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Domestic Violence

35. Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East): What support the Crown Prosecution Service gives to victims of domestic violence who are fearful of recrimination. [50381]

The Solicitor-General: To protect victims of domestic violence who fear recrimination, and to ensure effective prosecution of domestic violence, the Crown Prosecution Service has reviewed its guidance on prosecuting domestic violence. Last November, new guidance was published that requires the CPS to work closely with the police and voluntary organisations to protect and support the victim.

Mr. Purchase: Is the Solicitor-General visited in her weekly surgeries, as I am, by many victims of domestic violence who say that they simply do not get the support to which they feel they are entitled, and that they are timid about making further complaints because the protection process has broken down? I am exceedingly pleased to learn that the CPS is taking the matter more seriously, but

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more social policy input is required into the decisions taken in the course of that work to ensure that women, who are most often the victims of domestic violence, have their needs properly understood.

The Solicitor-General: I absolutely agree with everything that my hon. Friend says. It is also important that women know that the courts take such offences seriously. To ensure that sentencing properly reflects the seriousness of domestic violence, I have referred to the Court of Appeal a case in which, in my view, the judge passed an unduly lenient sentence in a domestic violence case. That will be heard on 16 May, and will give the Court of Appeal the opportunity to consider sentences for domestic violence.

Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act

36. Hugh Bayley (City of York): How many man-hours have been spent by the Crown Prosecution Service on preparing prosecutions under the legislation on bribery and corruption in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. [50382]

The Solicitor-General: The provisions of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 amending existing anti-corruption legislation only came into force on 14 February 2002 and apply only to offences committed after that date. No cases have yet been referred to the CPS or the Serious Fraud Office by the National Criminal Intelligence Service, and as a result no time has been spent preparing for prosecution.

Hugh Bayley: Bribery is wrong and is bad for business. It is exceptionally bad for poor people in poor countries who find that money from trade and aid which would otherwise help them is no longer available. However, experience in the United States, which has had legislation against international bribery for many years, since it was introduced by the Jimmy Carter Government, showed that until there had been convictions, American business men did not recognise that going along with so-called local business practices would result in major fines for them or their companies, or in jail sentences. Will my right hon. and learned Friend give the House an assurance that evidence will be sought, and that when it has been obtained, the CPS will vigorously pursue convictions?

The Solicitor-General: I can give the House and my hon. Friend that assurance. The SFO, the CPS, Customs and all the other prosecuting authorities take these issues very seriously. The Government consider it vital for this country to play its part in investigating and prosecuting all international crime. The week before last, I attended a conference of fraud prosecutors who stressed the importance of prosecutors in this country working together with those in the rest of the world to tackle fraud and corruption worldwide. I know that my hon. Friend has a long-standing interest in this matter. He might like to meet some of the prosecutors and see how they are proceeding with their work on an international basis, and I extend that invitation to him.

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Business of the House

12.32 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): May I ask the Leader of the House for the business for next week, please?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): The business for next week will be:

Monday 29 April—Second Reading of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]. [Hon. Members: "Hurrah."] I hope that sentiment continues.

Tuesday 30 April—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Wednesday 1 May—Consideration of a Resolution on National Insurance Contributions.

Thursday 2 May—There will be a debate on Wales in the world on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 3 May—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week after will be:

Monday 6 May—The House will not be sitting, as it is a bank holiday.

Tuesday 7 May—Second Reading of the Police Reform Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 8 May—Progress on consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Thursday 9 May—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Friday 10 May—Private Members' Bills.

The House will wish to know that subject to the progress of business, it is envisaged that the House will rise for the Whitsun recess on Friday 24 May and return on Monday 10 June. [Interruption.] I am sure that Members will be keen to return to business sooner than they had anticipated.

The House will wish to know that on Wednesday 8 May, there will be a debate relating to railways in European Standing Committee A, and on Thursday 9 May, there will be a debate relating to the execution of orders freezing assets or evidence in European Standing Committee B.

