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6 Mar 2007 : Column 1885W—continued


Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much legal aid was paid to advice agencies in London in each of the last three years; what the anticipated amount will be in each of the next two years; what the percentage difference is between the two amounts; and if she will make a statement. [124865]

Vera Baird: Expenditure on Not for Profit organisations in London over the last three years was as follows:

Expenditure (£)

2003-04

13,380,248

2004-05

21,645,383

2005-06

18,465,876


The reduction in expenditure in 2005-06 reflects some substantial changes to large contracts as part of a restructuring of immigration supply. Excluding such contracts, expenditure increased from £12,921,176 in 2004-05 to £14,596,125 in 2005-06.

New arrangements for funding will bring the allocation of funds in the next two years closer to estimates of need.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many clients received legal advice from voluntary sector advice organisations paid for by legal aid in London in each of the last three years; what estimate she has made of the likely change in this number as a result of the planned legal aid changes; and if she will make a statement. [124989]

Vera Baird: The Legal Services Commission does not keep records of the number of clients who receive legal aid. It does however record the number of New Matter Starts (NMS) or individual instances of legal help.

For the last three years the number of New Matter Starts delivered by Not for Profit agencies was as follows:


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Number of New Matter Starts

2003-04

17,999

2004-05

24,822

2005-06

31,791


The number of matter starts delivered by Not for Profit agencies in London in future years will depend on their ability to deliver increased numbers at competitive rates. Over the last two years their performance increased significantly as the figures above show, with productivity increasing by 19 per cent. over the last year.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the likely geographical distribution of the availability of legal advice in London from (a) voluntary agencies and (b) the private sector as the consequence of planned legal aid changes; and if she will make a statement. [124991]

Vera Baird: In civil legal aid the Legal Services Commission expects the provision of advice by not for profit providers and the private sector in London to adapt so that areas where supply is currently strong will continue while areas with less provision will improve. Providers will be expected to manage what they deliver effectively in order to maximise the levels of advice delivered in categories and areas where demand is greatest.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what effect she expects the planned legal aid changes to have on the availability in London of (a) advice agencies and (b) private sector legal advice in relation to (i) welfare rights, (ii) family law and (iii) immigration and asylum; and if she will make a statement. [124992]

Vera Baird: Regulatory impact assessment (RIA) for the Command paper “Legal Aid: the Way Ahead” was published in December 2006. A revised draft RIA was published alongside the family fee schemes consultation on 1 March 2007. These contain details of the potential impact of the legal aid changes on both not for profit and private sector providers in London for social welfare law and family law respectively. An impact assessment on the immigration and asylum scheme will be published shortly. The regulatory impact assessment analysis is based around historic behaviour and under a fixed fee scheme we would expect provider behaviour to change in order to maximise efficiency and prepare for future competition.

Legal Aid: Reform

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) if she will make available copies of the representations she has received on her planned changes to the legal aid system; [124864]

(2) how many representations she has received (a) in support and (b) against her planned changes in legal
6 Mar 2007 : Column 1887W
aid from (i) voluntary groups and advice agencies, (ii) private sector law firms and (iii) others; and if she will make a statement. [124866]

Vera Baird: I held national meetings last summer to hear practitioners' views on our proposals. We received a total of 2,372 written responses to the consultation “Legal Aid: a sustainable future”, and I have also received correspondence from MPs and their constituents on the matter. The majority of consultees expressed a range of views on different aspects of the reforms: 175 from Not-for-Profit providers; 1,495 from solicitor providers; 469 from barristers; and 470 from others as detailed in the “Legal Aid: a sustainable future—analysis of responses”. Individual responses can be provided on request.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether she carried out a race equality impact assessment of planned legal aid changes; and if she will make a statement. [124990]

Vera Baird: Draft and final regulatory impact assessments, including race equality impact assessments, have been—and will continue to be—published alongside schemes for all legal aid reforms.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what effect on costs to the public purse she expects to arise from the planned legal aid changes in (a) London and (b) England; and if she will make a statement. [124993]

Vera Baird: The savings from the reform package will amount to over £100 million per annum by 2009-10. Savings will be made in criminal legal aid while civil and family expenditure is expected to continue to grow. This applies to England and Wales. No separate assessment has been made for London.

Polling Stations

Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what provisions there are for a parish council to challenge a returning officer’s decision on the appropriate location of a polling station for (a) district and (b) general elections; and if she will make a statement. [125393]

Bridget Prentice: There is no statutory provision for challenging the decision of a returning officer on the appropriate location of a polling station for a district council election.

Section 18D of the Representation of the People Act 1983 allows a parish council to challenge a local authority’s decision on the location of a polling place within a parliamentary constituency following a statutory review, by making a representation to the Electoral Commission.

Public Records: Disclosure of Information

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will publish in full all documentation referring to the Shrewsbury Two which is held in the Public Record Office, including those papers, and parts of papers,
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retained under section 3(4) of the Public Records Act 1958. [124779]

Vera Baird: Records identified and held by The National Archives relating to the Shrewsbury Two are open and available to researchers. A small number of papers have been retained under section 3(4) of the Public Records Act and are held with the department of origin and not at The National Archives.

