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Hazel Blears: There are restrictions on the sale of these weapons to young people and it is also an offence to have an offensive weapon in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. It is already an offence to sell knives and other articles with a blade or point including swords to a person under 16. We are raising this to a person under 18 in the Violent Crime Reduction Bill. We condemn the misuse of crossbows and swords and will keep the powers to deal with offensive weapons under review as the Bill goes through Parliament.
Ms Harman: A community justice initiative is being developed in Salford. The initiative will focus on antisocial behaviour and increasing community confidence in the criminal justice system. The initiative will be operational from November 2005. Salford is the second community justice initiative in the country.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the Department's plan to regulate advertising by compensation claims management companies. 
Bridget Prentice: We are committed to tackling irresponsible claims advertising by claims management companies and solicitors that raises false hopes of compensation and encourages people to bring unnecessary claims. We are considering what action needs to be taken to address this.
Ms Harman: The Department for Constitutional Affairs is conducting an official level review of the experiences of the new systems for the election of members of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the European Parliament and the Greater London Assembly and Mayor. This review is not considering the case for compulsory voting.
Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether she plans to hold a review of the (a) operation and (b) scope of coroners courts; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Harman: The Government are committed to reforming the arrangements relating to coroners and death certification and these include the operation and scope of coroners courts. I shall be looking at the best way of taking this forward, building on the Home Office Position Paper and taking into account the Reports of the Fundamental Review of the Coroner Service and the Shipman Inquiry.
Ms Harman: The Essex magistrates court scheme, of which Colchester is part, continues to be within the programme of new court projects. However, my Department is still finalising investment plans, as part of the development of a business strategy for Her Majesty's Court Service. This is due to be produced by the end of summer 2005 and a further announcement will be made shortly thereafter.
Mr. Malins: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) how many deputy district judges (magistrates courts) were in post on 1 January in each of the last five years; 
The number of district judges (magistrates courts) (DJ(MC)) and deputy district judges (magistrates courts) (DDJ(MC)) in posts on 1 January from 2001 to 2005 was as follows.
13 Jun 2005 : Column 180W
Existing plans allow for a total number of DJ(MC) posts in 200506 of 140 in 200607 of 145 and in 200708 of 150. The number created in any year is however subject to the business needs of Her Majesty's Courts Service. The total number of approved posts at this time in England and Wales is 137.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what plans the Government have to ringfence Government funding of local authorities' electoral administration budgets; 
Ms Harman: The Government have no plans to ringfence Government funding of local authorities' electoral administration budgets. The Government intend to include in the forthcoming Electoral Administration Bill a power to allow the Electoral Commission to set performance standards for electoral administration and to require reports to be prepared on how they have been met.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the Government's plans to (a) introduce clearer rules for candidates and political parties and (b) reduce bureaucracy for smaller parties and independent candidates. 
Ms Harman: The Government's response to The Electoral Commission's report Voting for changeAn electoral law modernisation programme", published in December 2004 sets out how we propose to take forward the Commission's proposals relating to candidates and political parties. The necessary legislative provisions will be included in the Electoral Administration Bill which was announced in the Queen's Speech on 17 May.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what discussions Ministers have held over the last 12 months with the Electoral Commission regarding individual voter registration. 
Ms Harman: We are aware of the following prosecutions, although, this information is not collected centrally. The cases include Hackney where two councillors were imprisoned in 2001 for three years each for registering electors falsely. In Blackburn, a Labour councillor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the returning officer. He was sentenced to three years and seven months on 8 April 2005. In Guildford, a former Conservative councillor was jailed for four months in April 2004 for forging ballot papers in a local election. These prosecutions even though related to electoral matters were not specific electoral offences.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many prosecutions there have been in (a) the UK, (b) Kent and (c) Swale for not registering to vote since 1997. 
Ms Harman: It is not an offence in electoral law to fail to register to vote although it is an offence to fail to complete and return an annual registration canvass form to an electoral registration officer (ERO). Local EROs are responsible for compiling a register of eligible electors for their registration area and would hold locally any records regarding prosecutions for failure to supply information requested. I understand there have been none since 1997 in Swale but such information is not collected centrally either for Kent or the UK.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what arrangements are in place for obtaining copies of the marked electoral register in (a) Scotland, (b) Northern Ireland and (c) England. 
Ms Harman: In Scotland, the marked electoral registers produced at the 2005 general election are stored by the relevant sheriff clerk of the sheriff court. In Northern Ireland, they are stored by the Clerk of the Crown for Northern Ireland, in Belfast. In England (and Wales) they are stored by Pickfords Records Management, at their site in Bow, London, on behalf of the Clerk of the Crown. Applications to view or obtain copies of them should be made to those authorities.
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