[Wednesday 8 May 2002:

European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Union documents: 5721/02, 5744/02, 5723/02, 5724/02, 5726/02 and 5727/02; Railways. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Report: HC 152-xxii, (2001–02).

[Thursday 9 May 2002:

European Standing Committee B—Relevant European Union document: 6980/02; The execution of orders freezing assets or evidence. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Report: HC 152-xxiii (2001–02).]

Mr. Forth: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business. Can he clear up a bit of a mystery? Last Thursday, he told us, at column 699, that on 1 May there would be the Second Reading of a Bill to give effect to the swingeing increases in national insurance proposed by the Chancellor. Today, he said rather mysteriously that next Wednesday there will be a resolution on national insurance increases. We must get to the bottom of this.

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Presumably, it is yet another Government cock-up, but we would like to know the nature of the error. Who made it? Why is he having to carry the can? Can we please now be told the exact relationship between the previous Bill, the present resolution and the implied time delay? Whose fault is it? When will we be told the full story? The national insurance increases are of enormous importance to businesses, individuals and everyone else. To start to deal with the matter in this way is depressing and disappointing to say the least.

There is something called the European Convention going on at the moment, which has the potential, regrettably, to have a profound impact on the nature of the European Union and our role in it. There are three Members of the House taking part in that convention, not the least of whom is the Minister for Europe, the right hon. Member for Neath (Peter Hain). When will the Minister for Europe give the House an opportunity to ask him what he is doing on our behalf, what commitments he is making, what the convention is up to and where it is heading? I am told that two of our representatives at the convention will appear before the House of Lords some time next week. It seems that the House of Lords can quiz members of the convention, while that opportunity has been denied to this House. When will we have a chance to find out what is taking place on our behalf in the European Convention so that we can have a say and give our marching orders to our representatives?

Will the Leader of the House confirm whether he spoke to The Sun yesterday? The Sun claims that he did—I have the newspaper in front of me. It says that something is going to be done to protect the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Question Time. We know that he needs protection, and that he is incapable of dealing with what we call the open question as successive Prime Ministers have done for decades. It appears that the Prime Minister's plight is so desperate that he needs the Leader of the House's help to shut down the open question and to make sure that all questions are planted and scripted. We know that many of them are already, but it looks as if that will become routine. Why does The Sun quote the Leader of the House as saying of Prime Minister's questions:

Did he say that to The Sun? If not, where did it get the story? Can he assure me categorically that the Prime Minister will not be provided with extraordinary protection from the rigours of Prime Minister's questions, and that we can continue to put the Prime Minister through his inadequate paces every Wednesday?

During Question Time yesterday, the Prime Minister made the following remarkable assertion on the subject of rising street crime:

The Leader of the House will accept that we cannot allow that assertion to hang in the air unchallenged and unquestioned. Can we have an early opportunity for the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary, when he is not using robust language, to come to the House and tell us what has changed that means that street crime, instead of rising—as it is, sadly and dramatically—will fall dramatically over the next five months? What is the

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reason? Is it legislation, more police officers or more effective measures, and, if so, of what kind? Alternatively will the Prime Minister be out and about personally feeling the collar of muggers and making sure that they do not commit the crimes that they have been committing? We need an opportunity to quiz the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary about what they have in mind.

Finally, I want to raise the question of planning gain tariff, on which I have no doubt that the Leader of the House is an expert, as he is on so many things. A Green Paper on huge and dramatic increases in the planning system has been published. I am told that the Government have received about 15,000 responses, which indicates a high level of interest and alarm. It would appear that framework legislation will be introduced in the next Session, within which will be provision for statutory instruments to be used to vary the suggested planning gain tariffs. Will the Leader of the House give us a commitment that, if that happens, this new stealth tax and the enormous effect that it may have on every constituency will not be hidden away Upstairs in a statutory instrument Committee but debated on the Floor so that all right hon. and hon. Members have an opportunity to explore fully its potential impact on their constituencies and their way of life? It is a simple commitment to make. I accept that I am looking a little ahead, but I know that, with his legendary commitment to the parliamentary process, he will be only too happy to give such an undertaking.

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