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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 11 January 2007


Crown Prosecution Service

22. Ms Keeble: To ask the Solicitor-General what mechanisms are in place to improve contact between the Crown Prosecution Service and victims of crime. [114142]

The Solicitor-General: Under the Prosecutor’s Pledge introduced in October 2006, all Prosecutors are required to protect the interests of victims from charge to Appeal. Prosecutors are required to explain the reasons for altering a charge or dropping it and may need to meet a victim to do so.


23. Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps he is taking to change the way sentences are explained in court to make them more understandable to the public. [114144]

The Solicitor-General: The Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Attorney-General, jointly issued a consultation paper, “Making Sentencing Clearer” in November last year, which addressed this very issue as part of our wider debate on sentencing. The consultation period has only just concluded (9 January 2007); the views of all respondents will be carefully considered before firm proposals are drawn up.

24. Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will seek a legislative opportunity to extend the period allowed after sentencing for victims and their families to consider requesting the Attorney-General to seek a review of sentences. [114145]

The Solicitor-General: No, the Government have no plans to extend the 28-day limit for the Law Officers to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal for review if of the opinion that the sentence was unduly lenient.


25. Mr. Bone: To ask the Solicitor-General what guidance the Crown Prosecution Service has issued on the prosecution of cases involving prostitution. [114146]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued detailed policy guidance to Crown prosecutors dealing with both on and off street prostitution and a range of associated issues. As well as setting out the relevant law and procedure, the guidance covers public interest factors to be taken into account when considering whether to charge an individual with a prostitution-related offence. The guidance emphasises that a child prostitute should
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generally be treated as a victim of abuse, with the focus being on those who exploit and coerce them.

In addressing the advertising of prostitute services through placing cards in telephone boxes, Crown prosecutors can use the antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 in circumstances where an individual has been repeatedly convicted of the ‘carding’ offence. The CPS has issued comprehensive guidance on this legislation.

The CPS recognises that prostitutes can also be victims, particularly those who are trafficked from abroad for the purposes of prostitution. Further specific guidance which focuses on trafficking for sexual exploitation has been issued to Crown prosecutors to assist in handling these cases. The guidance covers support to victims who are clearly traumatised and physically and psychologically affected by events.

Induced Road Traffic Accidents

26. Mr. Bacon: To ask the Solicitor-General what the policy is of the prosecuting authorities in relation to induced and staged road traffic accidents; and if he will make a statement. [114147]

The Solicitor-General: Induced and staged road traffic accidents are perpetrated in order that substantial fraudulent claims can be made to insurance companies. In addition, offenders often make false claims to state benefit based on injuries that they claim to have suffered. This criminal activity has been found to have links with serious organised criminal gangs.

The fact that innocent road users are effectively targeted and endangered is a matter of considerable concern, as is the significant financial impact on insurers estimated to run into hundreds of millions of pounds which is then passed on to members of the public through increased premiums.

The Crown Prosecution Service applies the Code for Crown Prosecutors, considering each case on its merits. If, in a particular case, the evidential test is met, there is likely to be a strong public interest to prosecute as the offence will usually have been premeditated, involve a group acting together, the potential or actual pecuniary advantage will be great, and importantly, there will be a real risk or actual occurrence of physical injury to another.

Serious Fraud Office

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Solicitor-General in which countries the Serious Fraud Office has provided assistance in corruption cases in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [113203]

The Solicitor-General: The Serious Fraud Office has provided assistance to eight countries since 2002 in 11 separate investigations.

The Serious Fraud Office does not disclose details of assistance provided to overseas investigations without consent from the referring jurisdiction or unless the referring jurisdiction has made public disclosures. The requests for assistance already in the public domain were from France, Norway and Uganda.

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Work and Pensions

Benefit Claimants

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit claimants had their benefit claim incorrectly terminated due to being wrongly classified as deceased in each year where figures are available, broken down by benefit; and what total amount of benefit was underpaid as a result. [105811]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information is not collected centrally and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Benefit Simplification Unit

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people are employed in the Benefit Simplification Unit. [105812]

Mr. Plaskitt: There are currently five staff employed on a full time basis in the Benefit Simplification Unit, with additional input from a further two members of staff including a senior civil servant.

