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Pupil Exclusions

9. Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): What steps he is taking to assist those pupils excluded from school to re-integrate into full-time education; and if he will make a statement. [133961]

The Minister for Schools (Jim Knight): From September, schools and local authorities will be required to arrange suitable full-time education for all excluded pupils from the sixth day of exclusion, which is a considerable improvement on the current expectation that local authorities do that from the 16th day of exclusion for permanently excluded pupils only. We shall also require schools to hold reintegration interviews with the parents of pupils excluded for fixed periods to discuss how their child’s behaviour can be improved.

Mr. Love: Is my hon. Friend aware of the EAR to Listen independent advocacy pilot projects being carried out by Save the Children up and down the country, including in my constituency? The projects have achieved a great deal of success in maintaining vulnerable young people in a school setting rather than their being excluded. Can he look at that experience to see whether it can be adopted as best practice?

Jim Knight: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing the Save the Children advocacy project to my attention. The scheme sounds excellent and I want to find out more about it to see whether there is good practice that we can extend elsewhere, so I have asked an official to attend the next Save the Children advocacy steering group on 1 May and to report back to me about the project.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): As I think we all agree, first, that it is right to exclude disruptive children from school and, secondly, that we must reintegrate them as quickly as possible, may I suggest to the Minister that the state does not always know best? There seem to be many good voluntary organisations and I wonder whether they have sufficient support from his Department.

Jim Knight: I agree with the first part of the right hon. Gentleman’s question. As he advises the leader of his party—to whom I listened on the “Today” programme on Monday—perhaps he could advise him that heads can exclude. We are backing heads when pupils’ behaviour warrants exclusion. We have made it clear that heads can permanently exclude pupils who are disruptive or violent, even for a first or one-off offence, and we have greatly limited the powers of appeals panels, to which reference was made, to return excluded pupils to the classroom. The vast majority of the 9,440 pupils permanently excluded each year are not returned to the classroom; in 2004-05 that happened in only 110 cases— 1.2 per cent. of exclusions. On the point about the voluntary sector, we are interested in that sector and want to work well with it across Government. That is something I regularly discuss with the Minister in the Cabinet Office with responsibility for the third sector across Government.

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SEN Resourcing

11. Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): What recent assessment he has made of the resources available to schools with above average levels of special educational needs and statemented pupils. [133963]

The Minister for Children and Families (Beverley Hughes): It is for local authorities to decide, in consultation with their schools forums, on the distribution of funding to their schools, taking account of local needs and circumstances. However, we know that local authority budgeted expenditure on the education of children with special educational needs has increased from £2.8 billion in 2001-02, when data were first available, to £4.5 billion in 2006-07, which reflects the 47 per cent. real-terms increase in the total revenue funding per pupil since the Government came to power.

Andrew George: Welcome as that additional funding is, the Minister will be aware through correspondence with her Department—as well as from my argument that Cornwall should get a fairer share of the schools budget—that because of how the formula is cut, schools such as Pendeen in my constituency, where more than half the pupils have either special educational needs or a statement, face severe financial challenges at present. If, as the Government say, “Every Child Matters”, what reassurance can the Minister provide that the formula will be set in such a way that in schools such as Pendeen SEN will be met? Will she agree to meet me and my constituents from Pendeen to discuss the challenges that they face?

Beverley Hughes: The hon. Gentleman will know that elements in the funding from central Government to local authorities represent deprivation, which is an issue at Pendeen, and special educational needs. I know that the situation in Pendeen is as he describes and that a significant proportion of children are not statemented but have SEN. The issue is that the roll of pupils is falling, which explains the current budget problems in the school. The local authority is, however, fully aware of that and has visited Pendeen school very recently to talk to the head teacher about what can be done to meet the current position, which is reflected in other small schools in Cornwall. I would certainly be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman if that is what he would like.


The Solicitor-General was asked—

Human Trafficking

17. Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): How many charges of human trafficking the Crown Prosecution Service successfully pursued in each of the last three years. [133944]

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I regret that the Crown Prosecution Service does not hold
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information in the precise form requested. Human traffickers are sometimes prosecuted for other offences, ranging from rape to immigration offences. However, CPS records show that the number of charges for trafficking for sexual exploitation in the last three years were: 16 in 2004-05; 65 in 2005-06; and 116 in 2006-07.

