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15 Oct 2002 : Column 627W—continued

Public Guardianship Office

Mr. Evans: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to his answer of 17 July, Official Report, column 412W, on the Public Guardianship Office, if he will make a statement on the level of customer complaints about the Public Guardianship Office. [73890]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Of the complaints received the most common theme was delay. The PGO has, in the course of major restructuring, and a move out of central London, lost a large number of experienced staff. It is now taking steps to restore service levels, including: a local recruitment campaign, intensive training courses, re-siting of case files adjacent to case work teams, a reconfiguration of the new telephone system and the introduction gradually of an electronic records management system to replace the largely paper based one.


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment she has made of the facilities required adequately to house witnesses seperately from those charged and appearing before street crime courts. [73724]

Yvette Cooper: My officials identified 70 street crime courts. The courts were identified according to the following criteria:

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Work has been commissioned at each designated street crime court, to ensure that court accommodation meets these criteria. The majority of these works will be completed in the courts by the end of September 2002. Where they have not yet been completed, local arrangements are in place to separate witnesses on arrival.

Magistrates Courts, Wiltshire

Mr. Key: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what progress he has made on reorganisation of magistrates' courts in Wiltshire; and if he will make a statement. [72612]

Yvette Cooper: I shall reply to the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Magistrates Courts, Essex

Bob Russell: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when she expects to make a decision on the appeal by Thurrock Council about the Private Finance Initiative Scheme for magistrates courts in Essex; and whether progress can be made with proposals for a new court house in Colchester in the meantime. [73381]

Yvette Cooper: I have agreed to meet the interested parties to discuss the issues raised in the appeal, and will do so as soon as a suitable date has been arranged. I will not be in a position to determine the appeal until after this meeting.

Once the appeal has been concluded consideration will be given to the outline business case for the Essex PPP scheme, which includes proposals for a new court in Colchester.

Transsexual People

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what steps are being taken, following the judgment in the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom, to ensure that domestic law complies with Articles 8 and 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of transsexual people. [73516]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 23 July 2002, Official Report, column 1082W].

Public Record Office

Mr. Baker: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what guidance has been issued to departments relating to the retention of e-mails for possible future submission to the Public Record Office. [73954]

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Ms Rosie Winterton: Key guidance has been issued for the management of e-mails within government departments, with a view to their future retention as public records. The Public Record Office published ''Management, appraisal and preservation of electronic records—Vol 2: Procedures'' in 1999, which gives detailed advice on standards, procedures and policies for managing e-mails as records.

Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act

Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) when special measures direction providing for vulnerable or intimidated adult witnesses to use TV link facilities, available under Section 21 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, will be available in all areas; [73526]

Yvette Cooper: Sections 21, 23, 25, 26, 27 and 30 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 referred to in the questions came into force on 24 July 2002 in all areas of England and Wales. Sections 28 and 29 are not yet in force. The courts have facilities to deal with the new special measures. There are TV Links in all Crown Court centres and video recording equipment and

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interpreters are available. More equipment is to be fitted this financial year to cope with demand. There is no single device that will solve all issues resulting from hearing impairment, but each case is treated on its merits and arrangements made accordingly. This may include a hearing loop, voice amplification or a signer etc. Video link equipment will also be installed in 154 Magistrates Courts by September 2002. Vulnerable and intimidated witnesses facilities are already fitted in 133 Magistrates Courts.

Data Protection Directive

Harry Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary Lord Chancellor's Department, in relation to the recent proposals published by the Government in relation to amendment of the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, if he will identify the source that suggested each of the proposals in the publication; and if he will make a statement as to his plan of action and timetable with respect to these changes. [74479]

Yvette Cooper: I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the proposals in the paper proposing amendments to Directive 95/46/EC which was submitted to the European Commission in the names of Austria, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom on 13 September. The joint paper was attached to the second part of the United Kingdom's response to the European Commission's questionnaire to Member States' Governments about the implementation of the Directive. The first part of the Government's response was submitted to the Commission on 14 June. I am placing copies of both parts of the response, including the joint paper, in the Library.

It would be difficult to identify which Member State was responsible for making a particular proposal, since initial proposals were often significantly amended in the course of discussion. Moreover, identifying the source of the proposals would be inconsistent with the accepted convention that one Member State should not reveal another Member State's negotiating position.

The responses to the Commission's questionnaire will inform the report that the Commission are preparing on the implementation of the Directive. The Government hopes that, in preparing their report, the Commission will give serious consideration to the United Kingdom's response, including the joint paper. I understand that the Commission's present objective is to produce the report by about the turn of the year.

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