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19 Oct 2006 : Column 1390W—continued

With regard to training specifically for electronic conveyancing, Land Registry is keen to support its diverse customer segments and is already talking to several local authorities in order to address their specific needs. Land Registry’s intention is to offer online training packages on how to use the electronic conveyancing system and, if appropriate, other forms of training will also be considered. Training will be supplemented by seminars and talks around all major cities in England and Wales. Land Registry is about to start further consultation on its proposals for electronic conveyancing training with all stakeholder groups,
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including local authorities. This will give them the opportunity to comment on the proposals and contribute their ideas to the training framework. While it is proposed that Land Registry will provide the training material, it will be the stakeholders’ responsibility to ensure that their staff have the appropriate IT skills and equipment to enable them to use the electronic conveyancing system.

Databases (Security Breaches)

Jo Swinson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many confirmed security breaches of databases controlled by her Department occurred in each of the last five years; whether the breach resulted from internal or external sources in each case; how many records were compromised on each occasion; and what estimate was made of the total number of records accessible to the individuals concerned. [92834]

Vera Baird: There have been two incidents in my Department. The first occurred in 2001 and the second happened in July 2006. Both breaches resulted from external sources: the information was compromised when IT equipment was stolen from departmental accommodation. No information was recorded on the number of records compromised in the first incident; the second incident is under investigation.

Freedom of Information

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what powers the Information Commission has to inspect the files, e-mails or records of a public authority when considering (a) Freedom of Information Act 2000 and (b) Data Protection Act 1998 appeals. [94621]

Vera Baird: Section 51 of the Freedom of Information Act enables the Commissioner to obtain from a public authority, by issuing an information notice, information he reasonably requires to determine whether it is complying with the Act. This corresponds to the powers of the Commissioner under section 43 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Commissioner also has powers of entry and inspection under schedule 3 of the Freedom of Information Act, which sets out the circumstances in which, where he suspects a contravention of the Act, the Commissioner may seek a warrant from a court enabling him to enter and search premises and seize material. The Commissioner has comparable powers of entry and inspection under schedule 9 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Land Registry

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate the Land Registry has made of the number of (a) leasehold and (b) commonhold domestic properties sold each year in England and Wales. [94618]

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Bridget Prentice: Land Registry is responsible for maintaining and developing the register of title for England and Wales. Although it processes the registration of leasehold land and property and, since implementation of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, commonhold registrations, it makes no specific assessment of the number of leasehold or commonhold sales.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate the Land Registry has made of the number of (a) leasehold and (b) commonhold domestic properties in (i) England, (ii) Wales and (iii) each Government Office region in England. [94623]

Bridget Prentice: Land Registry’s records show that, currently, there are 3.77 million registered leasehold interests in England and Wales of which 119,000 relate to properties in Wales. There are nine commonhold residential developments comprising 115 units of which 34 units have been registered in the names of the individual unit holders. One of these developments, comprising 22 units, is in Wales (18 units are registered in the names of the individual unit holders) and the remainder are in England.

Land Registry’s 24 local offices are distributed throughout England and Wales but do not necessarily deal only with land and property in their respective geographic areas. A breakdown of leasehold registrations by Government Office Region could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Legal Aid

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many firms of solicitors in England and Wales undertake Legal Services Commission funded criminal law work; and how many undertook such work in 1997. [94169]

Vera Baird: Data provided by the LSC show that, as at 31 March 2006, there were 2,608 solicitors’ offices operating under a contract for the criminal defence service. In 1997-98, there were 7,315 considered active in criminal defence service work.

This change reflects the important work taken forward with the introduction of the General Criminal Contract in April 2001, where more stringent requirements were introduced for firms and practitioners engaged in criminal defence work. These changes meant that, for instance, divorce lawyers who had previously “dabbled” in the Criminal Defence Service could no longer take on this work. In turn, this meant that clients could be seen by practitioners who were specialists in criminal work, improving the quality of advice and further ensuring equality of arms.

Postal Voting

Chris Ruane: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what progress has been made by electoral registration officers and local authorities on improving registration rates for postal votes. [95120]

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Bridget Prentice: There is no duty on electoral registration officers or local authorities to increase the number of electors registered to vote by post.

Section 9 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 places a new duty on electoral registration officers to take certain steps to maximise the number of eligible people on the electoral register. That section came into force on 11 September 2006. However, it will be too early to assess what impact the new provision has had until 1 December at the earliest, when the new electoral registers are published following the current annual canvass exercise.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much funding has been allocated to each local authority to implement postal vote identifiers under the new postal vote legislation. [95121]

Bridget Prentice: We have provisionally set aside a figure of £4.1 million for collection of additional personal identifiers from existing postal voters in local authorities in England and Wales. A further £5.5 million has been provisionally set aside to implement the checking of identifiers at elections in those areas.

These figures have been calculated on the basis of the estimated number of electors who will be registered for a postal vote following the current annual canvass, combined with costings for implementation provided by the Association of Electoral Administrators. However, final figures—including specific amounts to be paid to each local authority—will be calculated once the actual number of postal voters is determined following the conclusion of the current canvass period.

Statue Law Database

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs for what reason the statute law database is subject to Crown copyright protection. [94641]

Vera Baird: Crown copyright is defined in section 163 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as follows:

(a) the work qualifies for copyright protection notwithstanding section 153(1) (ordinary requirement as to qualification for copyright protection), and

(b) Her Majesty is the first owner of any copyright in the work.

The Statute Law Database is being prepared by civil servants within the Department for Constitutional Affairs and therefore meets the definition within the Act.

