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EU Structural Funds

7. Sir Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (LD): If he will seek to promote the interests of areas in Scotland likely to lose access to EU structural funds when public sector relocations are being planned. [213406]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire): No decisions about the relocation of Government Departments away from Whitehall have yet been made. They will be based on Departments' operational needs and individual business cases rather than the particular needs of specific areas, or geography. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made clear to other Departments the advantages of Scotland as a location, and has encouraged them to consider Scotland when reviewing relocation plans.

Sir Archy Kirkwood: I am grateful for that answer, but does the Minister accept that Scotland is a bona fide locus for the relocation of public sector jobs and that Whitehall Departments should be actively encouraged by the Scotland Office to consider such relocation? In that context, will she bear in mind giving priority in that consideration to areas that might be about to lose European structural funds?

Mrs. McGuire: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that Scotland is a suitable relocation site for jobs from Whitehall. Obviously, all the issues that he has raised
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will be taken into consideration. It is worth mentioning, though, that it would help people to see Scotland as a suitable site for relocation if members of the Conservative party stopped saying that Scotland was an unacceptable place to live.


The Advocate-General was asked—

Devolution/Human Rights

16. Annabelle Ewing (Perth) (SNP): What devolution issues have been raised with her since 11 January. [213396]

17. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): What devolution issues she has considered since 11 January. [213397]

18. Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): What devolution issues she has dealt with since 11 January. [213398]

19. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): What human rights issues she has considered since 11 January. [213399]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Lynda Clark): Since 11 January 2005, 55 devolution cases have been intimated to me, all of which have raised human rights issues. All of the 45 civil cases intimated to me concern prison conditions. Of the 10 cases relating to criminal law, eight related to pre-trial delay, one to delay in hearing an appeal and one to the detention and questioning of a 14-year-old boy.

Annabelle Ewing: I thank the Advocate-General for her answer. Is Lord Fraser correct when he says that the Inquiries Bill will allow him to secure the release of tapes of "The Gathering Place", and will that be enthusiastically supported by all Labour Members, from the First Minister upwards?

The Advocate-General: I have every respect for Lord Fraser; he is of course entitled to his interpretation. His inquiry predates the Bill to which the hon. Lady refers. Therefore, I do not think that I can further assist her.

Miss McIntosh: The hon. and learned Lady has had cause to consider a number of cases in relation to pre-trial delay. What is the current delay, and is the 110-day rule still applicable?

The Advocate-General: As the hon. Lady knows, the 110-day rule has been altered by statute to some extent, to change the way in which the dates run. Generally, the person concerned is not in custody in pre-trial delay cases. The 110-day rule relates to people who are in custody. People who are charged with summary offences or who have been released on bail are not covered by the rule. In some cases intimated to me as devolution issues the delay between the charge and the trial, when the
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person has not been in custody, has been substantial. Those are some of the cases on which challenges have been made.

Mr. Reid: In response to my question at the last Advocate-General's Question Time, the hon. and learned Lady told the House that she had intervened in only one or two of the cases notified to her. As she is soon to depart voluntarily, will she advise the House whether there is enough work in her office to justify a full-time ministerial salary?

The Advocate-General: There is some slight confusion; I was talking about one or two of the types of case raised. I have intervened and appeared in a number of cases. I do not have the figures to hand, but I have appeared personally in the highest courts in at least 10 different cases. I have also intervened through counsel in a number of other cases; I can give the hon. Gentleman the specific numbers. Devolution issues are only a very small part of my work. My work is advisory. For example, as I tried to explain to the Scottish Affairs Committee, most of my time is spent dealing with advisory matters that—unfortunately, from the point of view of Members—are regarded as confidential. Nevertheless, such work is a very important part of the role of Advocate-General. I hope and think that it will remain a very important role. Of course I have a range of other roles, and I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Select Committee evidence.

Mr. Dalyell: May I take the opportunity to thank my hon. and learned Friend for much of the unsung work that we know she has done behind the scenes? Also, may I take what is probably my last parliamentary opportunity to register the belief that languishing in Barlinnie is a man who may have been a sanctions buster, but who almost certainly was not a mass murderer? Before she leaves office, will the Advocate-General reflect on the extremely unsatisfactory division between Foreign Office responsibilities, on which I had a recent Adjournment debate, and the responsibilities of the Crown Office, where, to be frank, Westminster MPs are told to keep out?

The Advocate-General: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for singing my praise. I am sure that his will be sung in many quarters for having made such an enormous contribution to the work of Parliament.

I know that my hon. Friend has been concerned about the division of responsibilities. Perhaps I can assist him by drawing his attention to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body charged with reviewing alleged miscarriages of justice in Scotland. It might be able to examine some of the issues that cause him concern.


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State was asked—


20. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): What measures he is taking to retain magistrates. [214423]
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): The implementation stage of the magistrates national recruitment strategy will be launched shortly, building on an extensive programme of research and the testing of advertising approaches in the first year. My Department is analysing the healthy 1,949 returns that we received from the recent magistrates questionnaire to see which factors best influence both recruitment and retention. We hope to announce further measures in due course.

Richard Ottaway: Yet after eight years of Labour Government, we still have a problem. A national recruitment strategy, Operation Black Vote, and hotlines have all been tried, yet we have a shortage of magistrates. The Minister has rejected allowances—wrongly, in my view. Magistrates deal with 90 per cent. of the crime in this country. Does he recognise that he will have to do more if he is to turn the problem around and provide a proper strategy for an important part of our community?

Mr. Leslie: I agree to some extent. We do need to encourage employers to adopt a more supportive attitude to having magistrates in their employ. We should also consider sitting patterns, to see whether they are flexible enough to allow people to become magistrates. As for paying magistrates, a broad estimate is that that would involve about £100 million of expenditure. Given that the shadow Cabinet is proposing to cut £155 million from the Court Service, the prospects for proper recognition of magistrates by a Conservative Administration are pretty woeful.

Mr. David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister will have been told by our right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, who visited the Brighton and Hove area a couple of weeks ago, of the desire of magistrates on the bench there to be able to retain some of the older magistrates who, despite having reached the upper age limit, still have valuable service to offer. Will he comment on that, and on what steps can be taken to help the Brighton and Hove bench to recruit younger magistrates as well, as it already has done to some extent?

Mr. Leslie: We need to recruit magistrates from all age groups, so long as they can demonstrate that they have the necessary maturity, judgment and strength of character to undertake that judicial function. We are considering various ideas—my hon. Friend mentioned a couple—that have emerged from the mass questionnaire. That has galvanised quite a lot of support in the magistrates community, and we are analysing the returns now. I hope that some of the suggestions made will result in innovative approaches.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): Given that the number of magistrates rose substantially under the Conservatives, has fallen substantially under Labour and is now described by the Lord Chancellor as a sore issue, what has been the single most important measure that the Lord Chancellor has taken to retain magistrates, and why has it failed?
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Mr. Leslie: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should exaggerate; the figures are not quite as bad as he suggests. [Interruption.] As I hear said from the Benches behind me, crime doubled when the Conservatives were in power, and we are working hard to reduce crime and continue the good record that we have. We have made changes, such as beginning to advertise in different ways to potential magistrates the benefits of their applying to join the bench, which has been a major step forward, and other changes are coming. Asking magistrates themselves what helps to keep them on the bench and what would recruit others is probably the best approach. That is what we have done, and we will learn lessons from talking to them directly.

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