Mr. Steen: That does not quite square with the answer that I was given by the Home Office in October, which stated that

took place in total in the last three years, and that there were only 16 cases in that time, even though the Home Office admits that 4,000 women a year are being trafficked through our ports of entry. That means 12,000 women coming through, but only 30 convictions. Is that because trafficked women do not feel safe giving evidence against their traffickers and have no safe haven in Britain if they do give it; is it because the police do not give much priority in the overall scheme of things to pursuing traffickers; or is it, finally, because the Crown Prosecution Service is neither motivated nor up to the job of ensuring that traffickers are brought to court, charged, prosecuted and sentenced?

The Solicitor-General: The point that I emphasised was that the figures I provided were charges. I will have a look at the answer that the hon. Gentleman received from the Home Office. The difficulty is that traffickers are often prosecuted under a range of different provisions and it depends precisely on the list of charges to which the answer was related.

On the wider issue, human trafficking clearly harms individuals—and the whole of our society, for that matter—and the CPS will prosecute if there is a public interest in doing so, as there invariably will be, where there is sufficient evidence to secure a prosecution. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the case of Luan Plakici who was sentenced to 10 years in the Crown court for organised trafficking. As a result of the Attorney-General’s reference, that was increased to 23 years, so we have had a number of very considerable successes. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need to do more and we are doing more. Indeed, the UK Borders Bill will do more to enable us to carry out prosecutions.

Let me also say that I hope that signing up to the European convention on human trafficking will, when mandatory reflection periods come in, give victims more confidence to come forward and report these issues. Hopefully, that will result in more prosecutions.

Victims Surcharge

18. Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the likely impact of the victims surcharge on prosecutions. [133945]

The Solicitor-General: It is expected that the victims surcharge will generate up to £16 million to provide better services for the victims of crime, including £3 million for witness care units to encourage and support victims and witnesses in giving evidence, £3 million to provide independent domestic violence
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advisers, and other funding to help victims organisations. Supporting and helping victims and witnesses within the criminal justice system is an important aspect of getting more successful prosecutions.

Dr. Iddon: It has of course been extremely difficult to secure prosecutions in certain areas of criminality, especially domestic violence and rape. I welcome the implementation of the victims surcharge. Does the Solicitor-General agree that we will be able to expand the network of voluntary organisations that support victims and encourage them to come forward, given that fear and the possibility of stigma sometimes prevent people from bringing cases to trial?

The Solicitor-General: My hon. Friend is right. The proper long-term funding of witness care units will help witnesses and victims to come forward, especially regarding cases of rape. The extra funding for independent domestic violence advisers, who we hope to have in place in 64 sites where we have established specialist domestic violence courts, will help victims of domestic violence. Securing funding for victims organisations is an important step that I hope will enable those who support victims to know that funding will be in place in the longer term. Those who offend will be in a position where they will make a contribution to supporting victims.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Will the Solicitor-General explain why the victims surcharge is being levied on people who commit offences that often have no victims, such as motorists, yet not on those who commit offences that always have a victim, such as rapists?

The Solicitor-General: I do not accept that there is never a victim in motoring offences. Motoring offences are not victimless crimes. Some 3,201 people were killed on Britain’s roads in 2005, while 28,954 people were seriously injured and the total number of casualties was 271,000. Other so-called victimless crimes cause harm and create a cost to society through bringing the offender to justice and enforcing the sentence imposed. Money from the surcharge is going directly to help victims services—I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to be supporting that.

Law Officers

19. Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): What the Government’s policy is on whether the Law Officers should be parliamentarians. [133947]

The Solicitor-General: As was the case under previous Administrations, the Government’s position is that Law Officers should be Members of one of the Houses of Parliament so that they are accountable to this House and the other place for decisions that are reached and may be questioned about them.

Helen Goodman: I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Obviously, there are arguments on both sides, but I understand that the Solicitor-General has come to this House on three occasions to answer questions about the controversial
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decision not to prosecute British Aerospace. Had he not been a Member of this House, who would have been able to answer our questions about that problem?

