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Bob Russell: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the announcement will be made of which towns have been awarded city status to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty the Queen; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Competitions for grants of city status to one suitably qualified town in each of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee were launched on 25 July, with a closing date of 12 October. Forty-two applications have been received and are now under consideration. My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor hopes to announce the results in the early months of next year.
Bob Russell: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will list the names of the communities which have applied for the conferment of city status to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty the Queen. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Applications for grants of city status to mark Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee have been received, and are now under consideration, from the local authorities for the following areas:
22 Oct 2001 : Column: 49W
Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) if he will list all official overseas visits undertaken by Ministers in his Department in each year since May 1997, indicating (a) the cost in (i) cash and (ii) real terms, (b) the number and grade of (i) civil servants and (ii) special advisers accompanying Ministers and (c) the number of official engagements or meetings undertaken on each visit; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Wills: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 823W.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what his policy is with regard to (a) ministers and (b) officials in his Department giving evidence to (i) Scottish Parliament, (ii) Welsh Assembly and (iii) Northern Ireland Assembly committees; and to what categories of document he gives (A) full access, (B) restricted access and (C) no access to (1) Scottish Parliament, (2) Welsh Assembly, (3) Northern Ireland Assembly and (4) House of Commons select committees. 
Mr. Wills: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer given to him by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office on 15 October 2001, Official Report, columns 100304W.
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Pete Wishart: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will estimate the number of staff employed by his Department by region and nation of the UK; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer given to him by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 1008W.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proportion of applications for possession orders were by (a) local authority landlords, (b) registered social landlords and (c) private landlords on grounds of arrears of rent in the most recent 12 month period for which figures are available, where delays in housing benefit were claimed to be the cause of the arrears. 
Mr. Wills: Figures concerning possession applications brought by landlords are not collected in the form requested, nor by reason of application. The figures could be provided only at disproportion cost.
Mr. Fallon: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the delays to the arrangements of early listing dates in cases where the Crown Prosecution Service and the police have not prepared statements and arranged for witnesses to be available before pleas are entered. 
Mr. Wills: The national Trial Issues Group carried out a review of the reducing delay measures in November of last year, in so far as they affected the magistrates' courts. One of the recommendations was that a national agreement should be established on file quality standards so that it was clear when they were "fit for purpose" and ready to proceed to court.
The Government's strategy to reduce unnecessary delay in the criminal justice system is being taken forward at a national level by the Trial Issues Group through its Reducing Delays Sub Group (RDSG). To achieve this, RDSG established a National Implementation Team consisting of officials from the Home Office, Lord Chancellor's Department, Crown Prosecution Service, police, Law Society and the Court Service. A "post- Narey" evaluation of most of the new procedures has now been carried out and an action plan based on its recommendations has been drawn up. TIG will oversee action generally on this during the course of this year.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) how many cases of child abduction occurred in the United Kingdom in the past year; and to which countries; 
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(3) what assessment is made after the negotiation of the return to the United Kingdom of a child abducted by one parent to a foreign country of the child's preferences; and what priority the outcome of such an assessment has in relation to agreements signed with that country; 
(4) if it is his policy, in cases of child abduction, to examine the circumstances and suitability of the UK- based parent prior to entering into negotiations about the child's return; 
(5) what agreements the UK Government have made with other countries on the return of abducted children to the United Kingdom. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Between September 2000 and August 2001, there were 140 cases reported to the Child Abduction Unit of children removed from England and Wales to countries which are signatories to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. These are broken down as follows:
|Country||Number of cases|
|United States of America||27|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||2|
In addition, there are abductions to countries which are not party to the convention or which, for other reasons, are not reported to the Child Abduction Unit.
The United Kingdom has signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children. A list of countries in which both conventions are in force with the UK is given in the table. In March 2001 the Brussels II regulation came into force. This regulation deals with the recognition and enforcement of judgments made in matrimonial proceedings and orders for parental responsibility in respect of children of both spouses. If a child is abducted or retained following a contact visit the left behind parent can use this legislation to recover the child. This regulation can only be used to enforce judgments made after 1 March 2001.
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If a child has been abducted to a country which is a signatory to the Hague Convention the court in the foreign country is normally under a duty to return the child to his state of habitual residence as quickly as possible. The underlying basis of the convention is that the receiving state should not enter into an investigation in relation to the custodial issues, but leave these to be resolved by the courts in the country of habitual residence. However, the foreign court is not under a duty to return the child if he objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of his views.
While the foreign court is under a duty to return a child to his country of habitual residence as quickly as possible it may decline to do so if it would expose him to a risk of psychological or physical harm.
The agreements the Government have made in relation to the return of abducted children to the United Kingdom are the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Council of Europe Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to the Custody of Children.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Hague||(7.4.92)|
|Canada (most states)||Hague||(1.8.86)|
|Cyprus (Southern)||Hague/European||(1.2.95) (1.10.86)|
|Czech Republic||Hague/European||(1.3.98) (1.7.00)|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Hague||(27.4.92)|
|Republic of Ireland||Hague/European||(1.10.91)|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||Hague||(1.8.94)|
22 Oct 2001 : Column: 53W
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