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14 Nov 2005 : Column 996W—continued

Claims Farmers

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what measures are being taken to regulate claims farmers. [26485]

Ms Harman: The Compensation Bill, introduced in the House of Lords on 2 November 2005, sets out a statutory framework for the regulation of claims management services.

The legislation will require those providing claims management services to be authorised by a regulator and abide by rules and a code of conduct, raising standards of service for the consumer. It will also provide a clear mechanism for making complaints.

Consultancy Fees

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much was spent by her Department on consultancy fees in (a) 2004–05 and (b) 2005–06; what the 2006–07 projected figure is; and if she will make a statement. [27507]

Bridget Prentice: Information on expenditure on consultancy is not held centrally by my Department but is collected on an annual basis. The data collection exercise relating to 2004–05 is currently under way, and, on completion, details will be sent to the hon. Member.
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Projected figures for 2005–06 and 2006–07 could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to her answer of 2 November 2005, Official Report, column 1165W, on independent candidate descriptions, what assessment she has made of the impact of clause 23 of the Electoral Administration Bill on the ability of independent candidates to run as Independent Labour, Independent Conservative or Independent Liberal Democrat. [27235]

Ms Harman: Clause 23 of the Electoral Administration Bill states that it would be a matter for the returning officer, having regard to any guidance issued by the Electoral Commission, to decide whether a description proposed by an independent candidate would be permissible. However, it should be noted that clause 23 specifies that the description must not be the same as the name or description of a registered political party, nor be so similar as to confuse with or lead an elector to associate the candidate with a registered political party. The intention therefore is that names such as those suggested would not be permissible.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what the elections timetable, including the postal votes timetable, is for each type of election; [25483]

(2) what electoral timetable is proposed under the Electoral Administration Bill for each type of election, including for postal votes. [25919]

Ms Harman: The full details of national, local, and European election timetables can be found in Section D of the independent Electoral Commission's guidance, 'Managing Electoral Services', published in August 2005. Section D of the guidance can be found on the Commission's website at:–6672_E_.pdf

The Electoral Administration Bill will remove Maundy Thursday as a disregarded day—dies non—for the purposes of all national and local elections, except local elections in Scotland. The Bill makes no further changes to either national or local electoral timetables.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much was raised by each local authority from the sale of electoral registers in each of the past 10 years. [26416]

Ms Harman: Electoral services are delivered by local electoral registration officers and returning officers. The information sought is held by individual local authorities, and is not collected by central Government.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the recommended electoral registration rate is for each local authority. [26412]

Ms Harman: At present, there are no such recommended rates set centrally. The Electoral Administration Bill currently before Parliament will allow for performance standards for the delivery of electoral services in order to promote best practice and consistency in the delivery of these services.
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Performance standards may be set for electoral registration officers in the performance of their functions. The Electoral Commission will be responsible for setting performance standards following consultation with the Secretary of State and any other person it thinks appropriate.

Expert Witnesses

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will take steps to accredit medical experts who give evidence in trials. [26632]

Ms Harman: It would not be appropriate for a medical expert to be certified as meeting required standards for the purpose of giving evidence in a specific area of expertise, given the wide range of subject areas and substrands on which such a witness might be called to give expert testimony. It is for the trial judge to determine if any witness being called to give expert evidence, including medical evidence, has acquired by study or experience sufficient knowledge of the particular subject to render his opinion of value in resolving the issues before the court.

Government Websites

Charles Hendry: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what steps the Government are taking to ensure that websites attain the AAA standard of accessibility; and what target date has been set to meet these standards; [26994]

(2) which Government websites, have achieved the AAA standard as specified in the world wide web consortium's web content accessibility guidelines. [27102]

Mr. Jim Murphy: I have been asked to reply.

There is no centralised monitoring of UK Government websites for compliance with the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines" and the accessibility levels they define.

The Cabinet Office published the Guidelines for UK Government websites" in 2002 to assist public sector web developers with the application of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility guidelines. The Department has extensively promoted accessibility awareness and continues to keep web accessibility standards and technical developments under review. Responsibility for the application of accessibility guidelines rests with individual Government Departments, agencies and local authorities.

Hereditary Peers

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 2 November 2005, Official Report, column 1166W, on hereditary peers, whether the Government plan to lower the candidacy age for hereditary peer by-elections to 18. [27230]

Ms Harman: The Government made clear how they intend to proceed with the reform of the Lords in their 2005 manifesto, which includes legislation to remove the remaining hereditary peers. While there remain a wide range of views on the proper way forward, it is
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important to determine the part the second chamber plays in the parliamentary processes before other issues, including membership qualifications.


Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many serving judges were originally (a) barristers and (b) solicitors. [26629]

Ms Harman: The table gives a breakdown of the former professions of the judicial officers currently in post in the courts and for the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. The first part of the table shows judges who hold full-time appointments, while the second part shows the present professions of those judges who hold fee-paid appointments. Figures have been obtained from the DCA Judicial Database and reflect the information held on the system.
Part 1—Full-time judicial officers

Serving judges/genderFormer barristersFormer solicitorsTotal
Lords of Appeal in Ordinary
Lord Chief Justice
Master of the Rolls
President Of The Queen's Bench Division
President of the Family Division
Chancellor Of The High Court
Lord Justice of Appeal
High Court Judge
Circuit Judge (including judges of the Court of Technology and Construction)
District Judge
District Judge (PRFD)
District Judge (Magistrates Courts)

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Part 2—Fee-paid judicial officers

Serving judges/genderBarristersSolicitorsTotal
Deputy District Judge
Deputy District Judge (Magistrates Courts)
Deputy District Judge (PRFD)

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