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Norman Baker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many contracts were signed by her Department in (a) 200506 to date and (b) 200405 for direct mail; and what the value was in each case. 
Ms Harman: My Department commissioned the following direct mailings detailed as follows. Information about newsletters is not held centrally; to collate that information would be disproportionate to cost.
Purpose of direct mail
|Value of contract (£)|
|FY 200506 to date|
|June 2005||Letter to MPs and Peers to provide background information about the reforms proposed for Legal Aid||1,674.50|
|October 2005||As above||1,580.00|
|October 2005||Brochure and DVD sent to employers in the UK to raise awareness of the magistracy and to promote the business benefits of having lay magistrates as staff||8,559.78|
|October 2005||Leaflets and letters sent to targeted offenders to recoup unpaid court fines from defaulters, as part of Operation Payback 3 campaign||430|
|October and November 2005||Letter from DCA/ Law Society sent to 8,000 lawyers to raise their awareness of judicial appointments (part of drive to increase diversity within the Judiciary)||1,285|
|November 2004||Leaflets and letters sent to targeted offenders to recoup unpaid court fines from defaulters (Operation Payback 2)||839.95|
|January 2005||Leaflets and posters sent to FOI Officers in public authorities, solicitors, Advice Centres, Jobcentres, GP surgeries etc. to raise awareness among staff of new responsibilities as a result of introduction of Freedom of Information Act||86,628.51|
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the real terms percentage increase in allocated resources for her Department (a) was for the period 199798 to 200405 and (b) is estimated to be between 200506 and 200708 (i) for each period and (ii) for each year. 
Mr. Kemp: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will seek to amend the relevant legislation to allow (a) local councillors, (b) other publicly elected office holders, (c) people who have made donations to a registered political party within the last 10 years and (d) (i) officers, (ii) employees, (iii) members, and (iv) people who have been members within the last 10 years of a registered political party, to serve as electoral commissioners. 
Ms Harman: It is not an offence in electoral law to fail to register to vote although it is an offence to fail to complete and return an annual registration canvass form to an electoral registration officer (ERO). EROs are responsible for compiling a register of eligible electors for their registration area and would hold locally any records regarding prosecutions for failure to supply information requested as may the police in respect of any related arrests. Such information is not collected centrally for the UK.
Mr. Holloway: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the average waiting time for small claims from allocation to hearing was at the Gravesend county court in (a) 200304 and (b) 200405. 
Mr. Holloway: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many drugs possession cases were heard at the Gravesend and Dartford county court in (a) 200304 and (b) 200405. 
Ms Harman: When referring to Drugs cases I can only assume that the hon. Member means drug testing and treatment orders (DTTOs) which is a criminal matter and are therefore not heard in any county court; county courts deal with civil matters only.
Ms Harman: The resource budget for HMCS' first year of inception in 200506 is £962.52 million. The funding allocation is net of income and efficiency savings. The difference in the running costs of pre and post HMCS included in the funding is £217 million.
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make it a requirement for the returning officer to make available a marked register indicating postal voters in West Lancashire. 
There is currently no provision in electoral law for a Returning Officer to prepare a register of postal voters marked to show which of them returned their postal votes. However, the Electoral Administration Bill currently before Parliament does make such provision, and our intention is that marked registers of returned postal votes will therefore be available after future elections.
23 Nov 2005 : Column 2142W
Sarah Teather: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the extent of postal vote fraud in (a) the last round of local elections and (b) the last general election. 
Ms Harman: We are aware of allegations of electoral fraud in five areas at the last general and local elections on 5 May 2005. some of which are currently the subject of police investigation. However, no systematic central record is kept of such allegations and there may be others of which we are not aware. Where incidences of electoral fraud are discovered, or allegations made, they should be reported to, and investigated by, the relevant police authority.
The Government are nonetheless aware that these and previous cases have highlighted areas for improvement in the process of postal voting. Our policy paper 'Electoral Administration-a policy paper for discussion', published on 25 May 2005 put forward a number of proposals aimed at increasing the security of postal voting. We intend to introduce secondary legislation to implement these proposals in time for the local elections in May 2006.
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