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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 10 January 2002


Access to Information

35. Lynne Jones: To ask the Solicitor-General what measures she has taken to improve access to information in her Department by those outside her Department. [23871]

The Solicitor-General: In the interest of accountability, the Attorney-General is determined that the Departments for which he is responsible should take steps to extend access to official information, the assumption being that such information should be released except where disclosure would not be in the public interest.

The Law Officers' Departments—the Crown Prosecution Service, the Serious Fraud Office and the Treasury Solicitor's Department—all continue to increase access to information through various avenues.

CPS publicity materials now include more extensive information about CPS policies and the prosecution process. A key recent example is the publication of a booklet providing the background to prosecution policy on domestic violence cases.

The potential for releasing information via the internet will be explored to the full. The website maintained on behalf of the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers is currently being reviewed and 2002 will see a new, improved, CPS website. The SFO website has recently been substantially expanded and the Treasury Solicitor has also improved access to information through two dedicated websites.

Antisocial Behaviour

37. Caroline Flint: To ask the Solicitor-General what efforts are being made to ensure that the Crown Prosecution Service works effectively with the police and local authorities to secure successful prosecutions in antisocial behaviour cases. [23873]

The Solicitor-General: The CPS work with the police and local authorities through the local partnerships set up under the Crime and Disorder Act.

In February 2000 all key agencies launched the antisocial behaviour protocol and there have been joint training seminars and joint guidance.

Between April 1999 and September 2000:

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An application by the police or local authority for an ASBO is a civil matter and not for the CPS. The CPS are involved when an ASBO is breached as this is a criminal offence.

Serious Fraud

38. Mr. Watts: To ask the Solicitor-General what criteria are applied in deciding whether to prosecute serious fraud. [23874]

The Solicitor-General: Criteria for consideration of prosecuting serious fraud are the same as for all criminal cases: (i) is there enough evidence and (ii) is it in the public interest.

Offences involving serious or complex fraud are prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). In deciding whether the SFO rather than CPS should accept a case for investigation, the factors taken into account include:

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill

39. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Solicitor-General with which organisations she has had discussions on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill relating to the prevention of terrorism. [23875]

The Solicitor-General: Policy responsibility for the Act, including for consultation, lies with the Home Secretary. Any discussions that I, or the Attorney- General, have had about aspects of the Bill were therefore conducted in the context of our role as Law Officers, such as in discussion with the Crown Prosecution Service regarding some of the prosecution/criminal law aspects. Quite separately from this, the Attorney-General provided assistance to the Home Secretary in taking parts of the Bill through the House of Lords.

Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement about the performance of the Crown Prosecution Service. [23870]

The Solicitor-General: During the period April– September 2001 the Crown Prosecution Service secured convictions in respect of 98 per cent. of defendants whose case proceeded to a hearing in magistrates courts and almost 89 per cent. of defendants whose case proceeded to a hearing in the Crown court. During the same six-month period, the service had already met its 2001–02 targets for the timeliness of committal papers and of briefs to counsel, and for reduction in non-injury acquittals attributable to failings in the prosecution. In addition, the service made a vital contribution towards halving the time

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taken to deal with persistent young offenders, from an average of 142 days in 1996 to 70 days in the quarter ending September 2001.

While these figures show that the Crown Prosecution Service is continuing to work to a high standard, its priorities for 2002–03 are more demanding still, including: delivering more effective prosecutions; developing a greater public service ethos; developing its own professional role; building partnerships to drive up the performance of the criminal justice system as a whole; and developing a modern, diverse organisation which staff take pride in.


Teaching Vacancies

5. Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent meetings she has had with the National Union of Teachers to discuss the number of vacancies in secondary schools. [23835]

Mr. Timms: My right hon. Friend meets representatives of the NUT along with other unions from time to time to discuss a wide range of issues.

21. Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent meetings she has had with the Association of Colleges to discuss the number of (a) teachers and (b) lecturers in further education. [23853]

Margaret Hodge: The Secretary of State met David Gibson from the Association of Colleges (AoC) on 14 November 2001 and also addressed the AoC Conference on 20 November. Additionally, my colleague John Healey and I have each met twice with representatives from the AoC on 12 July and 10 October and 15 June and 31 July, respectively.

Discussions with AoC representatives are wide reaching, including recruitment and retention difficulties for lecturers in some subject areas and initiatives such as the Teaching Pay Initiative, Golden Hellos, Student Loan Write Off and Training Bursaries, which the Government have introduced to attract new staff to the profession and reward and retain excellent teachers and lecturers.

Teaching Vacancies (Hertfordshire)

6. Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many vacancies there are for teacher posts in maintained schools in Hertfordshire. [23836]

Mr. Timms: Information on the number of teacher vacancies in local education authorities is collected once a year in January as part of the annual census of teachers and vacancies. In January 2001, the vacancy rate for Hertfordshire LEA was 0.6 per cent. compared with 1.4 per cent. nationally.

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Further Education Funding

11. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she intends to achieve equal funding for students at sixth form colleges and in school sixth forms. [23841]

Margaret Hodge: The Government are firmly committed to bringing up the level of funding for colleges towards that of school sixth forms. As we have repeatedly made clear, this will take time and must be done as resources allow.

28. Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to increase funding to further education colleges; and if she will make a statement. [23862]

John Healey: £527 million extra funding is available for further education colleges this year compared with 2000–01. This is a 12 per cent. real terms increase and there will be a further 3 per cent. real terms increase in 2002–03. The increase in funding is designed to support widening participation in learning, higher standards of teaching and learning leading to improved success rates, the introduction of centres of vocational excellence, a step change in capital investment in the sector and the modernisation of pay arrangements in further education.

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