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16 Apr 2007 : Column 5Wcontinued
Ms Harman: Bailiffs fees are included in the sum to be paid by the offender or debtor. There is no single statutory fee structure but different fees depending on the type of debt and where responsibility for enforcing that debt lies.
The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, currently progressing through Parliament, will further regulate the activities of bailiffs and introduce a single simplified fee structure designed to support the principles of transparency, consistency and proportionality.
Robert Key: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what new arrangements she plans to make to fund HM Coroners following her decision to transfer responsibility for coroners inquests from Oxfordshire to the home counties of individual deceased military personnel; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Harman: I will continue to regularly review progress regarding these inquests. I do not plan to make any new funding arrangements where inquests are transferred by the Oxfordshire coroner to coroners nearer to the next of kin.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many inquests into deaths of service personnel killed in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan are still outstanding; and when she expects this backlog to be cleared. 
Ms Harman: There are 42 inquests outstanding relating to service personnel killed in Iraq and 45 relating to service personnel killed in Afghanistan The timing of individual inquests is a matter for the coroner concerned to determine but I expect outstanding inquests to be concluded without any unnecessary delay.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many cases there were of defendants absconding from courts in each year since 2002. 
Ms Harman: HMCS does not routinely collect this information and this could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Allen: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs when she expects to lay the Orders relevant to section 178 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to enable the community justice court in Nottingham to conduct cases referred to in that section; and if she will make a statement. 
Responsibility for this legislation rests with the Home Office. Powers under section 178 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to enable the review of a community order have been in operation for almost a year, as a pilot at the community justice initiatives in
North Liverpool and Salford. We are now assessing their impact, with a view to extending their use to the new community justice courts announced by the Lord Chancellor on 27 November, including Nottingham. This extension will give us further information about the operation of the powers and their impact on offender behaviour, as well as the resources required by the courts and Probation Service. My officials are therefore working with Home Office officials to ensure the affirmative resolution order to extend the powers is taken forward as soon as this assessment is complete.
Section 178 is one element only of the community justice concept however, and the community court in Nottingham will be able to begin operation, just as Liverpool and Salford did, prior to receiving these powers.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps she plans to take to tackle local court staff application shortages in areas with the lowest band pay under the proposed new pay system for local departmental civil servants. 
Ms Harman: Negotiations with the trade unions on the proposed new pay system are continuing. These focus on important issues such as how the pay system will better support effective recruitment of staff into courts across the country. I will write to my right hon. Friend once negotiations have been concluded.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what discussions Ministers in her Department have had with their counterparts at HM Treasury on the proposed new pay system. 
Ms Harman: Extensive discussions were held with the Treasury about the new pay system. These began in summer 2006 and concluded in January 2007.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs on what basis the pay bands were allocated to different regions in the proposed new pay system for local court staff. 
Ms Harman: Negotiations with the trade unions on the new pay system are continuing. These address crucial issues such as how the pay system will better enable the Department to compete effectively in local labour markets. I will write to my right hon. Friend once the negotiations have been concluded.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what pilot schemes have been carried out to test the proposed new pay scheme for local court staff. 
Ms Harman: Pilot schemes are not an appropriate method of testing a new pay system.
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps she is
taking to ensure that parents are treated equitably in terms of access to their children following separation or divorce. 
Ms Harman: The Government believe that where it is safe and in the child's best interests, children benefit from a continuing relationship and regular contact with both parents, following separation or divorce.
The vast majority of people (90 per cent.) going through a relationship breakdown do not go to court over contact arrangements with their children. This shows that most people are willing and able to come to their own decisions about how best to manage their ongoing relationship with their children.
Where arrangements for contact with children cannot be agreed, any parent can apply to the court for a contact order under the Children Act 1989, enabling them to have contact with their children.
Approximately 10 per cent. of separating families turn to the courts for help in resolving arrangements for contact with their children. The paramount consideration for the court when making an order under the Children Act is the welfare of the child or children concerned. Both parents are equal before the law and the family courts start from that position.
Peter Bottomley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will publish the minutes of the Enforcement Law Reform Group meeting held on 16 January 2007. 
Ms Harman: My Department is not responsible for the Enforcement Law Reform Group, which is independent of Government. Minutes from the meeting have already been published and can currently be found online on the Credit Collections and Risk magazine website.
