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Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what request for Government financial support has been made by the proposers of (a) the Thames Gateway Bridge and (b) the second Mersey crossing. 
Dr. Ladyman: Transport for London requested PFI credits of up to £200 million for the Thames Gateway Bridge. The Department has agreed to this, subject to obtaining the necessary statutory powers and approval of the final business case.
22. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many barristers are on strike in respect of publicly funded work; and if she will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: The outrageous and irresponsible action by members of the Bar is taking place in only two parts of the country. Barristers are self-employed and take individual decisions about their work, so we have no figures on the numbers involved.
29. Mr. Gray: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what contingency plans she has put in place in the event of a strike by criminal barristers dealing with publicly funded work. 
23. Jon Trickett: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will bring forward legislation to introduce a statutory duty on electoral registration officers to maximise voter registration. 
Ms Harman: The Electoral Administration Bill, introduced on 11 October, includes a new duty on registration officers to take all necessary steps to ensure comprehensive registers. Those steps include the following specific measures:
Ms Harman: Electoral registration is one of our key priorities. The Electoral Administration Bill will allow people to register after an election has been called, will place a new duty on registration officers to ensure comprehensive registers, and will enable returning officers to promote participation at elections and at the annual canvass.
Ms Harriet Harman: We are committed to tackling the problem of under-registration, particularly in inner city areas. Besides the registration measures in the Electoral Administration Bill, we are looking at ways to simplify the registration form and also intend to initiate a campaign, with the Electoral Commission and others, to increase registration in London which has the lowest levels of registration in the UK ahead of next May's local elections.
The Electoral Administration Bill includes a provision to create a new electoral offence of falsely applying for a postal vote. A person found guilty of this offence will be liable to be sent to prison for up to two years, to receive a fine of up to £5,000, and to be barred from voting or standing as a candidate for five years.
18 Oct 2005 : Column 870W
Bridget Prentice: My right hon. and noble Friend published a policy document 'A fairer deal for Legal Aid' on 5 July 2005, Official Report, column 5WS. We need a fairer deal for legal aid. Fair justice at a fairer price: fair to taxpayers, fair to the vulnerable, fair to defendants, and fair to practitioners.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs when she last met the Chairman of the Bar Council to discuss barristers' concerns about changes in legal aid funding. 
28. Norman Baker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the adherence to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by Government Departments. 
Ms Harman: My Department publishes data on the adherence of central Government to FOI on a quarterly basis, data for the second quarter covering April to June of this year was published on 30 September and can be found in the Libraries of both Houses and on my Department's website.
Mr. Clegg: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the adequacy of provision of (a) legal advice and assistance and (b) interpretation facilities for asylum seekers in preparing their cases for asylum. 
Bridget Prentice: (a) The Legal Services Commission (LSC) continually monitors supply of publicly funded immigration and asylum legal services to ensure that supply is sufficient to meet demand across the country.
Asylum numbers have fallen significantly in recent years. Home Office figures show that the monthly application rate has fallen by almost two thirds since 2001, and a further reduction is likely. It is necessary to bear this in mind when considering issues relating to the supply of firms and organisations undertaking publicly funded asylum and immigration advice.
(b) The services of interpreters form an essential role in facilitating the provision of advice by legal representatives in immigration and asylum cases. The General Civil Contract therefore provides that suppliers may claim for the cost of using an interpreter wherever necessary.
Mr. Clegg: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the adequacy of provision of publicly funded advice for asylum seekers in Sheffield. 
Bridget Prentice: There are currently two specialist providers of immigration and asylum services in Sheffield funded by the Legal Services Commission (LSC)Sheffield Law Centre and Howells solicitors.
Having assessed the provision of publicly funded advice in Sheffield, the LSC is aware that, because of the withdrawal of other contract holders from immigration work across south Yorkshire as a whole, there is some unmet need for immigration advice in the area.
Mr. Clegg: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of whether adequate legal advice is available in the places in which asylum seekers are located and to which they are dispersed. 
Bridget Prentice: When a client is re-located by the Home Office, or if they choose to move to another location, they are entitled to instruct a more local representative using public funding. Although the same thresholds will apply, there is flexibility within the system to allow a new representative to pursue the case. New representatives can:
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