Witnesses: Children

Ms Keeble: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether barristers questioning children and young people aged under 18 years are required to have formal child protection training. [124890]

Bridget Prentice: The Bar Council, which is responsible for the training of barristers, does not impose any requirements on barristers to undertake formal child protection training.

Education and Skills

Adoption

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which inspection regimes monitor local authorities’ activities regarding adoption. [124530]

Mr. Dhanda: The Commission for Social Care Inspection is required to inspect local authorities’ adoption services in England, in line with the regulatory framework set by Government. All local authorities’ adoption services must be inspected a minimum of at least once every three years. This function transfers to the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills on 1 April 2007.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what targets have been set for local authorities by central Government regarding adoption; and when each target was introduced. [124532]

Mr. Dhanda: The Government have set a number of targets on adoption, in particular to increase the numbers of looked after children who are adopted from care.

The following target was included in the Department of Health publication “Improvement, Expansion and Reform: The Next Three Years (Priorities and Planning Framework 2003-2006)”:

The period during which this target operated came to an end in March 2006.

In addition, in 2004, the following Department for Education and Skills Public Service Agreement target was introduced:

No individual targets have been set by central Government for local authorities, though some authorities have chosen to develop targets as part of the local area agreement/local public service agreement process. Individual local area agreements are published by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA).

Building for Skills

Greg Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much was spent on the design and printing of the pack Building for Skills. [122685]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 23 February 2007]: The design, print and distribution of the Building for Skills pack cost the Learning and Skills Council £23,708. The pack included the “RIBA/LSC Further
6 Mar 2007 : Column 1890W
Education Awards 2006” document, and the “Building for Skills: A prospectus for the Learning and Skills Council's capital programme” document.

The “Awards” document formally recognises design excellence and celebrates the inspirational buildings that are now starting to characterise the further education sector. The prospectus—jointly produced by the Department and the Learning and Skills Council—sets out how the Learning and Skills Council's capital programme will underpin the Government's 14-19 and skills reform agendas by investing up to £750 million annually by 2011 in modernising the college estate. The investment in FE capital has been shown to contribute to an increase in participation and success rates, thereby supporting and equipping learners with high-quality skills for productive, sustainable employment and personal fulfilment; and ensuring employers have the right skills for their business to succeed in a competitive global economy.

Children in Care: Missing Persons

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidance is given to local authorities on looked after children missing from care, specifying in each case the (a) document, (b) paragraph and (c) line references; and whether each has statutory status. [122476]

Mr. Dhanda: Details about the regulations and guidance setting out how local authorities and care providers should respond to children missing from their care are given in the table.


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6 Mar 2007 : Column 1892W
Date Regulation/Guidance Reference Status

April 2002

Children's Homes Regulations 2001

Regulation 16(4)(b) The registered provider shall prepare and implement as required—a procedure to be followed when any child accommodated in a children’s home is absent without permission.

Statutory Requirement

April 2002

The Fostering Service Regulations 2002

Regulation 13(3) The fostering service provider shall prepare and implement a written procedure to be followed if a child is absent from a foster parent’s home without permission.

Statutory Requirement

April 2002

Children's Homes National Minimum Standards

Standard 19 sets out the processes that need to covered in each home’s written policy and guidance to prevent children from going missing, to manage missing children from care incidents and to respond appropriately when missing children are returned to their care.

National Minimum Standards are non-statutory—but must be taken into account by the appropriate regulator (currently the Commission for Social Care Inspection) in its assessment as to whether care providers are complying with statutory regulations, listed above.

April 2002

Fostering Services National Minimum Standards

Standard 9.8 specifies that—the fostering service makes sure that the foster care has a clear written procedure for use if the foster child is missing from home.

National Minimum Standards are non-statutory—but must be taken into account by the appropriate regulator (currently the Commission for Social Care Inspection) in its assessment as to whether care providers are complying with statutory regulations, listed above.

November 2002

Children Missing from Care and Home—A Guide to Good Practice

Sections 1 to 7 of this guidance from pages 5 to 19 set out the issues to be considered and the processes to be followed so that local authorities respond effectively to children who go missing from their care placement.

This guidance and its related Circular LAC (2002) 17, were issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Services Act 1970 which means that, except in exceptional circumstances councils must follow its advice.

April 2006

Working Together to Safeguard Children

Paragraph 11.65 on pages 207-08 specifies that—the various agencies are responsible for the care of looked-after children should understand their respective roles (when children go missing from care). These should be set out in standard protocols describing arrangements for managing missing person’s investigations developed by the local police force. Where there is the possibility that this behaviour is a result of child protection concerns, the responsible local authority (or others concerned for the child) must follow its procedures to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the area where the child is living.

This information was issued as non-statutory practice guidance to assist relevant agencies to manage individual cases and safeguard and promote the welfare of children in circumstances where young people may be particularly vulnerable.


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