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Ms Harman: The Electoral Administration Bill, introduced on 11 October, includes a new duty on electoral registration officers (EROs) to take all necessary steps to ensure comprehensive registers. Those steps include the following specific measures:
The Bill also includes a clause empowering EROs to remove from the register the details of an elector if it becomes apparent, after the process of registration has been completed, that the elector should not have been registered.
Peter Law: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether she plans to institute charges for freedom of information requests assessed to cost less than £450 to prepare. 
Ms Harman: The FOI Act gives the Secretary of State power to set an upper limit (known as the appropriate limit) for the cost of responding to FOI requests. The public authority is not required to comply with requests whose cost exceeds that limit. The Act also enables the Secretary of State to make regulations for public authorities to charge for requests that costs less than the appropriate limit. Under the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 the appropriate limit was set at £600 for requests to central Government and £450 for requests to public authorities outside central Government. Public authorities could only charge for the cost of disbursements (such as photocopying and postage) if the cost of complying with the request was less than the upper limit.
DCA has no plans at present to revise either the appropriate limits or to change the fees that may be charged under those limits. As with any new regulations, however, provision was made for a review of fees and a ministerial commitment was given at the time of the passage of the regulations through Parliament that this should take place after the Act came into force. No timetable for any review has yet been agreed. There have also been no decisions taken on the scope of any review.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the written statement of 15 December 2005, Official Report, column161WS, on judicial pensions, what estimate she has made of (a) the annual cost of the long service award and (b) the annual yield from tax paid by scheme members on pension contributions. 
Based on recent retirement patterns, the cost of the service award is estimated at about £6.7 million for 200607. This will be balanced by tax
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income (tax payable on the retirement lump sum, and on the service award), and additional national insurance contributions.
Based on recent member contributions data for the judicial pension scheme, the additional tax yield, arising from the fact that member contributions will cease to attract tax relief, is estimated at about £2.5 million per annum, balanced by reduced income to the scheme.
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many people summoned for jury service in West Lancashire sought (a) deferment and (b) exemption in each of the last five years. 
Ms Harman: It is not possible to break down the number of people summoned geographically, but it is possible to break them down by court. The majority of people living in West Lancashire are summoned for jury service at Preston Crown court. The number and rate of people who applied for deferral and excusal at Preston Crown court is as follows:
In 2001 903 people applied to have their jury service deferred (10 per cent. of those summoned) and 2,917 people applied to be excused from jury service (31 per cent. of those summoned); in 2002 949 (11 per cent.) applied for deferral and 2,905 (34 per cent.) applied for excusal; in 2003 833 (12 per cent.) applied for deferral and 2,221 (33 per cent.) for excusal; in 2004 1,037 (15 per cent.) applied for deferral and 1,890 (28 per cent.) for excusal; and in 2005 1,040 (16 per cent.) applied for deferral and 1,659 (26 per cent.) for excusal.
Joan Walley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on progress on proposals to fund a new build magistrates court in North Staffordshire. 
Ms Harman: The North Staffordshire magistrates court scheme continues to be within the programme of new court projects. Work continues to finalise investment plans, as part of the development of business and estates strategy for Her Majesty's Court Service. It is expected that a further announcement will be made once spending plans have been agreed with Treasury.
Small claim hearings are not heard in the magistrates court, but are dealt with in the county court. The figures for the West London county court show that between April 2003 to March 2004 there were 441 case dealt with, with an average waiting time of 7.5 weeks. Between April 2004 to March 2005 the average waiting time was 9.5 weeks (354 cases), and between April and December 2005 the average waiting time was 7.7 weeks (286 cases).
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Mr. Hands: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many possession cases were issued at West London magistrates court between (a) 1 October 2004 and 31 March 2005 and (b) 1 April 2005 and 30 September 2005. 
Ms Harman: Possession proceedings are a civil process, and dealt with in the county courts rather than the magistrates courts. The number of possession cases that issued at West London county court between 1 October 2004 and 31 March 2005 was 743, and 1 April 2005 and 30 September 2005, 833
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