Departmental Staff

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what percentage of staff employed in his Department were registered disabled in each year since 2001. [104476]

Mrs. McGuire: Please find the requested information in the following table:

The information is representative of the disabled status as declared by individual members of staff. Not all staff who are registered disabled declare themselves as such for departmental records, and the true figure may be higher than the figures shown.

Until 2005 the proportion of disabled staff is shown as a proportion of all staff. The numbers of staff in 2006 are however, based on the proportion of all staff who have declared their disability status(1).

The Department for Work and Pensions was created in July 2001, and figures prior to 2002 were unobtainable.

Staff Disabled staff Percentage of disabled staff





















(1) The change was made in response to new guidance from the Cabinet Office requiring us to only include staff who have made a declaration about their disability status. The figures from 2006 onwards will therefore exclude all staff who have chosen not to declare whether they are disabled.

Error Task Force

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many staff are employed in the Error Task Force; [102152]

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(2) what targets have been set for the Error Task Force; [102153]

(3) what the total (a) set-up and (b) running costs have been of the Error Task Force; [102186]

(4) what the total value is of erroneous benefit payments identified by the Error Task Force. [102187]

Mr. Plaskitt: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) on 8 November 2006, Official Report, column 1627W.


Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many young people in each local authority area are in receipt of the single room rate of housing benefit; and if he will make a statement. [106325]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information has been placed in the Library.

Ministerial Visits

Sir Peter Soulsby: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which Ministers in his Department have visited Leicester in the last year; and where they visited in Leicester. [108685]

Mrs. McGuire: On the 6 March 2006 the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Plaskitt) gave a speech to the National Association of Pension Funds at the offices of KPMG, 1 Waterloo Way, Leicester. The Minister for Pensions Reform visited the Leicester Pension Centre on the 4 September 2006 as part of the Regional road show.

All ministerial visits are conducted in accordance with the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers.

Pathways to Work

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average cost is per participant of the pathways to work pilots. [107354]

Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 6 December 2006]: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 7 February 2006, Official Report, column 1170W.

Unemployment Benefit

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the level of unemployment benefit/jobseeker’s allowance was as a percentage of average earnings in (a) 1976-77 and (b) 2006-07; what percentage he expects it to be in 2020-21; and if he will make a statement. [102268]

Mr. Plaskitt: In 1976 unemployment benefit was the equivalent of 20 per cent. of the average gross weekly earnings for a single person. In 2006 jobseeker’s allowance (contributory-based) is the equivalent of
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11 per cent. of the average gross weekly earnings for a single person. The percentage level for 2020-21 will depend on future movements in earnings levels, and the ratio of benefit payment.

International Development

Developing Countries: Opposition Groups

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what political opposition groups in developing countries have received funding from his Department since 2002. [113336]

Hilary Benn: Effective states and good governance are essential to combatting poverty, and vital to good governance is an open and transparent political system, with strong political institutions. This means that in some countries, we have provided support to political groups, including political parties, to strengthen their capacity to engage in the political process. Support is not given on the basis of whether a party is in opposition, and will generally be available to all parties who are engaging in the political process. It is not partisan and must contribute to DFID’s aim of poverty reduction. It is often one part of a broader programme to strengthen political systems or as part of preparations for elections.

DFID does not keep a central record of support to political parties but the following are some examples of support which has been provided.

Prime Minister

Declarations of War

Mrs. May: To ask the Prime Minister whether it is his policy that in future the House will be asked to vote before the UK declares war on another country; and if he will make a statement. [112659]

The Prime Minister: I refer the right hon. Member to the Government Response to the House of Lords Constitution Committee’s Report: “Waging War:
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Parliament’s role and responsibility” (Cm 6923). Copies are available in the Libraries of the House. I also refer the right hon. Member to the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on 8 January 2007, Official Report, columns 18-21.

Downing Street Ministerial Flat

Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1808W, on the Downing street Ministerial Flat, if he will break down the maintenance expenditure for 2005-06 by main budget heading. [113948]

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1808W.

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