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21 Jan 2004 : Column 1278Wcontinued
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure that (a) magistrates and (b) judges have sufficient information to make the most effective use of prison and probation services. 
Paul Goggins: Pre-sentence reports prepared by the probation service provide information to the sentencing court about the offender and the offence(s) committed to assist the court to decide on a suitable sentence. The report analyses the offence; includes an offender assessment covering accommodation and employment, details of any substance misuse, mental illness, etc.; looks at patterns of offending and the outcome of any earlier court interventions. Each report contains a conclusion as to whether or not the offender is suitable for a community sentence and should make a clear and realistic proposal for sentence designed to protect the public and reduce re-offending, including for custody where that is necessary.
The Sentencing Guidelines Council will introduce a robust and comprehensive set of sentencing guidelines to assist the courts in their task of ensuring consistent and just disposals in all cases.
Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of staff employed within his Department are over 55 years of age; and what (a) number and (b) percentage of staff recruited over the last 12 months are over 55 years of age. 
Fiona Mactaggart: The following table provides the percentage of staff over 55 in the Department, the numbers of staff recruited in the last 12 months who are over age 55 and what percentage of the overall recruitment is over age 55 in the last 12 months.
|Percentage staff over age 55||Number of staff over 55 recruited in the last 12 months||Percentage of staff over age 55 recruited in the last 12 months|
|Non-Agency Home Office||8.80||149||3.40|
|Forensic Science Service||6.23||8||3|
|UK Passport Service||10.40||372||5.40|
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Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department further to his answer of 13 January 2004, Official Report, column 669W, with which offences under the Terrorism Act 2001 the 94 individuals have been charged. 
Mr. Blunkett: The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis informs me that this information is not currently held centrally and is being collated. I will write to my hon. and learned Friend when I have the information and place a copy in the Library of the House.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how the proposed register of violent partners will be administered; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Goggins: We propose to create a register of domestic violence civil orders. This will give the police the information they need to be able to enforce orders properly and protect victims. It can be established through a non-legislative route, for example by using the Police National Computer.
In terms of offenders, those who have been convicted of specific violent and sexual offences and have been given a custodial sentence of 12 months or more are already registered on the Violent and Sex Offenders' Register (ViSOR). ViSOR gives the police a way of risk-assessing and managing dangerous offenders, and covers the majority of domestic violence offenders who will be convicted of offences such as Actual Bodily Harm and Wounding with Intent.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many fuel poor households there are in (a) Lancashire and (b) each district in Lancashire; 
Nigel Griffiths: Fuel poverty is defined as a household having to spend more than 10 per cent. of its income on all energy use in order to maintain satisfactory heat in the home. The current published official estimates of fuel poverty are extrapolated from a sample survey of 17,500 dwellings carried out in 2001.
Figures are not available at county level.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much money her Department has allocated to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (a) in each of the last three years and (b) for each of the next three years; and if she will make a statement. 
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Mr. Sutcliffe: The Department of Trade and Industry has allocated the following grant in aid payments to Citizens Advice (formerly the National Association of Citizens Advice BureauxNACAB) during the past three financial years:
My officials are currently discussing future budgetary requirements and allocations with Citizens Advice and a final decision on allocations has not yet been made.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the head of the Insolvency Service last met the liquidators of BCCI. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: The Chief Executive of the Insolvency Service met one of the liquidators of BCCI on 4 March 2003.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many representations she has received from hon. Members about the liquidation of BCCI. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: In view of the period over which the liquidation of BCCI has continued, this question could be answered only at disproportionate cost.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she expects to receive the annual report of the liquidators of BCCI. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: The next annual report on the liquidation of BCCI will cover the period 16 January 2003 to 15 January 2004.
I would expect it to be submitted as soon as the accounting and other information can be compiled.
Mr. Michael Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to restrict the implementation of new business regulations to two specific dates each year, 1 April and 1 September; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: From 2004 the DTI is commencing domestic employment regulations on two dates each year. This will ensure that changes to employment policy are made in a more coordinated fashion and will provide businesses, employee representatives and individuals with grater clarity and awareness about when changes will be made.
The common commencement dates are 6 April, the start of the tax year, and 1 October, the date when the minimum wage is revised. I refer the hon. Member to the written statement I made in the House of Commons on 14 January 2004, Official Report, columns 3540WS, listing all the employment regulations and their commencement dates on which the DTI leads and which
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are expected to commence in 2004. This statement, which will now be published annually, is also available on the Internet at www.dti.gov.uk/er/regs2004.htm
The Action Plan "A Government Action Plan for Small Business" published by the Small Business Service on 8 January 2004 (available on the Internet at www.sbs.gov.uk) includes the proposal for the Government to consider introducing common commencement dates to other areas of domestic legislation.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the Office of Fair Trading intends to encourage new code sponsors to apply for OFT approval. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: This is a matter for the Chairman of the OFT and I have asked him to write to my hon. Friend directly.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on her Department's work with the Office of Fair Trading on consumer credit law reform. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: The Department published its proposals for reform of the consumer credit regime in the recent Consumer Credit White Paper; "Fair, Clear and CompetitiveThe Consumer Credit Market in the 21st Century".
The White Paper is the culmination of a major review of consumer credit law that was launched in July 2001. Our proposals have been drawn up through close consultation with all of the key stakeholders representing industry, consumer groups and enforcement agenciesincluding the Office of Fair Trading. We are continuing to work closely with the Office of Fair Trading on developing the detailed legislation and guidance needed to implement our proposals.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the Office of Fair Trading intends to improve the fitness checking of consumer credit licence applicants through access to criminal records. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: New procedures for checking criminal records are due to be introduced by the OFT this year. The OFT is currently finalising arrangements for the introduction of these new measures which will be announced in Spring 2004.
Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment she has made of the feasibility of capping annual percentage rates on credit cards but not on short-term loans; 
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Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government are not persuaded of the benefits of introducing interest rate ceilings for credit products of any type. A rate ceiling could actually encourage rates to gravitate towards the ceiling, causing detriment to consumers and competition. It might also encourage lenders to make the cost of credit more expensive to consumers in other ways (for example by introducing higher charges), or lead some lenders to exit the market, denying some consumers access to credit.
However, the Government have commissioned research into the way these interest ceilings operate in other countries. It is anticipated the research will be published in the spring of this year.
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