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PIU Energy Review

John Mann: To ask the Prime Minister when the performance and innovation unit's energy review will be published; and if he will make a statement. [37366]

The Prime Minister: The performance and innovation unit's energy review is published today. Copies of the report will be available in the Libraries of the House.

The energy review considers the long-term issues in energy policy—ensuring that GB will have secure, competitive and affordable energy, while at the same time addressing the likely requirements of a low carbon economy.

The report examines the main trends in energy markets and reviews the key choices facing policy makers including when decisions need to be taken and how to keep options open, so policy remains relevant to changing circumstances.

While this report is not a statement of Government policy, it raises a broad range of issues that are important to the future evolution of energy policy. The Government intend to set in process a period of public consultation, leading to an energy White Paper in the autumn.


Decisions by Statute

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many decisions by statute she has made since taking office. [32593]

Ms Rosie Winterton: In common with all Government Ministers, the Lord Chancellor and his ministerial colleagues in the Lord Chancellor's Department make a large number of decisions under statutory authority in the normal course of their duties. To identify every such decision would be possible only at disproportionate cost.

Non-Departmental Public Bodies

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the instances in which his Department, agencies and non-departmental public bodies failed to pay valid invoices within 30 days or after the agreed credit period in the financial year 2000–01. [32029]

Mr. Wills: All Government Departments and their agencies are required to pay all undisputed bills within 30 days of receipt of the goods or services or receipt of a valid invoice, whichever is the later (or other agreed payment period). Since 1993 all Government Departments and agencies have been required to monitor their payment performance and the figures are published annually in the form of a written PQ. Figures for 2000–01 were published on 19 July 2001.

During the financial year 2000–01 the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD) incorporating the Court Service (CS), Northern Ireland Court Service (NICS), Land Registry (LR), Public Guardianship Office (PGO) and Public Record Office (PRO) paid a total of 256,668 invoices. Of this total 15,717 (6.12 per cent.) were paid beyond agreed credit terms. These figures are broken down as follows.

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Invoices paid43,194
Paid late1,0432.4
Invoices paid144,034
Paid late8,9046.2
Invoices paid16,844
Paid late8384.97
Invoices paid31,240
Paid late1560.5
Invoices paid12,358
Paid late4,70438.06
Invoices paid8,998
Paid late720.8

No central records are kept detailing the reason for late payment of each individual invoice. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

This was the first year that LCD and CS have been in a position to report against all invoices paid rather than the practice in previous years of reporting against a sample of 1,200. A number of steps have been taken subsequently to improve payment performance. Following a successful pilot of the Government Procurement Card plans are in place to extend its use throughout the CS during 2002 and thereafter to other areas of LCD and its agencies. This will reduce the volume of individual payments and streamline the authorisation and payment process. The purchase order system is being used far more extensively and in new areas of the Department and this should also help to improve performance. There are signs that these changes have already had some impact as monitoring of this year's payments show that performance for LCD and CS has increased to over 96 per cent.

During 2000–01 the PGO experienced major changes which increased greatly their invoice activity. They also introduced steps to ensure payment performance improved. Changes to the finance management team, the purchase ordering process and increased monitoring of payments have reduced the risk of payment delay. Monitoring of the earlier part of 2001–02 showed that performance had increased to 71 per cent. The second half to date shows that 98 per cent. of invoices are paid within agreed credit terms.

The NICS has introduced a number of steps to improve performance. These include establishing a user group to encourage best practice in local offices and increase awareness for staff involved in processing payments. They have also redefined their end of year procedures. Although figures for this financial year (2001–02) show that their performance has decreased slightly to 93.5 per cent. the measures introduced should start making an impact in the financial year 2002–03.

