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Act of Settlement

Paul Flynn: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the compatibility of the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701 with Articles 9 and 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998. [6484]

Mr. Wills: The Government do not consider that the Act of Settlement 1701 contravenes Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Act does not, for example, interfere with a person's right to practise the religion of his or her choice. The Court of Human Rights has consistently held that it considers only the facts of a particular case and does not give judgment on hypothetical situations.

Judges' Lodgings

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what progress he is making in reviewing the use and cost of judges' lodgings; and if he will make a statement. [6440]

Mr. Wills: The review will be taken forward in the context of relevant recommendations of Lord Justice Auld's report, which was published on 8 October, and in the light of the results of public consultation on its recommendations. In the meantime, the Lord Chancellor has decided to implement some administrative improvements in the lodgings network, including the use of more cost-effective transport, and to close the lodgings at Mold on the Wales and Chester Circuit. These decisions will save over £300,000 per year once implemented.

Lay Magistracy

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on recruitment, retention and training and service obligations for the lay magistracy. [7143]

Mr. Wills: In general there are no particular problems recruiting or retaining enough magistrates. Over 5,000 applied to be Justices last year. However, it is harder to recruit or retain people in some areas than in others and it is necessary to encourage people from all walks of life to apply. That is why my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor's officials are considering how to develop a national strategy that will encourage more people to apply from as wide a cross section of the community as possible. Advisory Committees try to be flexible to accommodate magistrates having difficulties and considering resigning, and the Lord Chancellor

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expects courts to try to accommodate Justices who may be seeking to combine public service with family or work commitments. The minimum requirement is for 26 half- day sittings, that being the minimum number of sittings to ensure magistrates keep their knowledge and skills current.

Training is of course necessary to equip magistrates to discharge their responsibilities effectively. The amount of training required differs from person to person and depends on identified needs but there is a core syllabus delivered to all magistrates locally.

City Status Competition

Mr. Burns: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the timetable for the competition to determine city status to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's Golden Jubilee; and when an announcement is expected on the names of the successful towns. [7167]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Telford (David Wright) on 20 July 2001, Official Report, column 787W.

Magistrates Courts

Mr. Key: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what financial and other assistance is available to people who would normally be summoned to appear before Salisbury magistrates but are instructed to travel to Chippenham court following the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998; and if he will make a statement. [7373]

Mr. Wills: There is no assistance available which relates to the particular venue. Defence and private prosecution witnesses may be paid certain expenses of attendance, at the discretion of the court. Other prosecution witnesses, including the victim, are paid their reasonable expenses by the prosecuting authority. An acquitted defendant may be granted a defendant's costs order to cover any out of pocket expenses.

The location of courthouses is a matter for the individual Magistrates Courts Committee. The committee will take account, among other things, of the requirements of the Human Rights Act, although nothing in that Act requires cases to be heard in a particular type of location. Other relevant legislation, for instance, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, may require the Magistrates Courts Committee to consider questions of accessibility and the best way of providing a high standard of facilities to the population of the committee area as a whole.

Civil Servants (Retirement Age)

Mr. Brady: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will list the compulsory retirement ages which apply to employees of her Department and of executive agencies and other public sector bodies for which it is responsible, broken down by grade or job title. [7241]

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Ms Rosie Winterton: Information on the normal retirement age for the Lord Chancellor's Department and its executive agencies is as follows:

However, staff can stay on above the normal retirement ages at management discretion, subject to business needs.


Mr. Salmond: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) if she will place in the Library for each year since 1995 the average response time for providing a substantive answer to (a) hon. Members' correspondence, (b) correspondence from members of the public and (c) written parliamentary questions in the (i) House of Commons and (ii) House of Lords; [7013]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The effective handling of correspondence and PQs is an issue to which I, and ministerial colleagues, attach great importance.

General information on the volumes of correspondence received across Whitehall and on overall performance is published by the Cabinet Office. Figures for 2000 were published on 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324–28W and on 19 July 2001, Official Report columns 454–56W.

The time limits for answering written parliamentary questions vary considerably. The calculation of an average response time would not, therefore, provide a reliable indication of the timeliness of answers. The table shows the percentage of written parliamentary questions tabled to this Department, in both Houses, which were answered within the time limits set since the 1996–96 session.


SessionPQs answered within target

The total number of parliamentary questions, in both Houses, tabled to this Department since the Parliamentary session 1995–96 are set out in the table.

SessionNumber of PQs
2001–02 (to date)154

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Criminal Courts Review

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he will publish the report of Lord Justice Auld relating to the court and criminal justice system. [7534]

Mr. Wills: Sir Robin Auld's report on the Criminal Courts Review was published on 8 October. The Government are grateful to Sir Robin for his very substantial and important review of the criminal courts at every level. The Government will seek views from the public and from those working in the criminal justice system so as to gain a broad consensus for effective reform. The period for comment ends on 31 January 2002. In the light of those comments, the Government hope to make early decisions on whether to adopt the Recommendations, and to announce them in a White Paper. The full report of the review has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is on the Criminal Courts Review website:, and the CJS website at


Beta Interferon

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the likely annual additional cost of prescribing beta interferon to the same percentage of MS patients as the EU average. [7215]

Ms Blears: We do not hold sufficiently robust information on the public funding of beta interferon treatment in other European Union countries to make such an estimate.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will make his decision on the provision of beta interferon to MS patients. [7245]

Ms Blears: The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) Appraisal Committee further considered the evidence on the use of beta interferon and glatiramer acetate for Multiple Sclerosis sufferers on 25 September 2001. NICE has subsequently issued a provisional appraisal determination (PAD) to interested parties for comment.

The institute has stated that, to allow sufficient time to take proper account of the extensive comments received on the PAD, it now intends to issue the final appraisal determination to consultees towards the end of October this year.

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