Duchy of Lancaster

Departmental Staff

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for which Government (a) Department and (b) building the Cabinet Office is recruiting a house manager through the trawl with Cabinet Office reference REC/06/98. [94861]

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Mr. McFadden: The post holder will be working for the Cabinet Office and may be assigned to any Cabinet Office building.

Social Exclusion

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what provision will be made specifically for older people under the new social exclusion plans. [91541]

Hilary Armstrong: The Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) report “A Sure Start to Later Life (2006)” sets out the Government’s commitment to tackling exclusion amongst older people. Key in the report is the launch of eight LinkAge Plus pilots or “one-stop shops” for older people. The Social Exclusion Task Force will continue to take an interest in progress on these pilots to ensure they are tackling and addressing social exclusion amongst older people, and explore how lessons learnt can be rolled out more widely.

In addition, the task force will consider issues affecting older people in its future programme of work and the Government are piloting the use of individual budgets, which will help vulnerable older and disabled people take control of their lives and choose the services that suit them best.

Voluntary/Community Sector

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what recent research she has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the cost to the voluntary and community sector of meeting statutory (i) audit and (ii) reporting arrangements; and if she will make a statement. [93377]

Edward Miliband: The Government have not commissioned formal research in this area. They do, however, recognise that onerous and burdensome monitoring and reporting requirements do not deliver best value for money, either for funding organisations or recipients of funding. This will be addressed through deregulatory changes to the audit regime for charities in the forthcoming Charities Bill. The Bill will also make a number of other deregulatory changes that will particularly benefit small charities. The Government have looked at detailed ways in which the audit and reporting framework for funding the Third Sector can be more effective through a series of regional pilot schemes.

These include:

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office


Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many trained Afghan (a) police and (b) soldiers there were in 2001; and what the figures are for the most recent year for which figures are available. [93923]

Dr. Howells: We are not aware of any figures for the number of trained police and soldiers in 2001 when no national police and army existed. Training and equipping the Afghan national army and police started effectively from scratch after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

The most recent year for which figures are available is 2005. At 31 December 2005, the total number of trained police officers stood at 56,900. Since this time, however, the figures compiled have been baselined to reflect the number of Afghan police both trained and equipped. On 24 April 2006, this figure stood at 30,263. The figure for trained and equipped soldiers at 29 September 2006 stood at around 35,000.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the (a) background and (b) suitability of the (i) provincial governors and (ii) police chiefs appointed by the Government of Afghanistan outside Kabul in Afghanistan; and what assessment she has made of the impact on steps taken to (1) improve human rights and (2) reduce opium production by the international community in Afghanistan of these appointments. [95207]

Dr. Howells: The background and suitability of individuals for posts as governors and police chiefs is a matter for President Karzai and the Afghan Government. We do monitor senior appointments and should there be serious concerns about an individual's background or suitability to perform the role, we would consider raising the issue with the Afghan Government. While the appointment of suitable individuals for posts within the administration is important for strengthening good governance, human rights, the rule of law and economic growth in Afghanistan, many of the factors that influence opium poppy cultivation go well beyond the appointment of specific individuals.


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the response by the Bangladesh authorities to the grenade attack on 21 August 2004 on Opposition leaders; and if she will make a statement. [94889]

Dr. Howells: The Bangladeshi authorities made some arrests in connection with the 21 August 2004 attack last year, but so far these have not, to our knowledge, resulted in any prosecutions. We have noted the recent arrests of a number of suspects in connection with similar grenade attacks and take this as a sign of the Government of Bangladesh’s commitment to resolving all such cases. We very much hope to see further progress
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with the investigations into the 21 August attack. We have regularly stressed both privately and in public to the Government of Bangladesh the importance of this, not least for those who were injured and for the relatives of those who died. We maintain a regular dialogue with the Government of Bangladesh on countering political and extremist violence and the need to deal with terrorism and extremism in a sustained and effective way, while at the same time respecting human rights and the rule of law.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if her Department will take steps better to co-ordinate representations from the UK, EU, US, the Commonwealth and Japan for a proper electoral process in Bangladesh; and if she will make a statement. [94890]

Dr. Howells: Officials from our High Commission in Dhaka and here in London are in close contact with the EU, US and Commonwealth Secretariat on monitoring the elections in Bangladesh, due to take place in January 2007.

The elections are coming at a critical time for Bangladesh. It is essential that these elections are seen to be free, fair, peaceful and accepted. Recent election evaluation missions by the UN, EU and US have consistently identified important points for the main political parties to address to ensure elections reach the required standards. A fully independent and competent Election Commission has a vital role to play in compiling a complete and accurate voter list. Law enforcement agencies will need to ensure that there is no manipulation of ballots. The electorate should be able to exercise its democratic mandate in a secure and peaceful way. Political parties should be allowed to campaign freely and protest peacefully. The caretaker Government charged with overseeing the elections should ensure no political bias. The election must enjoy the confidence of all international observers. We will continue to take a close interest in preparations for elections, but ultimately it is for the parties and the people of Bangladesh to find solutions and make their elections a success. We encourage the parties to continue talking with each other to this end.

BBC World Service

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with senior executives of the BBC World Service on its coverage in Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. [93891]

Mr. Hoon: A Regional Review of the Former Soviet Union region, incorporating Russia, Central Asia and the Caucusus, took place on 11 May 2006. Senior officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the BBC World Service (BBCWS) attended. The review discussed in detail World Service presence in the countries concerned and reported on performance and future plans. My noble Friend Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, chaired the annual FCO/BBCWS ministerial meeting on 26 June 2006. Here, the director of the World Service reported generally on the overall, global performance of the World Service. Throughout
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the course of the year, there have also been individual meetings between the FCO and BBCWS officials to discuss BBCWS concerns in Tajikistan and Ukzbekistan.

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