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Possession Orders

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if county courts will sit on bank holidays and other holiday periods in response to an application by a local authority for a possession order; and if he will make a statement. [34900]

Mr. Wills: In order to cater for incidents that may require the attention of a judge, including applications for urgent possession orders, out of normal office hours, on bank holidays and other holiday periods, the Court Service provides a system known as the Urgent Court Business Scheme. This scheme allows for an experienced member of court staff to be contacted during the night, weekends or public holidays. Every circuit has arrangements in place for handling urgent court business outside normal office hours. Urgent business consists of Injunctions, Children Act applications, and other urgent applications such as Possession order applications. Cover is provided between 4.00 pm and 8.30 pm each weekday, between 4.00 pm on Friday until 8.30 am on Monday for each weekend and from 4.00 pm on the last day preceding a public or privilege holiday that the court is open until 8.30 am on the day the court is next open. There will always be a judge available in each UCBO area to deal with urgent court business. In the vast majority of cases the judge will deal with matters over the telephone. Only in the most extreme case should the judge have to meet with the applicant's solicitor. Where this is unavoidable the venue will be arranged by the UCBO in consultation with the judge and the solicitor involved.

Records (Ireland)

Harry Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what the outcome was of the reassessment in 2000 of the three records dating from 1876 to 1914 concerning activities of the Secret Service in Ireland and Irish terrorist organisations which were being withheld from public disclosure; and if she will make a statement. [35240]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The files were reviewed by the Home Office in conjunction with the Security Service. One file has been released in full, one has been released except for some extracts and one is still withheld. The information that has not been released could be used to identify individuals working for or giving information to the intelligence services.


Harry Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department which Departments and agencies have (a) applied for extended closure of records and (b) applied to the Lord Chancellor for permission to retain records over 30 years; how many applications were made in each category and how many were granted; if she will list by title each record retained in this way; and what arrangements there are for their review for public disclosure. [35242]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The tables show for 2001, the most recent complete year, by Department, the number of applications for extended closure (Table A) or retention (Table B) and the number approved. An application can

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cover anything from a small extract from a page in a file to a large collection of records. Three formal applications were rejected.

The full lists of all public records subject to extended closure and retention are kept at the Public Record Office at Kew and are freely available for public inspection there.

More precise details can be found for most of the records that are subject to extended closure or retention by consulting the PRO online catalogue ( For records not yet transferred to the PRO, the Department holding the records has these details rather than the PRO.

Permission for retention or extended closure is given for a precise finite period. It is the responsibility of Departmental Record Officers to ensure that the records are re-reviewed, and of the Records Management Department of the PRO to supervise this process.

Researchers who require access to records held by the PRO and catalogued as closed, or to historical records still held by Departments, should first ask the PRO to check their status. If the records are closed or retained, researchers can apply for a review of access restrictions. They should write to the Departmental Record Officer of the Department that created the records (or its successor) quoting the PRO reference where this is known. Such requests are handled in the order in which they are received except where the information is urgently required for legal purposes.

Table A: Applications for extended closure of public records in 2001

DepartmentNumber of applicationsNumber of applications granted
Cabinet Office1313
The Court Service313313
Crown Prosecution Service33
Ministry of Defence1313
Department for Education and Skills11
Foreign and Commonwealth Office104101
Department of Health1616
Home Office1111
Department for International Development55
Legal Services Commission(England and Wales) 3030
Lord Chancellor's Department11
Metropolitan Police Office1717
Prime Minister's Office1010
Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions(40) 11
HM Treasury11
Department for Work and Pensions 88
United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority11

(40) Formerly Department of Social Security

Table B: Applications for retention of public records in 2001

DepartmentNumber of applicationsNumber of applications granted
Cabinet Office1515
HM Customs and Excise11
Ministry of Defence1919
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(41) 44
English Partnerships11
Foreign and Commonwealth Office3838
Forestry Commission11
Home Office44
Department for International Development22
Legal Services Commission (England and Wales)11
Metropolitan Police Office22
National Weights and Measures Laboratory11
Northern Ireland Office11
Office for National Statistics22
Prime Minister's Office44
Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions(42) 33
HM Treasury2121
United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority77

(41) Formerly Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

(42) Formerly Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

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