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Bridget Prentice: The Government published 'Parental Separation: Children's needs and Parents' Responsibilities, Next Steps' on 18 January, which sets out plans to implement a range of measures to help separating parents in dispute reach agreement about future parenting arrangements.
The Government's plans include improvements in the information available to parents and greater use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and conciliation at the start of court proceedings. The Family Resolutions Pilot Project is testing out new arrangements for handling the more intractable contact cases. The Government intends to promote these methods as better ways to reach agreement than through contested court hearings.
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Legislation (the Children and Adoption Bill) will be taken forward in the 200506 parliamentary session to give the courts more flexible powers to help improve the enforcement of court orders and facilitate child contact. The draft Bill underwent pre-legislative scrutiny.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for the Constitutional Affairs (1) what guidance he provides for local authorities on the need to consult families of the deceased before (a) levelling, (b) disturbing and (c) flattening gravestones or markers; 
Ms Harman: Advice has been sought from relevant professional bodies on issues arising from unsafe memorials and we are currently considering what guidance might now be given to local authorities and others on these issues, including the need to consult families.
Information on the total number of deaths and serious injuries is not recorded centrally, but I understand that, sadly, as at June 2004 there have been at least three deaths and 18 serious injuries attributed to unstable memorials in recent years. I understand that none of these incidents has occurred in St. Albans or in Hertfordshire.
Mr. Alan Williams: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what records are kept of the number of applications to the High Court to seal a will in order to prevent it being made public. 
Ms Harman: Records are not maintained centrally of the number of applications to the High Court to seal a will in order to prevent its being made public. That information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost to the Department.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the Department's plans to reduce the proportion of the legal aid budget expended on very high cost criminal cases. 
Bridget Prentice: The Government and the Legal Services Commission are committed to securing value for money in all high cost legal aid cases, particularly very high cost criminal cases. We are addressing very high cost criminal cases in two ways. First, the fundamental legal aid review announced in May 2004, has been examining wider processes on criminal legal aid costs so that better outcomes for those who need publicly funded legal services can be achieved and efficient services delivered for the taxpayer. Second from September 2003 the Legal Services Commission has brought all new eligible very high cost criminal cases under individual case contracts. In these cases all work must be set out in a stage plan in advance, so that the Legal Services Commission can ensure that the work done is proportionate. The Legal Services Commission calculates that during 200304 savings of around £26.5 million were achieved.
Mr. Malins: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what percentage of trials in magistrates courts in the Greater London area were ineffective on the date fixed for trial in the last 12 months for which figures are available. 
Ms Harman: In the last 12 months (financial year April 2004-March 2005) 31.7 per cent. of trials in the magistrates courts Greater London area became ineffective on the date of trial. In comparison to this 37.1 per cent. of trials became ineffective on the date of trial for the financial year April 2003-March 2004. This is a 14.8 per cent. improvement in performance.
Ms Harman: The Parliamentary Boundary Commission for Wales submitted its report recommending boundary changes for Westminster parliamentary and National Assembly of Wales constituencies in January 2005. That report will be laid before Parliament shortly. In its last annual report, the Parliamentary Boundary Commission for England indicated that, at its current rate of progress, it expected to publish its report on English parliamentary boundaries in the late summer of 2006. Once implemented, no changes will take effect until the next Westminster parliamentary general election, or the next general election to the National Assembly of Wales.
The Better Regulation Task Force in its report, 'Better Routes to Redress' recommended that research should be carried out into the potential impact of raising the small claims limit for personal injury cases from the current limit of £1,000. The Government indicated that it would carry out this research and would also consider other options for
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dealing with these claims in a more proportionate and cost effective way. That research is currently under way and consultation will take place on any proposals which may emerge.
Bridget Prentice: The Government have announced that they will introduce legislation in the Compensation Bill to clarify the existing common law of negligence to make clear that those who take reasonable care or exercise reasonable skill cannot be held liable for untoward incidents.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what plans the Department has to grant the victims of certain crimes and their families a right to representation and advocacy in court. 
Ms Harman: We are looking at how we could provide legal advice and representation for victims of certain crimes. We are now working up proposals, with other ministerial colleagues, and will make an announcement in due course.
Mr. Robathan: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many prosecutions there have been under the Representation of the People Act 2000 for failing to register to vote. 
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.
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