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14 Dec 2005 : Column 2045W—continued

Departmental Staff

Mr. Pelling: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps are taken by the Department to support staff with mental ill-health. [36264]

Bridget Prentice: The Department for Constitutional Affairs has a robust framework of policies, internal services and links with external service providers, which are designed to provide practical and timely support for employees with mental health problems. This framework is equally applicable to employees who suffer from other forms of disability or health problems.
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This framework includes the managing attendance policy and policies in respect of disability, work/life balance and stress at work.

The DCA has a nation-wide network of human resources advisors, local disability advisors, and welfare officers, all of whom have extensive experience of working with and supporting people with mental health problems. The DCA uses its external occupational health service providers to obtain clinical and employment-related advice tailored to specific individual circumstances. Workplace assessments and risk assessments are available to individuals wherever appropriate.

The DCA makes appropriate use of the access to work and workstep programmes available through the Department of Work and Pensions.

In addition the DCA has a disability network, which is a staff network which actively provides ongoing support for employees with physical and mental health issues.

Effective Trial Management Programme

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the progress of the Effective Trial Management programme; and if she will make a statement. [34323]

Fiona Mactaggart: I have been asked to reply.

The Effective Trial Management programme has supported all criminal justice areas in considering the Criminal Case Management Framework issued jointly by the Attorney General, Lord Chancellor, Baroness Scotland and the Lord Chief Justice in July 2004. All criminal justice areas have now produced their local case management schemes based on the national framework, 33 areas have implemented their schemes and all areas will have implemented their schemes by January 2006.

The early results are promising and indicate reductions in headline ineffective trial rates. For example: in the Crown Court there have been percentage point reductions of 11.1 in Merseyside, 7.2 in Manchester, 7.0 Bedfordshire, 6.0 in Essex and 5.8 in Nottinghamshire. In the magistrates courts we have seen percentage point reductions of 9.0 in Merseyside, 8.2 in Humberside, 6.3 in Nottinghamshire, 5.8 in Manchester and the West Midlands. (Figures are based on an annual average prior to the implementation of ETMP compared with a rolling monthly average after the implementation of ETMP, gathered by the PSA1 Performance Branch of the DCA).

Evaluations of each area's scheme are underway and a full national evaluation will be produced by July 2006.

Probate Costs

Lady Hermon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 11 November 2005, Official Report, column 1339W, on probate costs, why the fee structure for grant of probate in Northern Ireland is calculated on a different basis from England and Wales; and what the sliding scale system operating in Northern Ireland is. [32741]

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Bridget Prentice: The fee structure payable in respect of applications for grant of probate has differed historically between Northern Ireland and England and Wales.

In Northern Ireland fees for an application for grant of probate are charged on a sliding scale depending on the assessed value of the estate as follows:
Assessed valueProbate Fee (£)
Does not exceed £10,000Nil
Exceeds £10,000 but does not exceed £25,00075.00
Exceeds £25,000 but does not exceed £40,000145.00
Exceeds £40,000 but does not exceed £70,000260.00
Exceeds £70,000 but does not exceed £100,000330.00
Exceeds £100,000 but does not exceed £200,000410.00

An additional fee of £65.00 is taken for each £100,000 or part thereof where the assessed value exceeds £200,000.

Small Claims Court

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what progress has been made with research on raising the small claims court limit from £1,000; and if she will make a statement. [36133]

Ms Harman: The Better Regulation Task Force in its report, 'Better Routes to Redress' recommended that research should be carried out into the potential impact of raising the small claims limit for personal injury cases from the current limit of £1000. The Government indicated that it would carry out this research, and would also consider other options for dealing with these claims in a more proportionate and cost effective way.

The Government will be consulting shortly.


Departmental Expenditure

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much the Department and its agencies have spent on (a) the design and production of new logos and (b) employing external (i) public relations and (ii) graphic design agencies in each year since 2000, broken down by project. [33223]

David Cairns: Some costs were incurred on a logo for the Friends of Scotland" project which was under the responsibility of the Scotland Office until 2003 when this was taken over by the Scottish Executive. Figures on logo costs for this project are not readily available and could be supplied only at disproportionate cost. The Scotland Office has not incurred any other costs on design and production of new logos or employed external public relations or graphic design agencies.
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Departmental Tendering Policy

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what his policy is on including (a) ethical and (b) environmental factors in tenders for services. [33340]

David Cairns: The Scotland Office takes full advantage of contracts negotiated by the Scottish Executive or the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), depending on the services being purchased. Thus, the Executive or DCA would generally take the lead in such matters.

