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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 27 June 2005


Visitor Reception Building and Westminster Hall

Derek Conway: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on progress with planning for the Visitor Reception Building and its likely impact on Westminster Hall. [7499]

Nick Harvey: In May last year the House agreed to the proposal made in the joint Report from the Accommodation and Works and Administration Committees for a new Visitor Reception Building to be sited at the north west corner of Westminster Hall. The House of Lords endorsed this proposal in July last year.

Over the past 12 months work on design has progressed. Tenders will be invited in August 2005. Construction is due to begin on site in December 2005. It is planned to complete the work by the time of return of the House in October 2006.

A model of the new Visitor Reception Building will be exhibited in the Upper Waiting Hall from 27 June to 1 July, in the atrium of Portcullis House from 4 to 8 July, and in the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords from 11to 15 July.

The construction of the new facility will in any event involve some disruption to Westminster Hall as well as the facilities on the west side of the Hall. To avoid such disruption being spread over a number of years, the opportunity is being taken to undertake at the same time a number of maintenance and repair projects in Westminster Hall itself, including replacement of the guttering and repairs to the south stairs and floor. As a result, Westminster Hall, the Grand Committee Room, the Jubilee Cafe, the Jubilee Room, the meeting rooms off Westminster Hall, and the IPU and CPA offices and reception rooms will be inaccessible from the end of December 2005 until October 2006.

Mr. Speaker has decided that sittings of the House in Westminster Hall will be held in Committee Room 10, with effect from January 2006 until the return of the House in October 2006.

As a temporary measure to replace the W meeting rooms off Westminster Hall, Committee Room 21 on the Upper Committee Corridor will be divided into two separate meeting rooms. The Serjeant at Arms will shortly be circulating further details of arrangements for other meeting rooms.

As a temporary measure to alleviate the effect of the closure of the Jubilee Room, functions held in the Macmillan Room in Portcullis House will be allowed to use outside caterers, as will meetings in additional spaces to be made available by the House of Lords.
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The offices of the UK branch of the CPA will be moved to temporary offices in 2 The Abbey Garden. The Chess Room will be made available as a reception room.



Gregory Barker: To ask the Solicitor-General what criminal investigations the Serious Fraud Office is undertaking into cases of fraud by staff working for HM Customs and Excise; and if he will make a statement. [6629]

The Solicitor-General: SFO policy is to neither confirm or deny whether a specific matter has been referred to it, or is under investigation, until such a time as is considered appropriate or necessary.

On this occasion it is in the public interest to confirm that I am told there are no current SFO investigations into allegations of fraud by officials of HM Customs and Excise (now HM Revenue and Customs).

Any such allegation referred to the SFO would be accepted for investigation if it met the SFO's acceptance criteria and there was evidence to support the allegations. Otherwise it may be investigated by an alternative investigating authority.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement on the role of the Serious Fraud Office in investigating cases of fraud by staff at HM Customs and Excise. [6630]

The Solicitor-General: The Director of the Serious Fraud Office may investigate any suspected offence involving serious or complex fraud.

The overriding criterion is that the fraud is such that the direction of the investigation should be in the hands of those responsible for any subsequent prosecution.

If a case involving allegations of fraud by officials of HM Customs and Excise (now HM Revenue and Customs) was referred to the SFO that met this criterion, then it would be accepted for investigation by the SFO.


Mr. Pope: To ask the Solicitor-General how many officials currently in the offices of the Law Officers received honours in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours List; and at what rank of honour. [5114]

The Solicitor-General: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right Hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on Wednesday 22 June 2005, Official Report, column 1059W.


Lynne Jones: To ask the Solicitor-General pursuant to the answer of 20 June 2005, Official Report, column 805W, on advice to Cabinet, on what basis it was disclosed that the Attorney-General made an oral presentation to the Cabinet of his advice on the legality of the war in Iraq. [7594]

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The Solicitor-General: The information was disclosed by the Butler Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction in its Report published on 14 July 2004.

Lenient Sentences (Appeals)

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Solicitor-General under what circumstances the Crown Prosecution Service has the power to appeal against an unduly lenient sentence; and whether this includes convictions for actual bodily harm. [6221]

The Solicitor-General: Part IV of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, as amended, provides that the Attorney-General may apply to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) to refer for review by the court sentences that he regards to be unduly lenient. The Solicitor-General has the same power to refer sentences. The CPS and other prosecuting agencies cannot appeal directly under the power but must refer a sentence to the Law Officers for consideration. It is then for the Law Officer alone to decide whether to refer the sentence.

These provisions only apply to certain offences where the sentence is passed in the Crown court but does not include assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The CPS can refer to the Law Officers any sentence for an offence which is covered by the power where it considers it appropriate to do so. It may also refer cases to the Law Officers where there has been a direct request to do so by a victim, family member or member of the public.

The Court of Appeal, having considered an application for a review of such a sentence, may quash the sentence passed in the Crown court and impose a different sentence which can be more severe.

Muggers (Prosecutions)

John Hemming: To ask the Solicitor-General pursuant to the answer of 7 June 2005, Official Report, column 456W, on theft, what powers the police have to ensure that a mugger is prosecuted. [4183]

The Solicitor-General: The decision whether to initiate a prosecution of a case in the courts may be taken either by the police or by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). How the procedure to initiate proceedings operates depends on the nature of the offence and, currently, where an offence was committed. When the roll-out of statutory charging is completed (planned for April 2006), a standard procedure will apply throughout England and Wales.

In an area where statutory charging applies, the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) Guidance (under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, as amended) allows police officers themselves to charge a range of offences but not robbery.

The CPS would usually deal with robbery offences. The public interest would almost always demand a prosecution in such cases. In strictly limited
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circumstances, a case that is cautioned may subsequently be prosecuted, though the parameters have been very tightly defined by the courts.


Acts of Parliament (Internet Access)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take steps to make all Acts of Parliament published before 1988 for which her Department is responsible available on-line. [3717]

Jim Knight: The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) within the Cabinet Office is the Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament, and responsible for the publication of Acts of Parliament. HMSO has considered the publication of Acts prior to 1988, which is the earliest date when these were available electronically, but has decided not to do so as many have been heavily amended and to publish them in their original form would be misleading for many users. The Government is, however, taking forward development of a Statute Law Database which will contain the fully revised and updated text of all legislation from 1275. It is expected that this will be made available to the general public during 2006.

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