Mrs. May: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what percentage of (a) fixed penalties and (b) fines imposed by the courts in England and Wales were collected in full in each year between 1997 and 2006. 
Ms Harman: Table 1 shows the number of fixed penalties issued and the percentage of those fitted penalties that were paid since 1997. Table 2 shows numbers of penalty notices for disorder issued and the percentage paid since inception of the scheme in 2004.
Table 3 details the fines payment rate for the last seven years. Data are collected on the value of financial penalties (including fines) imposed and outstanding and cannot be separated out to identify the percentage of fines imposed in any year that were collected, be it partially or in full.
|Table 1: Fixed penalties( 1)|
|Calendar year||Total number of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) issued (million)||Percentage of FPNs paid in full|
|(1) Figures supplied by Home Office RDS|
(2) Data due for publication June 2007
|Table 2: Penalty notices for disorder (PNDs)( 1)|
|Calendar year||Total number of PNDs issued||Percentage of PNDs paid in full|
|(1) Figures supplied by Home Office RDS|
|Table 3: Fines payment rate( 1)|
|Financial year||Payment rateEngland and Wales (percentage)|
|(1) Figures supplied by HMCS.|
Payment Rate = Amount Paid divided by New Net Amount Owed
The primary performance indicator is the payment rate. It is defined as the amount paid into court as a percentage of the new net amount owed. Methods of calculating the new net amounts owed have changed a number of times and are detailed as follows:
September 1999 to March 2003New Net Amount Owed includes Legally Cancelled amounts, Civil monies and Confiscation Orders,
April 2003 to December 2003New Net Amount Owed excludes Legally Cancelled amounts, Civil monies and Confiscation Orders,
January 2004 to July 2004New Net Amount Owed excludes Legally Cancelled amounts, Administratively Cancelled amounts, Civil monies and Confiscation Orders.
July 2004 onwardsNew Net Amount Owed excludes Legally Cancelled amounts, Administratively Cancelled amounts, Civil monies and Confiscation Orders, but includes Amounts Written Back.
From April 2003 onwards, confiscation and civil amounts have not been included in any of the enforcement calculations. It is not possible to separate those elements out from the figures before that date. As a result of these revisions, direct year-on-year comparisons cannot be made.
Mr. David Jones: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what (a) financial and (b) other support her Department gave to the John Smith Memorial Trust in each of the last three years. 
Ms Harman: My Department has provided funding for the John Smith Memorial Trust's Fellowships for young leaders from the former Soviet Union. In the last three years, funding was as follows:
My Department also provides short placements for those Fellows with an interest in the Department's areas of work.
Mr. Fraser: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many solicitors have given notice of their intention to cease to offer (a) criminal and (b) family legal aid services if the proposed reforms of legal aid are implemented. 
Vera Baird: The Government are committed to controlling legal aid expenditure. A small number of practitioners have recently informed the LSC that they do not intend to continue doing legal aid work. This is not unusual, as the number of providers in the market has always fluctuated. There will be no effect on the provision of service to clients in any area. These few solicitors have made this assertion without sight of either the proposed new fee levels (crime and family), or the structure of the process for competitive tendering (crime), both of which the LSC are due to consult on shortly.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent representations she has received on the new system of legal aid provision. 
Vera Baird: I meet frequently with legal aid practitioners and other interested parties to discuss aspects of the legal aid reform programme. I also receive correspondence from MPs, representative bodies, practitioner groups and individual practitioners.
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what effect she expects her reforms of the legal aid system to have on legal aid provision in Northamptonshire. 
Vera Baird: The Government's proposals, set out in Legal Aid Reform: the Way Ahead, will ensure that legal aid continues to be available for those people who require legal assistance. The reforms will ensure that legal aid spending can be placed on a sustainable footing and spending rebalanced between civil, family and criminal legal aid. As part of these reforms, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) will be introducing a new civil help fee scheme from October 2007, under which 68 per cent. of providers in the LSC region, which includes Northamptonshire, will see their fees increase.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much was spent on legal aid in Wales in each year since 1992; and if she will make a statement. 
Vera Baird: Legal aid expenditure in Wales earlier than 1999-2000 pre-dates the current management information systems and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Legal aid funding is administered centrally and is not granted to specific geographical areas.
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