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Theft and Fraud

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what additional security measures are planned by her Department to deter and detect theft and fraud. [31792]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Lord Chancellor's Department has a wide range of security measures in place to deter and detect theft and fraud. These include physical security standards for all departmental buildings, personnel security procedures and arrangements to safeguard valuable departmental assets. The security of buildings is reviewed on a periodic basis and security arrangements in general are reviewed in the light of any emerging threats or serious incidents. The Department's programme to achieve compliance with BS7799, the British Standard for Information Security Management, will quality assure existing practices and introduce improvements where these are found to be necessary. Measures include more extensive use of risk assessment, security education and awareness for staff and reviews of physical security arrangements.

The Department also maintains sound systems of internal control, which include controls to prevent and deter fraud. These systems are kept under review and are subject to regular audit coverage. All incidents of suspected or detected fraud are subject to rigorous investigation and appropriate action is taken against those found guilty of wrongdoing. Where fraud occurs, in addition to the investigation of the particular incident consideration is also given to whether controls need to be improved to prevent any further re-occurrence. The Department maintains an effective capability to investigate incidents of fraud. This includes a cadre of trained staff.

The Department has anti-fraud policies, together with policies on confidential reporting (whistleblowing), staff conduct and disciplinary procedures. These are communicated to all staff.

Land Registry

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many complaints he has received about the accuracy of the Land Registry in the last 12 months. [32049]

Mr. Wills: During the calendar year 2001, the Land Registry received 368 complaints relating to errors and incorrect information being supplied.

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Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many staff from the Land Registry are employed outside London; and in which locations. [32574]

Mr. Wills: Currently there are 7,623 staff employed by the Land Registry outside central London. The breakdown by location is as follows:

Tunbridge Wells275

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what representations he has received on reform of the Land Registry. [32048]

Mr. Wills: Last year, I received the report of the Quinquennial Review of the Land Registry's status and business operations. This report was published in June 2001 and is available on the Land Registry's website

Ministers have accepted the independent reviewer's recommendation that the Land Registry should continue to operate as a separate Government Department and executive agency with trading fund status.

On 12 December 2001, Official Report, column 915W, I announced that the Government had approved an interdepartmental programme of work in response to the report of the Quinquennial Review. Recommendations in the report which relate to the business processes of the Land Registry are being taken forward under the framework of a 10-year strategic business plan which, subject to ministerial approval, will be published in the spring.

Public Guardianship Office

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what functions the Public Guardianship Office performs; and what her estimate is of its running costs. [32055]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The PGO provides an integrated service for its clients, safeguarding their financial interests while avoiding state intervention. In protecting their financial interests, the PGO works with others to meet the clients' broader social needs. The functions of the PGO are to protect and promote the interests of its clients by overseeing and supporting the activities of receivers

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appointed by the Court of Protection to manage their financial affairs; to manage the financial affairs of people whom the Court of Protection adjudges mentally incapable of doing so for themselves, where there is no one else willing or suitable to act as receiver, and to carry out the administrative functions arising from the Court of Protection's jurisdiction under the Enduring Power of Attorney Act 1985.

The current estimated running costs of the PGO are £21,790,000.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what targets she has set for reply to (a) letters from hon. Members and (b) letters from members of the public to the Public Guardianship Office. [32684]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Public Guardianship Office has a key performance measure which applies to letters from hon. Members as well as letters in general from the public. It currently required 85 per cent. of letters to be responded to within 15 days of receipt. In the period 1 April to 30 November 2001 this target was exceeded and 91.9 per cent. of letters received a response before the target date.

However, it is very unfortunate that the Public Guardianship Office mislaid my hon. Friend's letter dated 26 November and as a result a response was sent well outside of this target. The PGO has apologised for this unacceptable delay.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many properties the Public Guardianship Office controls on behalf of people for whom they take responsibility. [32685]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Public Guardianship Office (PGO) acts as receiver for clients where there is no other suitable person available to act or where for other reasons the court of protection considers it appropriate that there should be an independent receiver. The PGO acts as receiver to 110 clients who own property. Monitoring, guidance and advisory activities are carried out by the protection division of the PGO to ensure that there is adequate supervision of private receivers by means of issuing authorities and directions. 2,863 protection division clients own property.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many people are under the protection of the Public Guardianship Office. [32400]

Ms Rosie Winterton: There are approximately 1,000 clients under the direct receivership of the PGO and a further 20,000 clients within the protection division of the PGO. In addition the PGO performs a registration service for enduring powers of attorney (EPA): approximately 12,000 EPAs are registered annually.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what official foreign visits officials from the Public Guardianship Office have been made since it was established; at what cost; and for what purpose. [32401]

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Ms Rosie Winterton: Nicholas Smedley, then Acting Chief Executive of the PGO, accompanied Denzil Lush, Master of the Court Protection, to the Biennial Conference of the Canadian Public Trustees and Guardians, which was held in Nova Scotia, Canada on 27–31 May 2001. The purpose of the visit was to build on existing relations, gather information, keep abreast of international legislation and enable the PGO to promote its radical programme of change. Both Mr. Smedley and Master Lush presented papers to the conference. The total cost of the visit was £4,008.56.

In September 2001, Julie Burlinson, (MERIS Project Manager) Chris Barnwell (Court Manager) and Neil Ross (Account Manager) visited Reykjavik, Iceland. The purpose of this visit was to conduct an evaluation of one of the short-listed suppliers for MERIS. MERIS (Mental Health Renaissance Information System) is the project which will provide an IS system to support the core functions of the PGO. The total cost of this visit was £2,095.50.


Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what arrangements he has in place for monitoring and updating his Department's website. [32404]

Mr. Wills: The LCD website is monitored daily by its content editor and updated as required by the Department's technical web manager.

Law Commission

Ian Lucas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many Law Commission bills have been introduced but failed to gain Royal Assent since 1979. [32166]

Mr. Wills: As far as can be ascertained within the time available, since 1979 three Law Commission Bills have been introduced but have not received Royal Assent. All three Bills were however enacted in subsequent parliamentary sessions. This does not include any Law Commission Consolidation Bills that may have been introduced but did not receive Royal Assent, as this information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Ian Lucas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the recommendations of the Law Commission that have been rejected by the Government since 1979. [32165]

Mr. Wills: The list of Law Commission reports since 1979 that have been wholly rejected by the Government, that can be ascertained in the time available, is set out in the table. The list does not include reports that were accepted only in part. A list of individual recommendations that have been rejected could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

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Report number/dateTitle
96—9 November 1979Criminal Law: Offences Relating to Interference with the Course of Justice
104—28 October 1980Insurance Law: Non-Disclosure and Breach of Warranty
110—29 October 1981Breach of Confidence
121—19 July 1983Law of Contract: Pecuniary Restitution on Breach of Contract
127—26 January 1983Transfer of Land: The Law of Positive and Restrictive Covenants
145—5 July 1985Criminal Law: Offences Against Religion and Public Worship
149—25 September 1985Criminal Law: Report on Criminal Libel
152—20 November 1985Property Law: Liability for Chancel Repairs
168—3 September 1987Private International Law: The Law of Domicile
175—8 December 1988Family Law: Matrimonial Property
178—20 April 1989Landlord and Tenant Law: Compensation for Tenants' Improvements
204—14 November 1991Transfer of Land: Land Mortgages
219—7 December 1993Contributory Negligence as a Defence in Contract
236—20 December 1995Fiduciary Duties and Regulatory Rules

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