However, the Scotland Office expects to let all its contracts in accordance with ethical principles, and would consider any case where evidence to the contrary was presented. Environmental factors in contracts let by the office would be considered on a case by case basis relative to the subject matter of the contract, and the requirements of Community law.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what devolution issues the Advocate-General has considered since 15 November. [36695]

David Cairns: Since 15 November, 62 devolution issues have been intimated to the Advocate-General for Scotland.


African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking in collaboration with other EU member states to honour the EU commitment to provide African, Caribbean and Pacific countries with viable non-reciprocal alternatives to economic partnership agreements. [37309]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Government's policy on alternatives to Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) was made clear in our position of March 2005. We believe that the European Commission should be ready to provide an alternative to an EPA at the request of any African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) country. Any alternative offered should provide no worse market access to the EU than is currently enjoyed under Cotonou preferences.

The deadline for any ACP country to request an alternative has been extended from 2004 to the end of 2006, at the request of the ACP themselves. To date, no ACP countries have requested an alternative, nor disengaged from the ongoing EPA negotiations.

However, DFID has already supported research to feed an independent assessment into the debate on what steps would be needed to make one of the non-reciprocal alternative options—the generalised system of preferences (GSP) scheme—a viable alternative to
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EPAs. In addition, a formal and comprehensive review of EPAs will be undertaken by the EU and ACP in 2006 to check that the negotiations and preparations are on track. In the context of this review, the UK will actively encourage the European Commission and other EU member states, to consider all possible alternative options available, particularly if requested by any ACP country.

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what financial support the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries will receive from the EU as a result of the reformed sugar regime in the years after 2006–07; and if he will make a statement; [36640]

(2) from which fund the accompanying measures for the 18 African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar protocol countries will be drawn; when the funds will be available; and if he will make a statement; [36639]

(3) what assessment he has made of the extent to which the EU funding for African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar group nations will enable them to develop adequate transitional programmes; and if he will make a statement; [36638]

(4) what EU procedures will be used for disbursing support for African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar groupnations; what steps are being taken to avoid delays in the disbursement of funds; and if he will make a statement; [36636]

(5) what criteria will be used by the EU to determine how the transitional support for African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar group countries will be allocated. [36633]

Mr. Thomas: The European Commission will be providing transitional assistance to those African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) who will lose out as a result of reform, to help them to adjust to the change in price. The Commission have proposed €40 million of funding for transitional assistance in 2006, which is still being debated by the European Parliament and EU member states. While the Commission has indicated that funding for 2007 to 2013 will be more substantial, the exact amount will be decided as part of the debate over the next financial perspective. The UK Government will be aiming to achieve appropriate levels of funding as part of this broader agreement.

In its draft regulation of June 2005, the Commission proposed that the €40 million of funding for 2006 would come from the Commission's external relations budget. While the Commission has not yet made any official announcements about how much funding it will propose for 2007 to 2013, it has proposed that this should be funded out of the new Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Instrument (also in the external relations budget).

Assistance will be delivered through country-specific plans, which are to be 'elaborated in the country itself, in dialogue with the Commission'. In order to avoid delays in the disbursement of transitional assistance funding, the Commission is aiming to provide part of its funding to ACP countries in the form of budget support where this is appropriate.
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The Commission expects that the 2006 funds will be available before the end of 2006. The exact timing will depend in part on the speed with which the sugar protocol countries complete their action plans. DFID are providing over £250,000 to the six sugar protocol countries in the Caribbean to help them complete these plans in a timely manner.

The Commission stated in their draft regulation that allocation will be based on the needs of each country, related in particular to the impact of the reform on the sugar sector in the country concerned, and to the importance of the sugar sector in the economy. We expect more detailed criteria to be determined in the New Year.

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