Previous Section Index Home Page

25 Oct 2005 : Column 359W—continued

Tax Credit Inquiries

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will re-introduce personnel in the Regional Inland Revenue Office in Belfast who would be available to meet interested parties such as public representatives and recognised advisory services in Northern Ireland in order to tackle complex problems associated with tax credit inquiries. [17128]

Dawn Primarolo: I have been asked to reply.

Hon. Members, Members of the Legislative Assembly and recognised advisory services in Northern Ireland have access to dedicated helplines that deal with their tax credits queries. HM Revenue and Customs considers all requests to meet with public representatives and recognised advisory services and, where appropriate, meetings do take place.


Asylum and Immigration

Anne Snelgrove: 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 Swindon; and what steps are being taken by the Legal Services Commission to ensure adequate legal advice for asylum seekers in the Swindon area. [20307]

Bridget Prentice: In order to ensure adequate access to legal advice for asylum seekers in the Swindon area, the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS), a national provider of immigration and asylum legal services, runs a 'surgery' every Monday at Swindon citizens advice bureau.

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) believes that this is currently sufficient to meet demand in the area. The LSC regularly monitors the supply of immigration advice and would increase provision or the allocation of new matter starts available to suppliers if this seemed necessary to cope with demand.
25 Oct 2005 : Column 360W

Departmental Vehicles

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many vehicles for which the Department is responsible are fitted with retreaded tyres. [17994]

Bridget Prentice: It is policy in my Department to operate official vehicles using only new (as opposed to retreaded) tyres. None of the vehicles brought onto the Department's fleet prior to 1 April 2005 are currently fitted with retreaded tyres. Similarly none of the new vehicles brought onto the fleet since to 1 April 2005 are currently fitted with retreaded tyres.

On 1 April 2005, following the implementation of the Courts Act 2003, the Department became responsible for vehicles owned or leased by the 41 former magistrates courts committees, and the GLMCA, in England and Wales. The information required to answer the question in respect of these vehicles is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

For information on the use of retread tyres in vehicles provided to the Department by the Government Car and Despatch Agency I refer the hon. Member to the letter of 11 October 2005 which he received from the chief executive of the GCDA, reference UIN15087 and UIN15088. Copies of this letter are available in the Library.

Human Rights

David Taylor: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent submissions the Department has received in support of the revision of human rights legislation. [19490]

Ms Harman: The Department receives a moderate volume of public correspondence about the Human Rights Act representing all shades of opinion from strong support to calls for its repeal.

Judicial Appointments

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many (a) High Court judges, (b) county court judges, (c) masters, (d) magistrates and (e) occupants of other judicial positions have been appointed in each year since 1997; and what the perceived community background was of each of the persons appointed. [18894]

Bridget Prentice: Statistics on judicial appointments are collated by business years (April to March). Since 1997, there were 53 full-time judicial appointments made in Northern Ireland. In addition 272 lay magistrates were appointed in April 2005. Details of the full-time appointments are given as follows:
Judicial appointments 1997–98 to present

1997–981998–991999–20002000–012001–022002–032003–042004–052005 to date
Lord Chief Justice1
Lord Justice of Appeal11
High Court Judge11113
County Court Judge311141
Resident Magistrate2312122
District Judge11
Master of the High Court12112
Chief Social Security and Child Support Commissioner1
Official Solicitor1

25 Oct 2005 : Column 361W

Equity monitoring information, including community background, on applicants for judicial appointment was not collected prior to 2004. Publication of such information for individuals appointed after that date would be a contravention of the principles of fair employment monitoring.

Mike Penning: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the Government's policy is on the minimum legal qualifications necessary for a judicial appointment; and if she will make a statement. [21676]

Bridget Prentice: The eligibility requirements for judicial appointments are set down in statute. They vary according to the judicial office concerned, but in general they provide that before being considered for judicial appointment, an individual must have possessed specified rights of audience before the courts for a specified length of time. My right hon. and Noble Friend the Lord Chancellor announced in July this year that as part of the programme of work to increase the diversity of the judiciary, the Government would legislate when time permitted to change the current statutory requirements. Specifically, suitably qualified legal executives, patent agents and trade mark attorneys would become eligible for some appointments, and the requirement for rights of audience would be replaced with a requirement for a specified (and reduced) number of years post qualification legal experience. I would refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement I made on 13 July 2005, Official Report, columns 25–27WS.

Legal Services Board

Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the remit of the Legal Services Board will be; and when it will commence operations. [21129]

Bridget Prentice: The Government published a White Paper on 17 October 2005 setting out proposals for the future of legal services in England and Wales. The reforms will put the needs of consumers first in the provision of legal services.

The Government will establish a regulator, the Legal Services Board (LSB), to provide oversight regulation of reserved legal services in England and Wales. It will be independent of Government and providers of legal services. The LSB will authorise Front Line Regulators, such as the Bar Council and Law Society, to carry out day to day regulation, if they meet its high standards. The LSB will have powers to act if Front Line Regulators fail. This will include the power to set regulatory targets, impose fines and to modify or
25 Oct 2005 : Column 362W
remove the authorisation of a Front Line Regulator if it fails, and to carry out regulatory functions itself in those circumstances.

There will be clear statutory objectives and principles, which will apply to the Legal Services Board, Front Line Regulators and the new Office for Legal Complaints. The objectives will be to: support the rule of law; improve access to justice; protect and promote consumers' interests; promote competition; encourage a strong and effective legal profession; to increase public understanding of the citizen's legal rights and maintain the principles of those providing legal services. The principles are independence, integrity, the duty to act in the best interest of the client, and client confidentiality.

The Government will publish a Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in the current Session of Parliament. Legislation will be introduced after that as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Next Section Index Home Page