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To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what representations she has received regarding the decision of the Legal
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1611W
Services Commission to withdraw its funding from specialist legal support services; and if she will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: In addition to the issues raised by hon. Members on 2 February 2006, Official Report, column 570W, we have received representations made by both Solicitors and not for Profit organisations expressing their concern at the decision to withdraw funding for specialist support services.
This decision will mean that £2.3 million will be redirected to fund about 9,000 opportunities for people to get direct legal advice in the next financial year. This will increase access to legal aid services for vulnerable people.
Mr. Walker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will reverse the decision taken by the Legal Services Commission to withdraw funding in July from specialist providers of support and advice on cases relating to housing, debt, welfare benefits, immigration, employment and money; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will ask the Legal Services Commission to review its decision to withdraw funding from specialist support services; and if she will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: This is a matter for the Legal Services Commission (LSC), acting under the powers contained in the Access to Justice Act 1999. I am satisfied that the LSC has acted properly in reaching this decision, which will result in more acts of direct assistance being made available to vulnerable clients.
Philip Davies: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much her Department and its predecessors has spent on media monitoring activities in each of the last eight financial years. 
Bridget Prentice: The department spent £106,293 in 200001, £66,580 in 200102, £81,389 in 200203, £112,632 in 200304, £173,248 in 200405 and £100,609 in 200506.
Figures prior to 200001 are not available because of a change in departmental accounting systems. All figures include VAT. The figures for 200506 are for the period up to 24 January 2006.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the cost was of pension contributions incurred by (a) her Department, (b) each (i) non-departmental public body, (ii) executive agency and (iii) other public body for which she is responsible in (A) Scotland, (B) Wales, (C) each of the English regions and (D) Northern Ireland in each of the last three financial years; and what the planned expenditure is for 200506. 
Bridget Prentice: For 200506 employers' contributions for civil servants are payable to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS) at one of four rates in the ranges 16.2 to 24.6 per cent. of pensionable pay, based on salary bands. The Scheme Actuary reviews employer contributions every four years following a scheme valuation; last carried out as at 31 March 2003. The contribution rates reflect the cost of benefits as they accrue (net of employee contributions), not the costs as they are actually incurred, and reflect past experience of the scheme. Staff at the Legal Services Commission are not civil servants, and are not members of the Principal Civil Service Scheme, but the Department does contribute to a funded pension scheme.
The following table shows the employer's contributions paid for the last three years broken down into the core department, agency (where this can be separately identified) and non-departmental public bodies for which the Secretary of State is responsible. The contributions are not recorded by country or region and these costs could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost.
The forecast for 200506 includes the costs incurred for approximately 12,000 former Magistrates Courts Service staff who became civil servants on 1 April 2005 on the creation of Her Majesty's Courts Service.
|Actual costs (£)|
|Department for Constitutional Affairs (including Court Service)||29,230,000||32,478,000||33,234.000|
|Public Guardianship Office (Agency)||955,000||902,000||956,000|
|Information Commissioner's Office (NDPB)||403,000||481,000||556,000|
|Legal Services Commission (NDPB)||5,939,193||10,739,087||11,676,207|
|Department for Constitutional Affairs||13,851,920|
|Her Majesty's Courts Service (Agency)||53,742,673|
|Public Guardianship Office (Agency)||1,338,692|
|Information Commissioner's Office (NDPB)||1,027,000|
|Legal Service Commission (NDPB)||8,811,587|
|Total estimated cost to Department||78,771,872|
Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what information her Department collects on the costs of personal injury litigation in other developed countries. 
Bridget Prentice: The Department does not routinely collect information on personal injury litigation in other countries. However, information is sought as appropriate to assist in policy development.
For example, information was sought from other European countries prior to consultation in 2002 on proposals to allow the courts to order that personal injury damages be paid in the form of periodical payments (which subsequently formed part of the Courts Act 2003). In addition, research has recently been commissioned on the funding of personal injury litigation which includes a survey of approaches in several European jurisdictions. This will be published later this month.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the average waiting time was from allocation to hearing for small claims at Southend county court in the last period for which figures are available. 
Ms Harman: The figures for the Southend county court show that between April 2003 to March 2004 there were 270 case dealt with, with an average waiting time of 15.2 weeks. Between April 2004 and March 2005 the average waiting time was 12.0 weeks (217 cases), and between April and December 2005 the average waiting time was 10.5 weeks (165 cases).
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs for what reasons the Legal Services Commission has decided to withdraw funding from specialist support services; and what assessment has been made of the likely impact of this decision. 
Specialist support services form part of the Legal Services Commission's (LSC) special projects budget. Given the pressure on the limited legal aid budget and the number of clients needing legal
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advice, the LSC has concluded that the money would now be better spent on direct, frontline advice to vulnerable legal aid clients.
The decision will mean that £2.3 million will be redirected to fund about 9,000 opportunities for people to get direct legal advice in the next financial year. This will increase access to legal aid services for vulnerable people.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent research on the effectiveness of specialist support services she has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated. 
Bridget Prentice: Research undertaken by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) which underpins their consultation paper Making legal rights a reality" points to an increasing demand for front line advice for the most needy. The LSC has concluded that specialist support services do not represent the most cost-effective approach to delivering this need for more and better services for clients.
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