|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of the quality of the Commercial Court building on the use of English choice of law clauses in international commerce. 
Ms Harman: As part of the development of the business case, an analysis is being undertaken to assess the potential risk of losing Commercial Court business to other jurisdictions. This will be a reason of the justification for providing improved facilities for Commercial Court work and to maintaining its high international reputation.
My Department is working with Her Majesty's Courts Service to finalise investment plans which will set out what new court building projects and major refurbishments will be taken forward. The
13 Oct 2005 : Column 597W
improvement of the accommodation for the Commercial Court features in these plans and has been identified as a priority project within the HMCS Estate strategy.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the process followed by her Department in responding to correspondence is; and if she will place a copy of the internal departmental guidance on handling correspondence in the Library. 
Bridget Prentice: The guidance issued to staff about how to draft answers to letters from MPs/Peers to the Department is available through my Departments FOI Publication Scheme. The same standard applies to correspondence from members of the public. A copy of the guidance has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether judges have been required to give a fuller introduction to juries since the Lord Justice Auld review on criminal courts. 
Ms Harman: Guidance to trial judges is issued by the Judicial Studies Board in the form of specimen directions and by the Lord Chief Justice in the form of Practice Directions. No specific guidance has been issued to judges on this matter as a result of the recommendations of the Auld review. However, the Judicial Studies Board is reviewing the specimen direction for juries in light of a recent Court of Appeal judgement (R v. Karakaya).
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what definition of recorded information for the purposes of providing information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is used by the Government. 
Ms Harman: For the purposes of providing information under the Freedom of Information Act, recorded Information is information recorded in any form. This includes information that is held electronically such as on a laptop or electronic records management system; information recorded on paper such as a letter, memorandum or papers in a file; and sound and video recordings including CD or video tape.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of improvements achieved by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 over the former Code of Practice on access to Government information. 
The Act also requires public authorities to prepare and maintain publication schemes which must be accredited by the Information Commissioner. These schemes set out the information which the public authority makes available as a matter of course, and thus to maintain accreditation, public authorities are required to publish information proactively.
The Freedom of Information Act provides a statutory right of access to official information, matched by a statutory enforcement mechanism. The FOI Act allows those requesting information to appeal to the independent Information Commissioner, while the Code required complaints to be made through an MP submitting a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Information Commissioner is independent of government, and has powers to require public authorities to release information.
The implementation of FOI has resulted in more requests for information than were made under the Code, and far more information being released. Since 1 January, central Government has released more than 10,000 pieces of information in response to FOI requests.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether it is Government policy that (a) regional development agencies, (b) regional chambers, (c) the Local Government Association, (d) the Greater London Authority, (e) the English Regions Network, (f) regional housing boards, (g) regional transport boards, (h) the Lyons Inquiry into Local Government Funding, (i) parish councils and (j) the Association of London Government fall under freedom of information legislation. 
Ms Harman: Regional development agencies, the Greater London Authority, parish councils and the Association of London Government are currently covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Information relating to regional housing boards is held by their secretariat, the Government Offices for the regions, who are covered by the Act.
Regional chambers, the Local Government Association, regional transport boards, the English Regions Network and the Lyons Inquiry into Local Government Funding are not covered by the Act. Where there are member organisations that are public authorities, such as local authorities, the information they hold is covered by the Act.
The organisations set out that are not covered by the Act do not meet the current coverage criteria specified in sections 4 and 6 of the Act. However, under section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act, the Secretary of State can bring under the Act an organisation that appears to him to have functions of a public nature. No organisation has yet been covered by the Act in this way. The coverage of the Act is kept under review.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what guidance the Department has produced on the status of non-judicial inquiries established by the Government under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. 
During the course of an inquiry held under the Inquiries Act, that inquiry is not a public authority and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. However, once an inquiry has been completed, its records are generally held by a public authority, such as a Government Department or the National Archives and become subject to the Act.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many and what percentage of people were eligible for jury service in (a) each region and (b) each London borough in each of the last four years. 
Ms Harman: The information requested is not held centrally. Everyone aged 18 to 70 years on the electoral register is potentially eligible for jury service. Actual eligibility is dependant on personal circumstances.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|