The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the Baroness Ashton of Upholland, has made the following written ministerial statement in the other place today.
"I am today announcing the outcome of the recent consultation on Civil and Family Court Fee Increases. The Consultation Paper was published on 23 September and the consultation closed on 18 November. Some 50 responses were received from the judiciary, legal profession and other stakeholder bodies.
After careful consideration of these, my right hon. and noble Friend, the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor has, with two exceptions, decided to proceed with all the fee increases proposed. Three Statutory Instruments containing the new civil, family and magistrates' court fees were laid before the House on 20 December 2005 and will take effect today. A report analysing the responses to consultation in detail will be published shortly.
The Lord Chancellor has decided not to introduce at this stage the proposed increase from £210 to £380 of the fee for an application for ancillary relief. Consultees expressed particularly strong concerns about the size and timing of this proposal. There were also concerns that a detrimental impact on access to justice in this context could also harm any children of the family. It will be necessary to look again at this fee following the planned review of the system of exemptions and remissions.
The Lord Chancellor has also decided not to pursue the proposed increases to the fees for issuing lower value monetary claims. Some consultees were concerned that these fees were disproportionately high relative to the amount claimed. These increases would also run counter to our longer-term strategy of achieving a better match between income and cost within the system.
The increases will raise about £10.6 million additional income in the current financial year, £43 million in a full year. They are necessary to ensure that Her Majesty's Courts Service can balance its budget and meet its cost recovery targets for this and future years. As the Consultation Paper made clear, the need to raise this income and the underlying fees policy were not in question; the issue was whether the particular package of increases proposed was most apt to meet the need.
A key objective of that package, with which the majority of those who commented agreed in principle, was to harmonise the fees, which shall enable more effective allocation of cases to the lowest appropriate level of judiciary. This in turn will benefit court users by enabling many cases to be dealt with more quickly.
The Government's policy remains that court fees should generally be set to reflect (on average) the cost of the service provided. Where they can afford to do so, it is right that litigants using the civil courts, rather than the taxpayer, should meet the cost. This ensures that the taxpayers' contribution to the cost of the civil and family courts is focused on funding the cost of the system of fee exemptions and remissions, in order to ensure that less well-off citizens are not denied access to justice. Setting fees generally at levels
The first will be a fundamental review of the system of exemptions and remissions to ensure that it adequately protects access to justice and is operated consistently. This review will be overseen by a steering group of stakeholders, including representatives of the Civil and Family Justice Councils, which I will chair.
The second will review the structure of the system, that is the points at which fees are charged. The key objective will be to achieve a closer match of income and cost drivers, in particular through the introduction of trial fees. This is necessary both to make the system fairer as between different types of litigant, and make it easier to ensure that cost and funding remain in balance as workload changes. This review will also consider the various specific suggestions for changing the fee structure raised by respondents to consultation."
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am announcing today that a new order has been made under section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996, so that reservists may continue to be called out into service to support operations in Iraq. The new order is effective until 3 January 2007 and replaces the previous order that expired earlier this month.
During the course of the last year, some 2,000 reservists were called out and accepted into service to support operations in Iraq. Details of the next tranche of reservists to be called out were announced to the House on 6 December 2005, Official Report, column 86WS. Some 700 reservists are involved and they will be deployed to theatre from May, where the majority will complete six month tours. We remain very appreciative of the continuing support and commitment shown by reservists, their employers and their families.
The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells):
The arms embargo in Iraq continues under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 with exemptions for supplies of arms and related matériel
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required by the Government of Iraq (GOI) or the Multi-National Force (MNF) to serve the purposes of the resolution.
Following a thorough review of its procedures for processing export licence applications to Iraq, Her Majesty's Government will consider as exempt from the embargo exports to the GOI, the MNF, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, diplomatic missions in Iraq and entities contracted or subcontracted to GOI or the MNF. Export licence applications to these end users will not therefore require the approval of the Gol or MNF prior to approval of the application. For exports serving the purposes of UNSCR 1546 to entities other than these, Her Majesty's Government will seek the approval of the GOI or MNF to ensure that the proposed export is exempt from the embargo. Her Majesty's Government will keep the Government of Iraq informed on a quarterly basis of all exports of military equipment to Iraq.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): My reply of 12 December 2005, Official Report, column 1652W to the question put by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) stated that officials had identified a few instances during the administration of President Clinton where the US authorities had requested permission to render a detainee through UK territory or airspace. I added that officials continued to search the records.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have now completed a search of all relevant records back to May 1997. This search has turned up one further case, also in 1998; the Government declined a US request to refuel a flight carrying two detainees in route to the US.
The "Respect Action Plan" sets out the Government's intention to broaden the current approach to tackling antisocial behaviour through addressing disrespect in every walk of life. We intend to deepen the approach by tackling the causes of antisocial behaviour, intervening early where problems occur and the agenda goes further than before by empowering communities themselves to challenge disrespect and encourage positive behaviour.
Broadening our approach will be accomplished through measures which include addressing school discipline and attendance. The plan stresses the critical role of schools and parents in tackling disrespectful behaviour, persistent truancy and inadequate supervision of excluded children. We also want to ensure that young people are active and learn how to make a positive impact as individuals in our society. There is a strong emphasis on expanding the role of sport, constructive activities and volunteering as positive routes to nurture a culture of respect among young people.
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The cross-Government drive to address problem families and support good parenting is at the heart of our strategy to build a code of respect for the 21st century. By deepening our approach, we intend to intervene in families in crisis and provide support and practical advice. The plan promises a major new programme of projects to work intensively with the most problematic families who can cause such distress within our communities
And we will take our approach to dealing with antisocial behaviour further by ensuring that respect is promoted across government and throughout our programmes, funding and inspection regimes. Neighbourhoods will be empowered to ensure that local services deal quickly and effectively with the disrespectful behaviour of a minority. Our aim is to bring speedy, visible and reparative justice through a raft of measures which extend the powers available to address low-level crime and antisocial behaviour.
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