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Bridget Prentice: The Lord Chancellor regularly meets the Lord Chief Justice and other senior judges to discuss a wide range of issues including judicial appointments. His most recent meeting with the Lord Chief Justice was on 4 July.
29. Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what plans she has to change voter registration arrangements for military service personnel; and if she will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: There are currently no proposals to give increased legal protection to cohabitants. However, the Law Commission published its ninth programme of law reform on 22 March, which includes a project on cohabitation. This project will focus on a review of the remedies available to opposite and same sex cohabiting couples on the termination of their relationship by separation or by death. This project is likely to focus on relationships of an intimate nature, rather than on cohabiting family members or friends.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether it is planned that all staff answering inquiries at Community Legal Service Direct will be qualified lawyers. 
Bridget Prentice: All advisers working within the framework of Community Legal Service Direct meet the requirements of the Legal Services Commission's Specialist Quality Mark. This means that they must either have a professional legal qualification, or be able to evidence that they deliver at least 12 hours of legal casework per week. Advisers must also be subject to the supervision of a more experienced colleague, who must maintain a broad portfolio of recent experience.
Bridget Prentice: The plans for Community Legal Service Direct are to improve the service through the website, telephone service and information leaflets continuously, based on user feedback. It is also planned to increase the number of people helped by the service as follows:
|New telephone advice matters||23,000||60,000|
Expenditure on Community Legal Service Direct and its predecessor services in the financial year 200405 was £6,927,000. This includes
5 Jul 2005 : Column 236W
pre-launch costs for Community Legal Service Direct (launched 14 July 2004) and the costs of running its predecessor services from 1 April 2004 to 13 July 2004. The figure also includes costs associated with the Website, leaflet production and distribution, the telephone service, marketing activities and materials and the costs of staff working in the Community Legal Service Direct Team within the Legal Services Commission.
Bridget Prentice: Since its launch in July 2004 Community Legal Service Direct has established itself as an important new element within the range of publicly funded legal services. The telephone service has received over 300,000 calls, and now regularly receives more than 30,000 calls per month. Many of these are for assistance in finding a local legal adviser, but more than 30,000 people have obtained direct assistance over the phone.
The website www.clsdirect.org.uk has received nearly 750,000 unique visits since its launch, with the average visitor looking at six pages. More than 1.7 million legal information leaflets have been distributed in the first year of operation as more and more are added to the range.
Mr. Marsden: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps her Department is taking to inform (a) other departments and (b) agencies of the position of hon. Members representing their constituencies in terms of the Data Protection Act 1998. 
Bridget Prentice: The Cabinet Office provides relevant guidance on the Data Protection Act in Section 16 of the Data Protection Act 1998: Standards and Best Practice Handbook for Government Departments". This is available on the Cabinet Office website.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether the Department will issue guidance to local authorities on applying for (a) all-postal voting pilots and (b) other forms of election pilot in (i) forthcoming by-elections and (ii) the 2005 local elections. 
Ms Harman: No decision has yet been taken about issuing a prospectus to local authorities on piloting in by-elections or the May 2006 local elections. If we are intending to encourage electoral pilots of innovative voting methods, a prospectus will be issued.
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment the
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Government have made of the effect of the systems of proportional representation as used in England on election turnout. 
Ms Harman: An internal review of the experiences of the new UK voting systems introduced for the devolved Administrations, the European Parliament and London Assembly elections is being conducted by officials within my Department. It is at an early stage, and any decisions regarding the next steps for the review will be taken in due course.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the average cost of a (a) public defender and (b) private legal aid lawyer was in the last period for which figures are available, broken down by region. 
Bridget Prentice: Private solicitors firms and barristers carry out a wide variety of public funded work and are paid from different schemes within the Criminal Defence Service (CDS). It is therefore not possible to provide an average cost. However, an independent research programme has been continually evaluating the progress of the Public Defender Service(PDS) since its inception. The results of the research, including a full assessment of the cost of the scheme in comparison to private criminal defence practitioners, is due to be published in autumn 2005.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much was paid in legal aid fees for (a) civil work and (b) criminal work in each of the last five years; and if she will make a statement. 
|Civil||Criminal (below Crown Court)||Criminal (Crown Court and above)|
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many law firms practised legal aid work in 1999 for (a) criminal law, (b) general civil law, (c) immigration law, (d) family law, (e) housing law and (f) mental health law, broken down by region. 
The figures for law firms, by region, who practised in criminal, family and other civil law in the 19992000 financial year are in the table. It has not been possible to break this down into the other categories requested in the time allowed.
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|No. 1 London||1,329||1,674||2,009|
|No. 2 South Eastern||391||637||605|
|No. 3 Southern||458||672||625|
|No. 4 South Western||506||731||696|
|No. 5 South Wales||371||449||448|
|No. 6 West Midland||515||621||604|
|No. 7 North Western||512||670||692|
|No. 8 Northern||466||535||507|
|No. 9 North Eastern||507||626||618|
|No. 10 East Midland||478||614||599|
|No. 11 Eastern||509||725||669|
|No. 12 Chester and North Wales||381||497||483|
|No. 15 Merseyside||283||409||410|
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many law firms, have contracted for criminal legal aid work in each year since the Access to Justice Act 1999 came into force, broken down by region 
Bridget Prentice: The number of law firms contracted for criminal legally aided work, by region, since the Legal Services Commission (LSC) began operating the General Criminal Contract in 2001 are set out in the table.
The figures shown in the answer are figures taken directly from the LSC's scrutiny and payment of criminal claims (SPOCC) system and include firms who, although may not still have a contract with the LSC, are still billing for work that was carried out under their contract.
| 200405|| 200506|
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many law
5 Jul 2005 : Column 239W
firms bid for civil legal aid contracts in each of the bid rounds that have taken place since the Access to Justice Act 1999 came into force, broken down by region. 
Bridget Prentice: In June 1999, bids were invited for contracts from solicitors firms and not-for-profit organisations to undertake civil legal aid work. Over 6,000 bids for contracts were received. At the start of the new scheme on 1 January 2000, there were 5,156 contracts signed. Approximately 90 per cent. of existing contracted solicitors re-bid for their contract during the bid round in 2003, with the other 10 per cent. being let to solicitors firms moving into new categories of law or who were new to legal aid, and not-for-profit agencies. The present contract began on 1 April 2004. At the start of the 200405 financial year 6,242 solicitors firms had been awarded contracts. The number of contracts continues to change between bid rounds, with firms joining as well as withdrawing.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 27 June 2005, Official Report, column 1329W, on criminal cases, when she expects to announce the Government's vision for the future of legal aid. 
Bridget Prentice: I refer the hon. Member to the Written Ministerial Statement made by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor on 5 July 2005.
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