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8 Dec 2004 : Column 560W—continued

Training Courses

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the (a) cost to the Department, (b) title and (c) location was of each training course organised by his Department for its staff in each financial year since 1997–98; [200389]

(2) what financial penalties were paid in each financial year since 1997–98 to training providers by the Department for training courses prepared for its staff but which were subsequently cancelled at the Department's request. [200409]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The information requested is no longer held by the Department and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.


IT Contracts

Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Advocate-General what the (a) projected cost at the time of tender and (b) actual cost at the time of completion was for each IT contract commissioned by her office in the last five years. [201618]

The Advocate-General: There have been no IT contracts commissioned by the offices of the Advocate-General within the last five years. The offices' IT systems and support are provided through the Scottish Executive. There are no outsourced IT contracts.
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Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) whether he has been informed of breaches of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers in his Department since its implementation; [201346]

(2) how many appeals were made by civil servants to the Civil Service Commissioners regarding special advisers in his Department between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004 and when each appeal was lodged. [201372]

Mrs. McGuire: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today by the Minister for the Cabinet Office.


John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the refurbishment projects in his Department's premises that (a) are in progress and (b) will start in the next six months; what action is being taken to ensure that these will procure timber from legal and sustainable sources; and whether guidance will be issued to contractors on each of these projects to ensure that the timber used on site during refurbishment also comes from legal and sustainable sources. [201142]

Mrs. McGuire: There is currently an essential maintenance programme under way. The Scotland Office has no refurbishment projects in progress or scheduled to take place within the next six months.


Court Transcripts

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs if he will make court transcripts available for cases involving hon. Members' constituents to hon. Members free of charge. [203106]

Mr. Leslie: There are currently no plans to make a transcription service available to members of the public free of charge, as the cost to the Department would be prohibitive. Currently transcripts are available for purchase to all parties involved in a case. Those who are not involved can also purchase a transcript if the judge deems the request for wanting one reasonable.

However, the Government do understand that, in some circumstances, victims of crime or their families have a strong desire to review trial proceedings. As a result, my Department is therefore currently funding research into the level of demand for the provision of transcripts to victims. The results of this research will better inform us on development of policy into the issue of provision of transcripts to victims and the benefits this can bring.

This area may also be assisted by longer-term advancements in recording technology. Currently the Department is working up proposals to test digital audio recording in court, which if successful would use voice recognition to enable spontaneous transcripts to be produced at a fraction of the existing cost.
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Criminal Defence Service

Ross Cranston: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what plans he has to ensure that the Criminal Defence Service is re-credited when a publicly-funded defendant is acquitted; and what estimate he has made of the amount involved based on the last year for which figures are available. [201916]

Mr. Lammy: There is no mechanism for re-crediting the Criminal Defence Service when a publicly-funded defendant is acquitted and there are no plans to change this. There are no figures available to make an estimate of the amount involved.

Experts' Fees

Ross Cranston: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what plans he has to (a) impose a ceiling on fees paid to experts and (b) accredited experts; [201913]

(2) what controls the Legal Services Commission operate in relation to (a) fees paid to experts and (b) approval of experts; and what it spent on disbursements for experts in (i) civil, (ii) family and (iii) criminal cases in 2003–04. [201912]

Mr. Lammy: The Government believe that expert witnesses should be suitably qualified in the subject upon which they assist the court with expert opinion, have achieved a suitable level of specialist knowledge and up to date experience to act as an expert and be recognised by their peers. The recent report "Sudden death in infancy" recommended systems of accreditation and training for experts. Active consideration is being given to this recommendation by all agencies.

As for legally aided cases, the Legal Services Commission published a consultation paper: "The Use of Experts(Quality, Price and Procedures in publicly funded cases" on 26 November 2004.

In relation to fees paid to experts, the paper proposes that rates need to be controlled in the same way as the rates paid to lawyers, and the paper sets out proposed guidance on fee levels in criminal and civil legally aided cases. The guidelines for civil cases are similar to those for legally aided criminal cases, but have a higher maximum and lower minimum.

In relation to the accreditation of experts, the paper proposes that solicitors should be encouraged to use experts and interpreters who are on accredited registers such as: the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners; the National Register of Public Service Interpreters; or the register of the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People. The long-term aim is that all experts instructed in legally aided cases will be accredited.

The LSC is not able to provide the information on disbursement spend in the requested format. In 2003–04, however, the LSC paid over £200 million for
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disbursements overall; around £140 million on civil cases and £60 million on criminal. They estimate that experts' fees account for approximately two thirds, (or £130 million) of disbursements.

Freedom of Information Act

Llew Smith: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 25 November 2004, Official Report, column 7WS, on section 45 code of practice of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, whether the Department has received any representations on this announcement; and whether the Department conducted a public consultation prior to making the announcement. [202808]

Mr. Leslie: Further to his written ministerial statement issued on 25 November 2004, I can confirm that my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs has received one representation regarding the revised Section 45 Code of Practice of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In accordance with Section 45(4) of the Freedom of Information Act, the Secretary of State consulted the Information Commissioner on the content of the revised Section 45 Code of Practice. The Department also consulted fully with other Government Departments on the revised Section 45 Code of Practice. There was no public consultation exercise.

Information Commissioner

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what budget has been allocated to the Office of the Information Commissioner in each of the last two years; and how many staff have been employed by the Commissioner in each year. [201900]

Mr. Leslie: For 2002–03 the Department allocated a total grant in aid of £8.2 million to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and in 2003–04, this allocation increased to £10.6 million. The ICO has recouped from notification fees £7.7 million in 2002–03 and £8.8 million in 2003–04. This money is returned to Government and effectively offsets the grant in aid. This means that the net expenditure by DCA on the ICO has been £0.5k for 2002–03 and £1.8 million for 2003–04. The number of staff employed by the Information Commissioner has increased from 198 in 2002–03 to 208 by the end of the financial year 2003–04. The Department's grant in aid allocation to the ICO over the course of the last two financial years (2002–03 to 2003–04) has increased by £1.2 million, primarily because ICO have taken on more staff to deal with the case work likely to be generated when the Freedom of Information Act comes into force.

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