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Gaming Industry

Mr. Pond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to deregulate the gaming industry. [154562]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I am today publishing a consultation document which sets out proposals for an order under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994--or, if it is enacted, the Government's Regulatory Reform Bill--to change certain aspects of the gaming machine industry. Our consultation document makes three specific proposals that would alter the law contained in the Gaming Act 1968 Act on jackpot and higher-value amusement with prizes machines.

First, we propose to allow players to use bank notes and electronic smart cards in these machines. Secondly, we propose to allow winnings to be stored in these machines to be used for further plays without the player having to reinsert money into the machine. Finally, we propose to allow these machines to be set so as to pay out winnings in cash (notes or coins), by printing a cheque, by adding credit to the player's smart card, or by means of a credit note or token redeemable by the operator.

The Government believe that these reforms will benefit both the industry and its customers. The consultation document asks for comment by 15 June 2001. I am placing copies in the Library.

Essex Constabulary

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the absentee rates among police officers for (a) training and (b) sickness in the Essex constabulary in each year from March 1997 to the latest date for which figures are available. [154483]

Mr. Charles Clarke: No central collection is made of information about absentee rates for training and Essex police have advised me that they are unable to provide this information.

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Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) collect data from forces on police sickness absence. The annual rates of sickness for Essex police from 1996-97 to 1999-2000 are as follows:

Number of working days lost through sickness per police officer

Court Visits

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 9 March 2001, Official Report, column 390W, on court visits, (1) if he will list improprieties he witnessed by members of the legal profession during his visits; [153834]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 15 March 2001]: I have observed a wide range of proceedings dealt with by criminal courts. However, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the detail of individual cases.

Electoral Registers

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the policy of his Department is on commercial selling of electoral registers to private and commercial organisations; and if he will make a statement. [154454]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 allows regulations to be made restricting the sale and supply of the full electoral register. Section 9 gives effect to a recommendation of the working party on electoral procedures that each individual registered elector should have the option of deciding whether the details that they have provided should be included in the commercially available register by using an opt out box on the registration form. We hope to publish draft regulations for consultation by Easter.


Child Abduction

Sir John Stanley: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will place a copy of the Central Authority for England and Wales' working paper submitted to the Permanent Bureau for the forthcoming Special Commission to review the operation of the Hague Convention on child abduction in the Library. [154318]

Jane Kennedy: Working papers produced in consultation with the entire United Kingdom delegation will be placed in the Library early next week, when the texts have been finalised.

Magistrates (Stoke-on-Trent)

Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a

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statement on the selection criteria operated by the Advisory Committee on Justices of the Peace for Stoke-on-Trent in relation to recruiting magistrates, with specific reference to applications from Labour party supporters. [153797]

Jane Kennedy: All advisory committees in England and Wales operate the criteria set out in my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor's directions for advisory committees on justices of the peace, copies of which are available in the Libraries. The pre-eminent requirement is that a candidate must be personally suitable for appointment, possessing the six key qualities required in a magistrate (good character; understanding and communication; social awareness; maturity and sound temperament; sound judgment; commitment and reliability). As a secondary consideration, in common with his predecessors, the Lord Chancellor requires that each magistrates bench should broadly reflect the community it serves in terms of gender, ethnic origin, geographical spread, occupation and political affiliation.

Political affiliation has been used by successive Lord Chancellors as a proxy for social balance in the lay magistracy and has been endorsed by two Royal Commissions. The Department, by letters dated 7 August 1995 and 17 July 1996, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, referred to the concern of the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that the political balance in Stoke-on-Trent was not good, with the Labour vote under reflected, and encouraged measures to seek our more Labour voters to become magistrates.

My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor personally favours the abandonment of using political balance as a proxy for achieving social balance. With this in mind he issued a consultation paper in 1998 "Political Balance in the Lay Magistracy" seeking views. While most respondents favoured removing political affiliation as a balancing factor, no viable alternative was suggested. The Lord Chancellor therefore reluctantly decided in 1999 that political balance would have to remain for the time being, but instructed officials to continue to work on an alternative.

Later this year pilots will be conducted to ascertain whether or not a combination of social and occupational groupings would be a practical alternative to political balance.


National Insurance Numbers

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 7 March 2001, Official Report, columns 233-34W, on national insurance numbers, how many spouses of those deceased persons with national insurance numbers are still alive. [153803]

Mr. Rooker: This information is not available.

Benefits (Tyneside)

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the number of children in (a) South Tyneside and (b) South Shields constituency who were receiving Child Benefit in (i) 1997 and

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(ii) 2001; what the rates of benefit were; and what the average annual income from Child Benefit was in (a) 1997 and (b) 2001 for those areas. [154437]

Angela Eagle: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is as follows.

South TynesideSouth Shields
August 1999
Number of children19,81010,475
Average weekly amount per family (£)21.1721.35
November 2000
Number of children19,47410,358
Average weekly amount per family (£)22.5622.67


1. Figures are from a 100 per cent. extract of the Child Benefit Centre Computer System.

2. Information from before 1999 is not available on this basis.

3. The average annual income from Child Benefit is not available.

4. Average weekly amounts are based on Child Benefit, Guardians Allowance and Child Benefit (Lone Parent). We are not able to split them into the individual components.

5. Cases are allocated to each parliamentary constituency by matching the postcode against the relevant (ie 1999 or 2000 versions 1 or 2) of the ONS Postcode Directory. Constituency boundaries are represented as at May 1997.

The rates of Child Benefit were as follows:

Jobseeker's Allowance

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many Jobseeker's Allowance claimants there are in (a) South Tyneside MBC and (b) South Shields constituency; how many there were in May 1997; and how many such claimants were continuous claimants of more than two years. [154442]

Angela Eagle: The information is in the table.

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Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) recipients in South Shields constituency and South Tyneside metropolitan borough council area by duration--May 1997 and November 2000

South Shields Central parliamentary constituencySouth Tyneside metropolitan borough council
May 1997
All cases4.77.3
Duration two years or more1.21.8
November 2000
All cases3.45.4
Duration two years or more0.50.8


1. Figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred and quoted in thousands.

2. Based on 5 per cent. sample therefore subject to sampling error.

3. Figures include cases receiving Income-based or Contribution- based JSA and those receiving no benefit and signing for National Insurance Credits only.

4. As JSA was only introduced in October 1996 the duration figures for May 1997 include those on Unemployment Benefit or Income Support for the unemployed prior to October 1996.


Jobseeker's Allowance Statistics Quarterly Enquiries, May 1997 and November 2000

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