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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 10 December 2003

LEADER OF THE HOUSE

Parliamentary Data and Video Network

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Leader of the House whether hon. and right hon. Members will be allowed to remain remotely connected to the parliamentary network during a Dissolution of Parliament. [142800]

Mr. Hain: I understand that the Information Committee will be examining Dissolution arrangements in due course.

Catering

Mr. Dennis Turner: To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 27 November 2003, Official Report, column 129, what the change in demand for the Members' Dining Room has been since the change in sitting hours of the House. [143580]

Mr. Hain: I inadvertently gave a figure of five per cent. for the increase in demand for the Members' Dining Room since the new sitting hours came into effect. The correct figure was 0.5 per cent. based on a comparison of covers served in January-October 2003 against January-October 2002. I am grateful for this opportunity to correct the record.

CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

Census 1911

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs when he plans to release the 1911 decennial population census for England and Wales. [141913]

Mr. Leslie: The 1911 census returns, now in the custody of the National Archives, are currently closed for 100 years by Lord Chancellor's Instrument no. 12 of 1966, on the grounds that the information was supplied in strict confidence. s5(2) of the Public Records Act 1958 provides for the extension of the normal 30-year closure period in such cases. The National Archives is, therefore, currently considering ways of making the 1911 census data generally available to the public at the end of the 100 year closure period.

Legal Finance

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much was spent on barristers' fees for criminal legal aid in 2002–03; and how much of this was attributable to payments to QCs. [141418]

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Mr. Leslie: Spending on barristers fees in the Crown court and above during 2002–03 was £317.36 million and £1.4 million for assigned counsel in the magistrates court. £0.4 million was also paid to counsel (both assigned and unassigned) for residual work not covered under the General Criminal Contract. It is estimated that of this amount, £76 million was paid to QCs. It is not possible to give a precise figure because the type of barrister is not always recorded.

Legal Advice (Matrimonial Disputes)

Gareth Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps the Legal Services Commission is taking to ensure adequate provision in Wales for legal advice in relation to matrimonial disputes. [142408]

Mr. Leslie: In order to ensure adequate provision of legal advice across Wales in all categories of law, including matrimonial disputes, the Legal Services Commission (LSC), the Legal Services Committee for Wales, and the local Community Legal Service Partnership monitor provision on a regular basis. Where gaps in provision are identified, the LSC can re-allocate the number of publicly funded legal matters which suppliers can start in any particular category of law, in order to meet priority needs. In addition, the LSC has just announced that solicitors in England and Wales can start an additional 20,000 legal matters by April 2004.

Supreme Court

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether it is his policy that the proposed Supreme Court for the UK should sit outside London on (a) an occasional and (b) a permanent basis. [142709]

Mr. Leslie: It is envisaged that the main permanent base of the Supreme Court will be in London; however, no final decision has yet been taken. That would not preclude the court sitting elsewhere in the United Kingdom from time to time when it is judged appropriate to do so.

WALES

Small Businesses

8. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, how much money was spent by the Government on assisting small businesses in Wales in 2002–03. [142076]

Mr. Hain: The Welsh Assembly Government provides financial support for small businesses. The majority of this is supplied by the WDA, which contributed more than £75 million in 2002–03. In addition UK Government supports small businesses through cost saving initiatives such as R&D tax credit, the improvement of the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme and raising the audit threshold for SMEs.

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Police Grant

9. Mr. Roger Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, what recent discussions he has had with the Home Department about the police grant for Wales. [142077]

Mr. Touhig: My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with colleagues about matters affecting Wales.

Higher Education

10. Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, what discussions he has had with the Education Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales Government concerning the funding of higher education courses in England for students from Wales. [142078]

Mr. Hain: Welsh students are currently eligible to apply for fee remission grants to cover tuition costs and for income contingent loans for living costs. From 2004–05, students will also be eligible for the new HE grant of up to £1,000.

Barnett Formula

11. Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, what discussions he has had with (a) the Treasury and (b) the National Assembly for Wales Government on the outcome of the Yvonne Watts v Bedford Health Authority case on the Treasury block grant for Wales under the Barnett formula. [142079]

Mr. Touhig: As the Government is appealing against the ruling in this case, it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on the final outcome of the case. However, funding for the NHS in Wales is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales, which is free to allocate resources from within the block grant as it sees fit. The Government has no current plans to review the Barnett formula which has produced fair and transparent settlements over the years.

Flooding

12. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary about flooding in Wales. [142080]

Mr. Touhig: My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with Assembly Secretaries about issues affecting Wales, including flooding and flood prevention measures. The Assembly has recently consulted on new flood defence management arrangements for Wales.

Police Funding

13. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary about police funding in Wales. [142081]

Mr. Touhig: My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with colleagues about matters affecting Wales.

Community Support Officers

14. Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many community support officers there are in Wales. [142082]

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Mr. Touhig: Funding has been made available for 113 Community Support Officers in Wales.

In July I met with a group of Community Support Officers based in my own constituency who are already coming to be recognised as a valuable part of the local policing team.

Parliamentary Constituencies

15. Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has made to the Boundary Commission for Wales about the fifth general review of parliamentary constituencies in Wales. [142083]

Mr. Hain: None.

Art Acquisition

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much his Department has spent on the acquisition of works of art in each year since 1997, broken down by amounts spent on (a) paintings and (b) sculpture; what the single most expensive piece of art purchased by his Department since 1997 was; how much it cost; and what the total revenue raised by his Department through sales of its works of art has been since 1997. [142363]

Mr. Hain: The Wales Office was established in 1999. Since then the Department has not purchased or sold any works of art. However, my office does showcase a collection of Welsh artwork loaned to both our offices in Gwydyr House and Cardiff by the Government Art Collection and National Museums and Galleries.

Big Conversation

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what visits (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department (i) have made and (ii) plan to make using public funds in connection with the Big Conversation; how many civil servants accompanied each Minister in respect of such visits; what the cost to public funds was of visits by (A) each Minister and (B) civil servants in connection with the Big Conversation; and if he will make a statement. [143158]

Mr. Hain: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave yesterday as Leader of the House of Commons, at column 355W.


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