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Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether civil servants working for the Legal Services Commission on legal aid receive additional remuneration dependent on achieving reduced spending on legal aid. 
All members of the LSCs Executive Team are eligible for a bonus up to a maximum of 20 per cent. of their individual salaries as part of their terms and conditions of employment. The Executive Teams performance objectives, as well as those for other senior executives, are aligned to the LSCs corporate priorities and targets as set out in the Corporate Plan 2006/07, available at:
|(1) Serving magistrates as of 7 February 2007.|
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 875W, on magistrates courts, whether the type of work a magistrates court is expected to undertake is given consideration when assessing whether it is accessible to persons resident in each local justice area. 
Ms Harman: Magistrates courts can hear all types of cases by virtue of their civil, criminal and Family Jurisdiction. Decisions as to where different types of cases can be heard are for the local Justices' Issues Groups to decide and will take into account:
The accessibility needs of court users and magistrates; and
the need to provide magistrates with a broad range of cases.
Ms Harman: My Department does not hold information on the annual retention rate for administrative staff in magistrates courts in each year since 1997. This information, much of which pre-dates the creation of HMCS when magistrates courts information had no central source, could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost.
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made
of the costs to the Government of closures of magistrates courts over the last 10 years; whether she has made an assessment of the effect of closures on the costs to the public of attendance at such courts; and if she will make a statement. 
HMCS consider the cost of providing new facilities at a new or existing court as well as the need to provide an efficient and effective service to the local community when deciding if a magistrates court should be closed.
Provision of secure custody facilities
Provision of separate waiting area for witnesses and victims away from defendants
Facilities meeting Disability Discrimination Act requirements alternative., improved provision of access to justice (including where the courthouse is being replaced with a new building containing modern and fit for purpose facilities)
Ms Harman: Until April 2005 42 independent magistrates courts committees (MCC) had responsibility for magistrates training. As a result no national data on magistrate training exist prior to April 2005.
Since April 2005 the Judicial Studies Board (JSB), initially on behalf of the Lord Chancellor and since April 2006 on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice, has taken on a strengthened role in magistrate training. As part of its monitoring and evaluation function the JSB has begun to collect data about magistrate training but this is not yet complete. The data provided by Magistrates Area Training Committees (MATCs) to date is as follows:
2005-06, there is no data on the number of training days or events offered, but MATCs reported a total of 56,915 magistrate attendances at training events.
2006-07, MATCs planned to deliver 2,294 training events (approximately 10,197 hours)
2007-08, MATCs plan to deliver 2,220 training events (approximately 13,231 hours)
Jenny Willott: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs which magistrates courts in Wales have (a) closed and (b) opened in each year since 1997; and if she will make a statement. 
Up until 1 April 2005, magistrates courts were the responsibility of locally managed
magistrates courts committees who were not required by statute to inform the Department of any magistrates court closures unless they were subject to an appeal under section 56 (3) of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 (now repealed).
|(a) Magistrates court closures|
|(b) Magistrates court openings|
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether the cost of the provision of criminal defence services by the Public Defender Service will be considered in deciding fee levels under the proposed legal aid reforms. 
Vera Baird: We have published the principles and data which underpin the fee levels upon which the proposed legal aid reforms are based. These are set out in Lord Carters Review of Legal Aid and Legal Aid Reform: the Way Ahead.
Ms Harman: The capital construction costs involved in the refurbishment of the Middlesex Guildhall will be met by regular charges (rent) over a 30-year period as part of the lease and leaseback arrangement we are using. This rental figure forms a large proportion of the running costs of the new Supreme Court and is subject, to ongoing negotiations with our preferred bidder, Kier Group plc.
As the Lord Chancellor stated in his written ministerial statement of 17 October 2006, we will be in a position to make a statement on annual charges and the running costs once we have reached financial close.
Ms Harman: The Supreme Court will be supported by services such as legal research assistants, library facilities, administration support, secretariat, finance, IT, catering and security services. These will be under a newly appointed Chief Executive and President.
Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many local authorities have expressed an interest in developing a city region tier of governance; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: A number of local authorities are developing proposals for strengthened cross-boundary collaboration on issues including transport, employment and skills, and economic development. Specific proposals vary according to different local geographies and circumstances. My Department is working closely with local authorities and other Government Departments including HMT to develop cross boundary collaboration further.
Lorely Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she plans to extend the remit of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to cover all equality matters relating to gender identity in addition to matters affecting those who seek or who have had gender reassignment surgery. 
Meg Munn: The Commission for Equality and Human Rights has duties to promote the understanding of the importance of equality and diversity and encouraging good practice in relation to equality and diversity. These duties already incorporate matters of gender identity.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many letters to her Department sent from hon. Members during Session 2005-06 remain unanswered, broken down by those which are (a) one, (b) two, (c) three, (d) four and (e) over six months old; 
(2) how many letters were received by her Department from hon. Members in each of the last 12 months; how many such letters were responded to within (a) 10 and (b) 20 days of receipt; how many were answered after 20 days from the date of receipt; and if she will make a statement. 
Within the 2005-06 Session 14,911 letters were received from hon. Members and Members of the devolved Administrations, of which 12,126 required a reply. 8,290 were answered within 20 working days of receipt.
The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of Departments in replying to Members/Peers correspondence. The Report for 2005 was published in 30 March 2006, Official Report, columns 75-78WS. Information relating to 2006 is currently being collated and will be published as soon as it is ready.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many homes in (a) Coventry and (b) the West Midlands have been part of the Governments Decent Homes programme. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 18 January 2007]: In Coventry there are 23,793 homes owned by registered social landlords, and none by the council. All these homes are part of the Decent Homes programme as they all have to be made decent. 4,265 are still below the decent homes standard.
In the West Midlands in 2005 there were 453,998 homes in the social sector of which 125,743 were non-decent and there were 1,820,999 homes in the private sector of which 522,414 were non-decent. The total reduction in non-decent homes social sector in West Midlands over the period 2001-05 was 89,701.
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