Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the running costs of the Government Communications Network were in each year since its establishment; and what the forecasted expenditure is for 200506. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Government Communication Network (GCN) was established in 2005 and is a professional network to which everyone who works in communication in Government can belong. Therefore it has no running costs.
I refer the hon. Member to the response I gave him on 9 January 2006, Official Report, column 201W, which gives details of the running costs for the Government communication group which supports the GCN.
(3) how much and what proportion of his Department's catering budget for (a) Cabinet meetings and (b) Cabinet committees was spent on Fair Trade produce in the last period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: It is Cabinet Office policy to purchase on the basis of value for money. We encourage our contracted catering providers to purchase Fair Trade products where commercially practicable and viable. Spending on Fair Trade produce is not separately identified. The information requested can be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 2 February 2006, Official Report, column 666W, on Government communications, if he will list the Departments to which the Permanent Secretary, Government Communications has given advice since his appointment; if he will place in the Library documents the Permanent Secretary has issued to Government Departments since his appointment; and what (a) speeches and (b) presentations he has given since his appointment. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The role of the Permanent Secretary, Government Communication is to modernise Government communication by ensuring that it responds to the opportunities and challenges of the modern media environment (including new ways of reaching and engaging the public), while upholding the highest standards of propriety.
As part of this remit the Permanent Secretary gives advice to Departments as and when needed. Information relating to internal advice is not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion and advice.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 2 February 2006, Official Report, column 666W, on Government communications, what the recruitment processes were for the posts of the (a) No. 10 director of communications and (b) special adviser without executive powers and official spokesman; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: Civil servants are recruited on merit through fair and open competition in accordance with the recruitment rules of the civil service commissioners. Special advisers are exempt from this process in accordance with the Civil Service Order in Council.
Mr. Jim Murphy: The official duties of the Minister without Portfolio include the formulation and development of Government policy and attending meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. He attends Cabinet and contributes to decisions taken by Cabinet and its sub-committees.
21. Mr. Harper: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the voting rights of hon. Members representing constituencies outside England on matters relating exclusively to England. 
Ms Harman: The Government will pilot the victims' advocates scheme in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Winchester from April this year. Under the scheme relatives of murder and manslaughter victims will have the opportunity to make an oral statement in court on the effect of the crime.
Ms Harman: The Government will today introduce into the House of Commons regulations to prevent postal vote fraud. These regulations will be implemented in time for the May 2006 local elections. In addition, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Electoral Commission have issued new guidance for police forces on the prevention and detection of electoral fraud.
Bridget Prentice: The Compensation Bill provides a power to designate or set up a Regulator to ensure we have maximum flexibility to safeguard consumer interests. It also allows the Secretary of State to regulate directly if necessary.
25. Mr. Khan: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs when she expects to bring forward proposals for a Joint Committee to examine the powers and procedures of the House of Lords. 
Ms Harman: Our plans include clarifying the powers of the House of Lords to entrench the primacy of this House. We are committed to establishing a Joint Committee of the two Houses to consider and codify the powers of the House of Lords and I trust we shall be able to proceed with the establishment of the Joint Committee as soon as possible.
27. Simon Hughes: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the likely change in the number of people registered to vote in England between the 2005 general election and the 2006 local elections. 
Ms Harman: According to the Office for National Statistics (based upon figures compiled the preceding 1 December) the number of people registered to vote in England at the 2005 general election was 37,043,600 while the number registered to vote at the 2006 local elections will be 37,655,524.
Ms Harman: Between 200103 there was a sustained decline in the number of voters registered. In my hon. Friend's constituency the figures were as follows for the period 1 December 2001 to 1 December 2005:
|As at December each year||Number|
This contrasts with the national figures for the 2005 canvass of electors which were published by the Office for National Statistics on 23 February and reveal that for the second successive year there has been an increase in the number of electors registered in the UK as a whole and England in particular.
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