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Ms Harman: I am committed to reducing delays in holding inquests. On 6 February, I announced our plans for reform of the coroner systemand I also placed further details in the House Library. Major priorities for the reform programme will be addressing the needs and expectations of bereaved people, including those cases where inquests are required, and improving the speed and effectiveness of investigations. I will be bringing forward a draft Bill for scrutiny in the late spring.
Ms Keeble: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many inquests in each coroner's court area have been adjourned for longer than a year; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Harman: A list of coroner districts with the number of inquests concluded which took over 12 months to resolve in 2004, the latest year for which figures which are available has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Information about inquests which are still in progress is not collected centrally.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many complaints have been made about the conduct of judges in each year since 1997; how many of those complaints have been upheld in each year; and what action was taken to redress each successful complaint. 
Ms Harman: The Judicial Correspondence Unit was set up in 1998 and records commence from 1999. The following figures show the number of complaints about judges received for each year from 1999 to 2005; the number which were investigated in that year; and the number of disciplinary actions taken by the Lord Chancellor in that year. (It should be noted that there will have been a number of active cases carried over from year to year and so the second two columns do not simply represent a percentage of the first.)
The Lord Chancellor has a range of disciplinary actions open to him, from issuing guidance, a warning as to future conduct or a reprimand, to, in the most serious cases, removal from office for judges below the level of the High Court. (Judges at the level of the High Court and above may only be removed by the Queen following an Address in both Houses.) The following
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figures do not show cases where the complaint was upheld but no formal disciplinary action was deemed necessary as the JCU does not hold this information.
|Complaints received||Complaints investigated||Disciplinary action taken|
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many complaints have been made about judges sitting at Chelmsford Crown court in each year since 1997; how many of those complaints have been upheld; and what action was taken to redress each successful complaint. 
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many (a) judicial members, (b) tribunal members, (c) lay justice members, (d) professional members and (e) lay members applied for the new Judicial Appointments Commission. 
Ms Harman: The number of (a) judicial members, (b) tribunal members, (c) lay justice members, (d) professional members and (e) lay members who applied for positions as Commissioners of the new Judicial Appointments Commission (as specified in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005) are set out in the table.
|Category||Number of applicants|
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs on how many occasions since his appointment, the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs has overruled a recommendation for judicial appointment. 
Officials present a report on a competition for judicial office to my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. He then selects for
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appointment the candidate or candidates most fitted for appointment, taking account of all the information contained in that report.
Ms Harman: The Judicial Complaints Protocol was launched by Lord Irvine of Lairg in April 2003 when he was Lord Chancellor. It explains the handling process that is followed by officials in the Judicial Correspondence Unit in considering complaints against members of the judiciary. Its contents were adopted by Lord Falconer of Thoroton when he became Lord Chancellor.
Most complaints relate to decisions taken by judges in the course of proceedings and those decisions (including those relating to case management) are not and should not be subject to ministerial review because that would be inconsistent with the principle of judicial independence.
In a minority of complaints, issues are raised about the personal misconduct of judicial office holders and the Judicial Complaints Protocol sets out what officials will do to assist the Lord Chancellor in resolving such complaints. The protocol also sets out the Lord Chancellor's powers to discipline judicial office holders in the event that a complaint is upheld.
Ms Harman: The Judicial Correspondence Unit receives letters both directly from members of the public and Members of Parliament on behalf of their constituents. They are recorded on a monthly basis. The following table therefore shows the numbers received each month in 2004 and 2005.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many officials are employed by the Judicial Correspondence Unit; at what (a) grade and (b) salary they are employed; and what the equivalent figures were in each year since 1997. 
Ms Harman: The following information shows how many officials have been employed by the Judicial Correspondence Unit, their grade and average salary since 2001, from which point this information is available.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many complaints were received by the Judicial Correspondence Unit about the work of that unit in each month since 2000. 
Ms Harman: The Judicial Correspondence Unit records all correspondence received from members of the public and Members of Parliament. It does not, however, distinguish letters about the work of the unit from those letters that are making complaints against judicial office holders.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs has had a centralised system for handling departmental complaints since 2005 and records show that six complaints have been received since that time, which have specifically focused on the way in which officials in the Judicial Correspondence Unit have responded to letters, complaining about judicial office holders.
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Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what advice is produced by the Judicial Correspondence Unit for members of the public wishing to make a complaint about a member of the judiciary. 
Ms Harman: Leaflets are available in courts for users who wish to complain and information is also provided by way of frequently asked questions on the Department for Constitutional Affairs' website at www.dca.gov.uk/legalsys/complain.htm. More detailed guidance is provided in the Lord Chancellor's Judicial Complaints Protocol which is available to members of the public on request.
Ms Harman: Lord Irvine of Lairg launched the Judicial Complaints Protocol in April 2003 in his capacity as Lord Chancellor. It sets out the Lord Chancellor's arrangements through the Judicial Correspondence Unit for the handling of complaints against members of the judiciary, together with his powers to discipline judicial office holders. Lord Falconer of Thoroton adopted the contents of that protocol on taking up appointment as Lord Chancellor.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will list the (a) publications, (b) periodicals and (c) newspapers purchased by the Judicial Correspondence Unit in each month since 2002. 
Ms Harman: The Judicial Correspondence Unit is part of the Judicial Policy and Correspondence Division and its budget is managed as part of the resources allocated to that division. It would therefore be disproportionately costly to retrieve information about the cost of refreshments specifically for the Judicial Correspondence Unit from the wider budget. I understand, in any event, that the unit only very rarely requires refreshments, if for example it was holding a team event in a building away from its base in Selborne House.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many parliamentary questions were answered by the Judicial Correspondence Unit in each Session of Parliament since 199798. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many letters sent by (a) hon. Members and (b) Members of the House of Lords were received by the Judicial Correspondence Unit in each month since 1997; and how many and what percentage were replied to within the target time set by her Department. 
Ms Harman: The Judicial Correspondence Unit (JCU) was created in 1998, and the relevant records start with effect from January 1999. The information requested for each year, 1999 to 2005 is as follows.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent discussions she has had with stakeholders about the work of the Judicial Correspondence Unit; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Harman: As part of the Lord Chancellor's constitutional reforms and based on the agreement made with the Lord Chief Justice in the Concordat in January 2004, the handling of judicial complaints will be undertaken by the Office for Judicial Complaints from April 2006. That office will take over the responsibilities of the Judicial Correspondence Unit but will work jointly to the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice in doing so, reflecting their joint responsibility for judicial discipline matters after April this year. Discussions have been taking place over the past year with the senior judiciary to work up proposals for the handling of judicial discipline matters in the future.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will list the occasions when members of the Judicial Correspondence Unit have been required (a) to appear before and (b) to give advice to officials in her Department giving evidence to (i) the Scottish Parliament, (ii) the National Assembly for Wales, (iii) Northern Ireland Assembly committees, (iv) House of Commons select committees and (v) House of Lords select committees in each session since 200102. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of complaints dismissed by the Judicial Correspondence Unit on the grounds that they were (a) scandalous, (b) frivolous and (c) vexatious in each of the past 10 years. 
Ms Harman: The Judicial Correspondence Unit records all complaints received from members of the public and Members of Parliament but they are not differentiated into the categories listed in this question.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what research has been (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated by the Judicial Correspondence Unit; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will place in the Library copies of research that has been (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated by the Judicial Correspondence Unit; and if she will make a statement. 
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