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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 9 February 2006


Mr. Victor Bout

Harry Cohen: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with the United Nations on whether Mr Victor Bout should be on a list of those subject to planned UN sanctions on arms trafficking; and if he will make a statement. [49806]

The Prime Minister: I have had no discussions with the United Nations on this matter.


Mitigation Speeches

23. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will encourage prosecutors to challenge derogatory attacks on a victim's character made by defence lawyers in mitigation. [49932]

The Solicitor-General: Yes, on 21 October 2005 I announced the publication of the revised Attorney General's Guidelines on the Acceptance of Pleas and the Prosecutor's Pledge. Both require prosecutors robustly to challenge defence mitigation which is derogatory to a victim's character.

Electoral Fraud

24. James Duddridge: To ask the Solicitor-General what role he expects the Law Officers' Departments to play in ensuring prosecutions are brought in relation to electoral fraud. [49934]

The Solicitor-General: Prosecutions for election offences, including electoral fraud, are conducted by the special crime division of the Crown Prosecution Service, based in London and York.

A specialist Crown prosecutor will review the case, as in all cases, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

The Law Officers, who superintend the work of the Crown Prosecution Service, would be informed about high profile cases, however the DPP does not require law officers consent to prosecute a case.

Crime Victims

25. Keith Vaz: To ask the Solicitor-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss liaison between the Crown Prosecution Service and victims of crime. [49935]

The Solicitor-General: The Attorney General and I and our officials have regular discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions and his officials on a
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wide range of victim related issues, including the No Witness No Justice initiative and the Prosecutor's Pledge, which are significantly changing the relationship between prosecutors and victims and witnesses of crime.

Criminal Cases

26. Mr. David Jones: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to improve management of the procedure of criminal cases in court. [49936]

The Solicitor-General: The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee (CPRC) sets the rules which govern the practice and procedure of the criminal courts and give courts explicit powers actively to manage criminal cases and to avoid unnecessary delays and promote consistency between courts.

The DPP is a member of the CPRC and both the CPS and my office play a leading role in contributing to the work of the CPRC and its sub-groups. The CPS was closely involved in the drafting of the overriding objective, the case management rules and forms. Significant contributions were made on the disclosure and terrorism protocols. The CPS regularly provides comment and suggestions on issues which the Committee are considering. In addition the criminal case management framework complements the rules in setting out the role and responsibilities of the CPS and others involved in managing criminal cases through the courts.

Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to improve the delivery of court papers. [49933]

The Solicitor-General: Steps are being taken to improve service—including the timely service of papers by the police. The electronic service of papers is increasingly being used by the CPS in the more complex criminal cases such as complex frauds and complex computer related crimes. The CPS in electronically serving evidence on the court has to ensure that the police have signed paper statements of all witnesses. The statements themselves can then be served electronically on the court and defence; this can be done by CD or e-mail. The signed paper bundle has to be retained by the police.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Solicitor-General what the average time taken by the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether to prosecute a juvenile was in the last year for which figures are available. [50064]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service maintains no central record of the time taken to reach pre-charge decisions, nor is the information recorded on individual case files. The time varies considerably, partly due to the need to gather evidence and talk to witnesses.
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Child Care

9. Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research her Department is undertaking on whether cost acts as a barrier to take-up of child care. [49945]

Maria Eagle: The Department has commissioned a series of surveys of parents' use, views and experiences of Childcare and Early Years Services. The latest of these was conducted between 2004 and 2005. The survey collected data on a wide range of issues associated with childcare/early years provision, including information on the barriers to such provision.

The findings from the survey are expected to be published in a research report at the end of March 2006.


10. Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures her Department has introduced since 1997 to promote setting and streaming in schools. [49946]

Jacqui Smith: We have published case studies and research evidence to inform school practice on pupil grouping. Through our national strategies and gifted and talented programmes, we have issued guidance to schools to consider a range of ability grouping practices, which includes setting and streaming, to better meet the learning needs of pupils. As a result the evidence suggests that there are more young people taught in ability sets now, than in 1997.

Children's Centres

13. Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress has been made in the establishment of children's centres. [49949]

Maria Eagle: I am delighted to report that we now have over 500 Sure Start children's centres, supporting nearly 400,000 children in the most disadvantaged areas. We are on course to have centres supporting 650,000 children being supported by children's centres by March. From April we will start rolling out children's centres beyond the most disadvantaged areas, as part of our drive to have 2,500 children's centres by March 2008. Our goal is to have 3,500 children's centres by 2010, one for every community.

School Discipline

14. Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on school discipline. [49950]

Jacqui Smith: Although the great majority of schools are orderly places we remain determined to reduce misbehaviour to an absolute minimum. So we are implementing a major national programme that makes behaviour management training available to all schools and provides extra resources for schools facing the greatest challenges. We are also legislating to give school staff an unequivocal power to discipline pupils and extend the use of court orders to reinforce parents' responsibility for behaviour in school.
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Education Standards

15. Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent assessment she has made of standards in education for 16 to 18-year-olds; and if she will make a statement. [49951]

Bill Rammell: This year saw the highest standards we have ever achieved at every key stage and at A-level. In the 14–19 Education and Skills White Paper and Implementation Plan, we set out our plans for a new 14–19 curriculum and qualifications entitlement which will transform opportunities for 16–19-year-olds and introduce greater stretch and challenge. There will be 14 sets of specialised diplomas, at three levels up to A-level equivalent, covering all sectors of the economy, delivered through partnership arrangements between schools, colleges and training providers.

16. Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures her Department is taking to improve the standard of basic skills of school leavers. [49953]

Jacqui Smith: The 14–19 Education and Skills White Paper set out our plans. We will provide catch up opportunities at key stage 3; toughen GCSE English and maths so that no-one can get a higher grade without mastering the functional basics; make these a core element of our new specialised diplomas; introduce a general diploma to recognise those who achieve five good GCSEs or equivalent, including English and maths, and reflect this in the attainment tables.

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