Previous Section Index Home Page

Lord Chancellor's Apartments

39. Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many people have visited the Lord Chancellor's apartments. [155210]

Mr. Lock: Since March 1998, there have been 282 public tours and 99 charity receptions held in the Lord Chancellor's official residence. As a result, 16,511 people have visited and approximately £2 million has been raised for charity.

Rural Magistrates Courts

40. Mr. Luff: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on her policy on rural magistrates courts. [155211]

Jane Kennedy: The Government's policy is that magistrates courts are best managed locally by magistrates courts committees, under the provisions of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997. Decisions concerning the future of magistrates courts in their area, whether rural or urban, are for the relevant magistrates courts committee to determine.

Lay Magistracy

41. Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what steps she is taking to increase the number of lay magistrates. [155212]

Jane Kennedy: The numbers of justices required in any one area of the country is determined locally depending on the workload of the courts. My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has no present plans to seek to increase the number of justices generally. If my hon. Friend has any specific problems in mind I would be happy to discuss these further with her.

Departmental Policies (Luton, South)

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

3 Apr 2001 : Column: 175W

constituency, the effects on the Luton, South constituency of the Lord Chancellor's Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [156158]

Mr. Lock: The Lord Chancellor's Department is responsible for the administration of the courts and for legal services. We have taken steps to improve the management and effectiveness of the services we provide and to meet customer needs, including working closely with other agencies to provide a fair, swift and effective system of justice, improve the availability of affordable and good quality legal services and to improve the lives of children and help build and sustain strong families.

In particular, Luton, South constituency is covered by the Luton and South Bedfordshire Community Legal Service Partnership, which is one of 170 Community Legal Service Partnerships throughout England and Wales.

Within the Luton, South constituency, as at 8 March 2001, 12 firms of solicitors and three Not-for-Profit organisations had been awarded Legal Service Commission contracts with an expected combined expenditure value in the financial year 2001-02 of £451,000. The contracts cover a range of categories, including Family, Welfare Benefits, Immigration, Debt, and Mental Health.

As at noon 30 March 2001, nine firms in the constituency had signed Criminal Defence Service contracts for 2001-02. During the year, the total value of payments for work done under these contracts is expected to be approximately £2,290,000.

Sentencing Guidelines

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what discussions she has had with the judiciary on sentencing guidelines, with particular reference to convicted offenders in wheelchairs. [156250]

Jane Kennedy: None. Sentencing is a matter for the courts. Parliament lays dow the parameters within which sentencers must work but it is then for the courts to decide on sentences in the individual circumstances of each case. Sentencing guidelines are laid down by the Court of Appeal, with the assistance of advice from the Sentencing Advisory Panel. Additionally, the Magistrates' Association publishes guidance to assist magistrates with sentencing.

Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill

Mr. Derek Twigg: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what effect the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill will have on the rights of Crown leaseholders to enfranchise and to acquire a new or extended lease. [157024]

3 Apr 2001 : Column: 176W

Mr. Lock: Following a statement made on 2 November 1992 by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), the Crown authorities gave an undertaking that the Crown would, as landlord and subject to specified conditions, agree to the enfranchisement or extension of residential long leases under the same qualifications and terms which applied by virtue of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 and the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 to lessees who hold from other landlords.

The Crown authorities have confirmed that they will apply the terms of this undertaking to the provision of the 1967 Act and the 1993 Act as amended by the present Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill if enacted. This undertaking accordingly supersedes the one given on 2 November 1992.

The full terms of the agreement made by the Crown are as follows: