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Parliamentary Hours

Mr. Alexander: To ask the President of the Council what information she has collated on (a) sitting hours and (b) times of divisions in other Parliaments. [144422]

Mr. Tipping: Information on sitting hours in certain other legislatures may be found in pages 133-163 of Volume II of the Report of the Select Committee on Sittings of the House, (HC (1991-92)20-II), but I am not aware of any more recent published research.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the President of the Council if the special advisers working for her will relinquish their posts when the next General Election is called. [149311]

Mr. Tipping: I refer the hon. Member to the answer provided to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 13 February 2001, Official Report, column 130W.

Departmental Expenditure Limit

(Privy Council Office)

Mr. Browne: To ask the President of the Council what proposals there are to amend the Privy Council Office departmental expenditure limit and running costs limit for 2000-01. [151188]

Mr. Tipping: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate for Class XVII, Vote 5, the Privy Council Office Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) for 2000-01 will be increased by £318,000 from £2,951,000 to £3,269,000 and the running costs limit will be increased by £318,000 from £2,991,000 to £3,309,000.

The increase will be comprised of a transfer from the Cabinet Office, Class XVII, Vote 1 of £20,000 in respect of running costs for 2 Carlton Gardens, and by a claim on the DEL reserve for unexpected increases in accommodation and running costs for the Privy Council Office of £298,000. The increase will not, therefore, add to the planned total of public expenditure.


Departmental Policies (Bristol, East)

Jean Corston: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to

26 Feb 2001 : Column: 574W

the Bristol, East constituency, the effects on Bristol of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [150557]

Mr. Lock: The Department is in the process of providing a new Civil Justice Centre to deal with all civil and family work in Bristol. The new court is required to replace the existing county court, which is located on a split site at the Guildhall and Greyfriars. The existing accommodation is in need of substantial repair and alteration to bring it in line with current requirements. In addition, leases on both buildings are due to expire in September 2004.

Providing a purpose-built court building on one site will also help improve operational efficiency. The new court will consist of eight civil courtrooms and six District Judge's Justice Rooms. This is based on workload forecasts for the next 25 years. In addition, the new building will accommodate other Court Service administrative staff currently located in other offices in Bristol (including the probate registry and regional administrative support offices).

The scheme for the new Civil Justice Centre is still at a relatively early stage, and negotiations with a provisional preferred bidder are continuing. A potential site in the centre of Bristol has been earmarked for the development, however a number of outstanding issues need to be resolved before this can be confirmed. The current intention is for negotiations to be concluded by September 2001, with the new building being ready for use by the end of 2003.

The Bristol Community Legal Service Partnership (CLSP), which covers Bristol, East, is one of 160 CLSPs throughout England and Wales. Membership of the Bristol CLSP includes representatives of Bristol City Council, Advice Centres for Avon, Bristol Mediation, Disability Advice and Information Service, Age Concern and the LSC. The CLSP has developed a referral system for all advice providers in Bristol that is currently being piloted. Links are being forged with the Health Authority and with other Regeneration Partnerships, especially in relation to advice provision in the Barton Hill area of Bristol, East.

Throughout Bristol, the Legal Services Commission has let contracts to legal and advice service providers with a total first year value in excess of £1.7 million. Specifically, in the Bristol, East constituency, the Legal Services Commission last year let three contracts--to two firms of solicitors:

and to one not-for-profit advice agency:

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The total first-year value of these contracts amounts to over £120,000.

Credit Referencing

Mr. Drew: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to review the law whereby there is no obligation on a credit card company to alter their credit referencing files after losing a court case [150857]

Dr. Howells: I have been asked to reply.

I understand that credit card companies do not keep credit reference files. Instead they usually obtain such information from credit reference agencies. These agencies have to comply with the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. The latter requires that information is accurate and held no longer than necessary.

I therefore have no current plans to review this subject.

Departmental Policies (Clwyd, South)

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Clwyd, South constituency, the effects on Clwyd, South of her Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [150915]

Jane Kennedy: The organisation of the magistrates courts in North Wales has been restructured to provide for more efficient and effective management and improve working with other agencies in the criminal justice system.

Clwyd, South is covered by three Community Legal Service Partnerships; Wrexham, Denbighshire and Powys. However, Clwyd, South only partially covers each of these local authority areas. There are currently 165 CLSPs throughout England and Wales, and 15 of these are based in Wales.

Throughout Wrexham 13 agencies have been awarded contracts with the CLS. The suppliers are located in the centre of the city, but provide services to residents of all Wrexham wards. This includes 11 solicitors, one housing specialist and one Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). The total value of the contracts awarded amount to over £373,000.

Within Denbighshire 10 solicitor firms and two not-for-profit organisations have been awarded contracts whose total value amounts to over £273,000. While many of the law firms draw clients from the more populated areas to the west of the local authority area, people to the south can access advice from South Denbighshire CAB. As there are no law firms in the south of Denbighshire, some people in this area tend to access advice services in Wrexham.

In the north of Powys four agencies have been awarded contracts whose total value exceeds £60,000. Some residents in the north of Powys are likely to access services from Oswestry. There are four organisations in Oswestry awarded CLS contracts and the value of these contracts amount to over £88,000.

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Custody and Contact Arrangements

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when she will make proposals to improve court procedures in respect of custody and contact arrangements in cases of family breakdown; if they will include arrangements for better protection of children and vulnerable spouses; and if she will make a statement. [150801]

Jane Kennedy: The Government are currently considering a number of ways in which court arrangements in respect of residence and contact for children could be improved. One area of particular concern is unnecessary delay in children's cases. A scoping study to determine the need for reform of court procedures, in order to reduce delay, is currently being considered. On the specific issue of protecting children and vulnerable spouses, the Lord Chancellor has welcomed the report of the Children Act Sub-Committee on child contact and domestic violence and is currently considering, with the President of the Family Division, what further action may be necessary. The Sub- Committee will also shortly produce a consultation paper on the equally sensitive area of the facilitation and enforcement of contact orders. In all these areas the Government regard the interests and welfare of the child as paramount.

Judicial Behaviour

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department on how many occasions in the last 12 months she has reprimanded members of the judiciary for their behaviour (a) in court and (b) outside; and if she will make a statement. [150891]

Jane Kennedy: The Lord Chancellor, as head of the judiciary, is responsible for dealing with all matters of judicial conduct. He takes a firm line with any Judge whose behaviour falls short of what both he and the public expects. There have been seven instances in the past 12 months where the Lord Chancellor has had sufficient cause to reprimand a Judge for his or her behaviour. Six of these cases concerned behaviour in court, and one concerned behaviour outside court. These reprimands have either been in the form of a letter from the Lord Chancellor or, at his instigation, at a meeting between the Judge and the Presiding Judge. In a further case, the Lord Chancellor decided not to re-appoint a Deputy District Judge for a final possible year.

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