9 Jan 2006 : Column 1W

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 9 January 2006


Line of Route

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what percentage of the line of route is inaccessible to wheelchair users; and if he will make a statement. [39062]

Nick Harvey: Of the 17 distinct stops on the visitor route, only St. Stephen's Hall is entirely inaccessible to wheelchair users. Wheelchair users can view the Lords Chamber from alongside the throne and from the Bar of the House, but cannot transit the Chamber due to the narrow space between the benches and the Table of the House.

Public Gallery

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment the Commission has made of the impact on visitor numbers to the Public Gallery in the Chamber since the erection of the security screen. [39063]

Nick Harvey: There is no reason to suggest that the erection of the Chamber screen has had any impact on numbers of visitors to the Public Gallery. In the year April 2003 to March 2004 before the temporary security screen was in place there were 107,136 visitors from the public queue and 10,355 from Members' allocated tickets (total 117,491). From April 2004 to March 2005 with the screen in place the corresponding figures were
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111,846 from the public queue and 10,329 from Members' allocations (total 122,175). I refer the hon. Member to my answer to the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) on 19 December 2005, Official Report, column 2231W, on the effect of the erection of the permanent screen on the view of the southern portion of the Chamber, and the steps to be taken to alleviate this.


Crime Clear-up Rates

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Solicitor-General in which areas primary responsibility for decisions to charge for offences has been passed from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service; and what the clear-up rates for crime in (a) the year before and (b) the year after implementation of the policy were in each case. [39569]

The Solicitor-General: To date, 30 areas are operating under statutory charging. The remaining 12 areas have been operating shadow charging schemes since 2003, whereby charging is operating on a non-mandatory basis, which mirrors as closely as possible statutory charging arrangements between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday. These remaining areas are scheduled to move onto statutory charging by April 2006.

The expected benefits of the charging scheme are a reduction in the rate of discontinuance, an increase in the guilty plea rate, and a reduction in the rate of attrition.

The following table shows, for each area, the date of implementation of statutory charging, and the proportion of recorded crime which was detected by the police.

23 per cent. of recorded crime in England and Wales was detected by the police in 2003–04. The latest data show that the detection rate rose by three percentage points, to 26 per cent., in 2004–05.
Implementation of statutory charging, and detection rate as percentage of recorded crime

StatutoryScheduledDetections as percentage of recorded
Areacharging introducedintroduction of statutory scheme2003–042004–05
Avon and SomersetJuly 2004n/a1517
Bedfordshiren/aJanuary 20062328
Cambridgeshiren/aMarch 20062323
Cheshiren/aFebruary 20062726
ClevelandJune 2004n/a2124
CumbriaDecember 2005n/a3230
Derbyshiren/aJanuary 20062528
Devon and Cornwalln/aMarch 20062930
Dorsetn/aMarch 20062628
DurhamAugust 2005n/a2929
Dyfed Powysn/aFebruary 20064743
EssexDecember 2005n/a2827
GloucestershireOctober 2005n/a2827
Greater ManchesterSeptember 2004n/a2223
GwentDecember 2005n/a4542
HampshireApril 2005n/a2728
HertfordshireNovember 2005n/a2529
HumbersideAugust 2004n/a1920
KentMay 2004n/a2523
LancashireJune 2004n/a2730
Leicestershiren/aFebruary 20062225
LincolnshireNovember 2005n/a2225
MerseysideOctober 2004n/a2730
London, City ofNovember 2004n/a3336
Metropolitan PoliceNovember 2004n/a1521
NorfolkOctober 2005n/a2628
Northamptonshiren/aFebruary 20062829
NorthumbriaJune 2004n/a3029
North WalesSeptember 2005n/a3342
North YorkshireNovember 2005n/a2835
NottinghamshireJuly 2004n/a1820
South WalesOctober 2005n/a2929
South YorkshireMay 2004n/a2426
Staffordshiren/aJanuary 20063335
SuffolkOctober 2005n/a3332
Surreyn/aJanuary 20062226
SussexNovember 2005n/a2425
Thames ValleySeptember 2004n/a2326
Warwickshiren/aMarch 20062527
West MerciaJuly 2005n/a3134
West MidlandsNovember 2005n/a2523
West YorkshireMay 2005n/a2025
Wiltshiren/aMarch 20062829
England and Wales2326

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Iraqi Prisoners

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Solicitor-General for what reasons the Crown Prosecution Service did not proceed with charges against the individuals who faked photographs of British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners. [40458]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service has already confirmed that no charges were preferred as there was no realistic prospect of a conviction. In accordance with usual practice, they do not publish detailed reasons for the decision.

Special Counsel

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Solicitor-General (1) in how many criminal cases a special counsel has been appointed in each year since 1997; [38705]

(2) in how many criminal cases in Northern Ireland a special counsel has been appointed in each year since 1997. [38716]

The Solicitor-General: As appears from the decision of the House of Lords in R v. H & C [2004] the Attorney-General may be asked by the court to appoint a special counsel to represent the interests of a defendant when issues of disclosure are being considered by the court in the absence of the defendant and his legal team. Such cases are rare. I am informed that the number of special counsel newly appointed in England and Wales in criminal cases in the year 2004–05 is 10 (in 12 cases) and in 2005–06 (to date) is one. In Northern Ireland the figure for 2004–05 is one and no further special counsel has been appointed so far in 2005–06.
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Spy Ring (Stormont)

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Solicitor-General who was consulted on the decision to discontinue the case against those charged with running a spy ring at Stormont in 2002. [38708]

The Solicitor-General [holding answer 19 December 2005]: The decision to offer no evidence in this case in December 2005 was taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland following information received in November 2005 from the police. That decision was based on his assessment of the public interest. The Director kept the Attorney-General informed throughout this case and consulted the Attorney-General in respect of his decision.

In January 2005 an issue arose in the trial process, the Attorney-General carried out a Shawcross exercise by which he consulted ministerial colleagues as to whether they had information that might bear on the consideration of the public interest by the Director. In the event, having regard to ongoing developments in the trial process, no decision was required to be taken at that time and the information obtained formed no part of the Director's decision to discontinue the prosecution in December 2005. That decision was informed by facts and information provided by the chief constable in November 2005 following upon a further development in the trial process. No further ministerial consultation took place.


0870 Numbers

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 17 November 2005, Official Report,
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column 1364W, on 0870 numbers, what contractual arrangements her Department has for the provision of 0870 lines. [37642]

Jim Knight: The core Department's 0870 number is used by callers to the Pet Travel Scheme helpline and is provided by BT which has a minimum contractual period of 12 months. This helpline number was provided by BT in late 1999 so it is no longer bound by a contractual period.

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