The Solicitor-General: My hon. Friend makes a good point. As soon as the Serious Fraud Office took its decision to halt the investigation regarding BAE Systems, I came to the House—the Attorney-General went to the House of Lords—to explain the decision in person. There have been three debates in this House and three in the other place on that decision in which we have participated. We have corresponded with a large number of Members of both Houses. That happens only because the Law Officers are Members of Parliament, directly accountable to it for the work of the Serious Fraud Office and the other main prosecuting authorities. That would be lost if the Law Officers were taken out of the picture and out of Parliament.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I agree entirely with the Solicitor-General. In the circumstances, would he care to comment on the views held by the Minister of State at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which has been advocating that the Law Officers should be taken out of Parliament altogether and should cease to be Members of the Lords or the Commons?

The Solicitor-General: The Government have set out our position with clarity.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I take a different view entirely. I think that all Ministers, not only Law Officers, should not be Members of the House. That is part of the problem. If I am the Minister for paper clips and statues, the only thing that I can talk about is paper clips and statues. If I am a Government Whip, I cannot say anything at all—I tell a lie; I could move that the House adjourns. We want Ministers out of the House, but we want to bring them to account in the House for their stewardship, whether they are Law Officers, Foreign Office Ministers or Home Secretaries.

The Solicitor-General: My view is that Ministers should be accountable in this House. They should be able to answer questions from Members such as my hon. Friend. The Law Officers have to decide on controversial issues and we want to ensure that they have to come to this House and the other place to answer questions on them. It is all about accountability. In a sense, people can pay their money and take their choice, but accountability is important in this place and we can provide it.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I, too, agree that accountability to this House on the part of Law Officers is extremely important. In that context, the Attorney-General has, rightly, made it plain that were the dossier from the Director of Public Prosecutions on the cash-for-peerages investigation to be passed to him for decision, he would take independent counsel’s advice. In light of the accountability of the Attorney-General to the House, will he make that advice available to Members, either immediately if no prosecution takes place, or, if it does,
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on a Privy Council basis until such time as the trial would not be prejudiced by the contents?

The Solicitor-General: It is premature to speculate on precisely what will happen in this case. The police file has gone to the CPS, and the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the fact that the Law Officers have not yet seen any of the evidence. The Attorney-General has
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said that if he is consulted he will take advice from senior independent counsel. He has undertaken to consult Opposition spokesmen for the Law Officers’ role on the choice of counsel. He has said that if the decision is taken not to prosecute, he would wish to publish counsel’s advice in so far as it is in accord with the principles of justice. That will ensure that the whole process is as objective and transparent as possible.

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Business of the House

11.33 am

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to tell us the forthcoming business?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Jack Straw): The business for the week commencing 30 April will be:

Monday 30 April—Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Tuesday 1 May—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Wednesday 2 May—A motion to approve a European document relating to the protection of critical infrastructure, followed by consideration of Lords Amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill, followed by a debate on Sri Lanka on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Thursday 3 May—A debate on policing in London on an Adjournment of the House.

Friday 4 May—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 7 May will include:

Monday 7 May—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 8 May—Opposition Day [10th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on a Liberal Democrat motion, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 9 May—Remaining stages of the UK Borders Bill.

Thursday 10 May—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill, followed by consideration of a resolution on rating (empty properties)

Friday 11 May—The House will not be sitting.

Mrs. May: The website has been threatened with legal action for repeating what was printed in Hansard. Will the Leader of the House make a statement about the application of parliamentary privilege to organisations with a licence to reprint Hansard?

This week, it has emerged that lives have been put at risk by leaks about anti-terrorist operations. Peter Clarke of the Metropolitan police said:

and “put lives at risk.” Yesterday, the Prime Minister refused to guarantee that the leaks did not come from Ministers, civil servants or special advisers, yet he refused to order a full-scale inquiry. Contrary to assurances given by the Home Secretary to my hon. Friend the shadow Attorney-General, it is reported today that the source of the leaks is the Home Secretary’s special adviser. Why are the Government refusing an independent inquiry? On 6 February, Liberty submitted a freedom of information request in relation to media briefings on the raids. An answer has been delayed by the Home Office not once but twice, and is now due on 3 May. Will the Leader of the House guarantee that the Home Office will reply on 3 May, and that the Home Secretary will make a statement to the House at the first opportunity?

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