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Social Exclusion

41. Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what part the new community legal service partnerships play in reducing social exclusion. [10351]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Community legal service partnerships are responsible for co-ordinating the funding and delivery of legal and advice services in their area. Through an analysis of local legal needs, CLS partnerships can ensure that resources are more effectively targeted to help the socially excluded and other vulnerable groups and individuals.

CLS partnerships are also able to tackle social exclusion by forging links with other Government programmes. CLS partnerships are therefore starting to link with social exclusion initiatives such as local strategic partnerships where they have a key contribution to make to the delivery of the neighbourhood renewal strategy.

In order to raise awareness of how legal and advice services, through the CLS, can help combat social exclusion, the Lord Chancellor's Department has been working with the Law Centres Federation on a joint paper, to be entitled "Legal and Advice Services—A Pathway out of Social Exclusion". The paper will be launched in November and is to be made widely available.

Magistrates Courts (Ceredigion)

42. Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on his response to Ceredigion county council's proposals for magistrates courts in the county. [10352]

Mr. Wills: I responded by letter to Ceredigion county council on 26 September 2001. My response detailed the Department's position with regard to the issues raised and reiterated the responsibilities of magistrates courts committees for the effective and efficient management of courts in their area.

Jurors

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if jurors have the option of being escorted in and out of court (a) by separate entrances and (b) at different times from the rest of the public. [12428]

Mr. Wills: Twelve Crown court centres have separate entrances used only by jurors, but most other courts can arrange for them to use a separate entrance if it is felt necessary. Arrangements can also be made for jurors to be escorted in and out of the building, and at different times from the rest of the public, if the need arises.

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Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is done to prevent threatening behaviour from the families of convicted defendants toward jurors (a) in and (b) outside court. [12427]

Mr. Wills: Separate accommodation is made available for jurors until they are ready to leave the court building. If there is any threat of retribution, or if the jurors are concerned about their safety, arrangements can be made to transfer them safely away from the vicinity of the court.

District Judges

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many district judges (magistrates' courts) are in post, broken down by the ethnic minority communities; and how many of them are (a) under 45 years and (b) women. [12075]

Mr. Wills: The figures have not changed from those shown in my noble and learned Friend's Judicial Appointments Annual Report (Cm 5248) published on 30 October 2001. This shows that as at 1 April 2001 there were 98 district judges (magistrates courts) in post including the senior district judge and her deputy. Of this total number, 82 are males (86 per cent.) and 16 are females (14 per cent.). Two of these district judges are Asian, one man and one woman, and two women are under 45.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Non-departmental Public Bodies

Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many executive NDPBs there have been in existence each year from 1978; and what the total expenditure by these bodies was in each year in (a) real and (b) actual terms. [11808]

Mr. Leslie: Information on the number and expenditure of executive NDPBs for each year from 1979 (when the classification was introduced) to 2000 is published in the Cabinet Office publication "Public Bodies 2000". Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House. Information on the number and expenditure of executive NDPBs during the 2000–01 financial year will be published in the new year.

Regional Co-ordination Unit

Mr. Moss: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what was the budget of the regional co-ordination unit (a) last year and (b) this year; and what the projected figure is for next year. [12522]

Mrs. Roche: The regional co-ordination unit's (RCU) budget for administrative running costs is £9.716 million in 2001–02. Funding for 2002–03 has yet to be finalised, but is expected to be in the region of £9.116 million.

The RCU was formed during 2000–01 and overall expenditure on the RCU and its predecessor unit, the Government office co-ordination unit (GOCU) for that year totalled £5.55 million.

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A large element of the budget of the RCU and its predecessor unit is for funding that is managed centrally on behalf of the Government office network as a whole, such as for IT and communications systems. For the current financial year, £6.689 million is in respect of centrally managed budgets.

Energy Efficiency Week

John Barrett: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what action his Department took in recognition of energy efficiency week. [11508]

Mr. Leslie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment on 30 October 2001, Official Report, column 592W.

My Department's initiatives to improve energy efficiency will be listed in the Green Ministers report to be published on 27 November 2001. This will include efforts by the Cabinet Office and its agency, the Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA), to improve energy awareness among staff. Since October 2001, 100 per cent. of electricity used at 10 Downing street and the Cabinet Office buildings at 70 Whitehall and Admiralty Arch are now being generated by renewable energy (CCL exempt) sources.

Equitable Life

Mr. Chope: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will refer to the parliamentary ombudsman the cases of those civil servants who took out additional voluntary contribution policies with the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1999 and 2000 under the civil service AVC scheme; and if he will make a statement. [12824]

Mr. Leslie: No. The Cabinet Office, as managers of the civil service AVC scheme and acting on behalf of the civil service as employer, has wished to see that the appointed scheme providers remain suitable for AVC investment. To that end, the Cabinet Office appointed Bacon and Woodrow some years ago to provide expert and professional advice in this role. Bacon and Woodrow have conducted regular reviews of the civil service AVC providers and their continuing suitability for the civil service AVC scheme, as well as providing advice on specific developments. The Cabinet Office has acted throughout on the independent advice of Bacon and Woodrow. It believes it has met its responsibilities as manager fully and properly.

The civil service AVC scheme, provides members with a choice of provider and wide choice of investment route. AVC investment carries the same risks as any other investment and benefits are not guaranteed.

In acting on independent advice from Bacon and Woodrow, the Cabinet Office has been acting in the same way as other pension schemes affected by the problems of Equitable Life. It has not been in a privileged position and has not had access to information which is not available to the pensions industry more widely. There is a clear difference between the role of the Cabinet Office as managers of the civil service AVC scheme and the regulatory role carried out elsewhere in Government. The Cabinet Office believes it has exercised its duty of care responsibilities fully and properly.

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The Government, in their wider role, announced on 31 August an independent inquiry into Equitable Life, to be headed by Lord Penrose. This will look at the circumstances leading to the current situation at Equitable Life and identify any lessons to be learned for the conduct, administration and regulation of life assurance. The inquiry will report to Treasury Ministers.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many civil servants took out new additional voluntary contributions policies with the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1999 and 2000 under the civil service AVC scheme; and what advice he is giving them about possible redress for maladministration. [R] [12825]

Mr. Leslie: The information is not held centrally. However, I will write to the hon. Member about the numbers of civil servants who began to pay AVCs with Equitable Life in 1999 and 2000 under the civil service AVCs scheme shortly. The Cabinet Office has been pro-active in keeping civil service employers and staff informed of developments as they occur, and, through its adviser Bacon and Woodrow, has made available generic guidance. I have seen no evidence of failure, on the part of the civil service as employer, in this matter. The Government, in their wider role, have of course announced the inquiry led by Lord Penrose.


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