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Keith Vaz: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps are being taken by his Department to ensure that the number of chief Crown prosecutors in England and Wales from black and Asian minorities better reflects the ratio in the population. 
The Solicitor-General: In common with other Whitehall Departments, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has produced a diversity delivery plan to support the delivery of targets across the senior civil service (which includes the chief Crown prosecutor grade) range of diversity categories by 2008. As at April 2006, the CPS has seven black and minority ethnic (BME) chief Crown prosecutors (of whom two are of Asian origin). This BME total represents 15.6 per cent. of staff at that level within the service.
The Solicitor-General: I have had no recent discussions with the Home Secretary on prosecutions for identity theft, but I have discussed the issue with Home Office Ministers, one of whom wrote to the hon. Member in February 2006 about identity theft.
Mr. Mullin: To ask the Solicitor-General when he was first informed that wetting was official policy for dealing with looters in Basra; what witness statements to this effect were disclosed to Crown counsel; and if he will make a statement. 
The Solicitor-General: I have never been informed that wetting is official policy for dealing with looters in Basra. No witness statements saying that wetting is official policy for dealing with looters in Basra were disclosed to Crown counsel either prior to the trial of soldiers relating to the death of an Iraqi youth in the Shatt al Basra River or since the conclusion of these proceedings.
I am told that during the trial three witnesses gave evidence as to a practice of putting detained looters in water which appears to refer to wetting. Mr. Daniel O'Connell, formerly a Lieutenant Platoon Commander, said there was a practice of making looters wet which was discussed at the company O Group meetings; however it was not formal policy. He indicated that he had witnessed one such incident of looters being put into a dyke where they were waist high and in no real danger.
Major Peter MacMullen the Company Commander said that the looting problem was discussed at Battle group meetings and that he was aware of a range of sanctions that were being deployed, which included people being put into water so that they would be left cold, wet and miserable.
Mr. Niall Brennan, formerly the Company Second in Command, said he knew of other companies throwing
looters into the Shatt al Arab River. He did not consider they were in danger of drowning and claimed that he did not consider this dangerous because it involved the use of minimum force.
Despite this evidence, coming from higher up the chain of command, the evidence given at trial made it clear that neither the commanders on the ground nor the individual soldiers were aware of such a policy or practice (officially sanctioned or otherwise). Not one of the accused raised this in their witness statements or interviews under caution. None of the members of their platoon or section who gave evidence knew of such a policy or had even heard of looters being put into water. Knowledge of the policy, if one did indeed exist, was restricted to the middle echelons of the chain of command only.
During the course of the trial a statement was obtained from the then Battle Group Commander, Brigadier Riddle-Webster, who said that the practice of wetting had never been discussed and had he heard of such a practice he would have put a stop to it immediately since he regarded it as illegal, dangerous and immoral. However due to legal reasons this was not put before the Board.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Solicitor-General on what occasions an (a) individual and (b) organisation has applied for a judicial review of decisions of his Department in each year since 1997; and what the outcome was of each case where proceedings have been completed. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: For expenditure on advertising campaigns run by the Department through the Central Office of Information from July 2004 until April 2006, the figures are as follows. Figures include Small Business Service, but exclude VAT.
Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether (a) his Department and (b) its (i) executive agencies and (ii) non-departmental public bodies use the services of private debt collectors. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department does not make use of private debt collectors. Of the executive agencies, Companies House uses the services of a debt collector in connection with the administration of the penalties raised on companies for late filing of accounts. The Insolvency Service uses agents for the collection of book debts (moneys owed by creditors to bankrupts and companies in liquidation) where the Official Receiver is trustee or liquidator and to collect costs from directors who are disqualified as a result of a court hearing.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council has made limited use of an agency to help recover outstanding debts;
The Medical Research Council has used an agent to trace debtors, conduct correspondence, manage recovery schedules and where necessary prepare cases for County Court recovery;
Advantage West Midlands has used a firm of solicitors for collecting sales ledger debts over £500;
The London Development Agency has not had the occasion to employ any debt collectors, but has used firms of certified bailiffs with regard to repossessions, and these firms also
provide this form of service. In addition the LDA outsources some of its estate management service to managing agents, and they have used certified bailiffs to recover bad debts;
The North West Development Agency uses certified bailiffs to recover unpaid rent via management agents.
The South West Regional Development Agency uses an agency to collect debts from tenants who owe the Agency rent;
Yorkshire Forward has used agents to collect debts such as non-payment of rent and to pursue small claims.
Jim Fitzpatrick: There are no specific regulations that govern the sale, supply, or purchase of DNA sequences. The potential chemical hazards associated with the sequence itself would be covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended); if DNA sequences were to be used to create a biological agent, the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2000 (as amended) are likely to apply. These provide for a high level of protection for human health and the environment (including animal and plant health). In addition, the Specified Animal Pathogens Order 1998 (SAPO), administered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, regulates possession of nucleic acid derived from any animal pathogen specified under SAPO. In all cases the relevant containment and operating requirements laid down by Health and Safety Executive/Defra would need to be met.
Provisions in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 place an obligation on managers of laboratories and other premises holding specified pathogens or toxins to notify the authorities and to comply with the security requirements which the police may impose.
There is a wide range of legitimate uses to which DNA sequences may be put and the imposition of onerous controls could discourage valuable scientific research and industry use. The Government do not believe that it is necessary to require suppliers of DNA sequences to be licensed or for them to screen customers or check the intended use of the sequences. But we will continue to monitor the situation as the relevant technologies develop.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether his Department has undertaken an assessment of the extent to which (a) foreign nationals not from the Commonwealth or the Irish Republic, (b) failed asylum seekers and (c) illegal immigrants are fraudulently on the electoral roll in order to obtain consumer credit. 
We do not hold information as to the reasons why persons may apply to be on the electoral register other than for the purposes of voting in elections. In respect of the numbers of those persons specified in the question who may be on the electoral register, I explained in my previous answer on 12 June 2006, Official Report, column 1045W, that this information is not collected. Electoral registers are available for public inspection and anyone who believes that an ineligible person has been included may notify the ERO who may then make further inquiries as to the eligibility of that individual. Currently, it is an offence to fail to supply information to the ERO and knowingly supply false information on the annual canvass form.
The Electoral Administration Bill strengthens the objection process and creates a new offence of supplying false information of any kind to an ERO, or failing to supply information, in connection with registration, at any time. The electoral register does not specify the immigration or asylum status of individuals entered on it; however, the addition of a nationality box in the registration form does provide an opportunity for EROs to determine the eligibility of an applicant for inclusion in the register on the basis of their stated nationality.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many requests for flexible working have been made in each region since the relevant provisions of the Employment Act 2002 came into force; and how many were granted. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The table shows the proportion of employees who have requested to work flexibly and the resulting acceptance rate, for each region/nation in Great Britain. These figures are from the second Flexible Working Survey (2005).
The new employment rights introduced on 6 April 2003 gave parents of children under six and disabled children under 18 the right to request flexible working. It is not known how many employees have requested flexible working since the right was introduced. The second Flexible Working Survey was conducted in January 2005 and respondents were asked to consider their last two years of employment.
|Employee requests to work flexibly over last two years (percentage)|
|Nation and region||Employee requests for flexible working||Acceptance (fully and partially)|
|(1) Reliable figures are not available due to small sample sizes. Source: Second Flexible Working Employee Survey 2005|
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