The strategy for the CJS is overseen by the Ministerial Group on the Criminal Justice System, chaired by me and including my noble and learned Friend, the Lord Chancellor, my noble and learned Friend, the Attorney-General, my right hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury together with Ministers and senior officials from the main CJS Departments. As part of the 2000 Spending Review, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced in July 2000 a new reserve of £525 million over the three years 2001-02 to 2003-04 to be used to help deliver the objectives and targets set out in the latest CJS Public Service Agreement. Initial decisions on use of the reserve will be made in the next few months.

Alongside these new resources the Government are working with the police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts, probation and prison services on an on-going programme of modernisation and reform and are engaged in a number of important reviews of the criminal justice process. These include Sir Robin Auld's review of the criminal courts and a review of the present sentencing framework led by John Halliday, formerly Director of Criminal Justice Policy at the Home Office.

The Home Office, the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Law Officers' Department and Her Majesty's Treasury are now pursuing work to draw together the experience of the last three and a half years, and, taking account of the current reviews, to identify the way forward for the longer term. Any firm conclusions which emerge from this work will be reported to the House.

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