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15 May 2007 : Column 684W—continued

Freedom of Information

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice how implementation of freedom of information (FOI) legislation will be carried out by the new Ministry; which Minister is responsible for implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000; how the Ministry plans to continue the consultation on FOI fees amendments initiated by the former Department for Constitutional Affairs; and if she will make a statement. [137190]

Vera Baird: Arrangements for the operation and maintenance of the Freedom of Information Act within the Ministry of Justice remain the same as those in the former Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA). The right hon. the Baroness Ashton of Upholland remains the Minister responsible for freedom of information, reporting to the Secretary of State for Justice.

The consultation on Draft Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2007, initiated by the former DCA will continue as planned. Responses to the supplementary paper and any further comments on the draft regulations contained in the full consultation paper are still invited by 21 June 2007.

The Government remain committed to establishing a culture of freedom of information across the whole of the public sector, through advice, guidance and improved publication schemes.

Postal Voting

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice pursuant to the oral answer of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to the hon.
15 May 2007 : Column 685W
Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed of 17 April 2007, Official Report, column 159, on postal voting, in what manner the regulations were not correctly drafted. [136998]

Bridget Prentice: As I mentioned in my written answer to the hon. Gentleman on 31 January 2007, Official Record, column 336W, there has been a difficulty with the legislative drafting in relation to signing for a ballot paper in a polling station. Additional measures to improve the security of postal voting were implemented in full for elections on 3 May 2007, as Parliament intended.

Prison Service: Manpower

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice what estimate she has made of the number of additional prison officers required to negate the need for (a) contracted supplementary hours and (b) time off in lieu hours; and if she will make a statement. [137286]

Mr. Sutcliffe: No such estimate has been made, as it is Prison Service policy to recruit to full staffing levels and contract supplementary hours and time off in lieu are used only to address temporary staffing shortfalls in establishments. Both mechanisms are resourced from within the existing staffing budgets made available to establishments.

Prison Service: Property

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice pursuant to the answer of 3 May 2007, Official Report, column 87W, on prison service: property, what assessment she has made of local public opinion on the establishment of new prisons in (a) Maghull, (b) Belmarsh, (c) Featherstone, (d) London/Essex and (e) South Wales. [137455]

Mr. Sutcliffe: NOMS held public exhibitions over several days at Maghull and Belmarsh. A similar exhibition will be held for Featherstone. When sites have been identified in London/Essex and South Wales similar exhibitions are planned. Opportunities for assessments of public opinion are provided by the planning process, through which NOMS planning applications are made available to the general public. An opportunity for local MPs to assess public opinion arises when NOMS informs them of potential major prison planning developments as a part of its standard practice to keep MPs informed ahead of such developments.

Prisoners Release: Acquittals

John Hemming: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice pursuant to the answer of 30 April 2007, Official Report, column 1420W, on prisoners release: acquittals, in what cases remand prisoners are entitled to (a) travel warrants and (b) housing benefit and council tax benefit and mortgage interest for a limited time. [136725]


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Mr. Sutcliffe: All prisoners who are released from prison custody are issued with a travel warrant to an agreed destination. Housing and council tax benefit and mortgage interest are available on release in all cases where prisoners meet the eligibility criteria to receive these benefits. If a remand prisoner is already in receipt of these benefits they continue to be payable for up to 52 weeks or until conviction.

Prisoners: Government Assistance

John Hemming: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice what (a) financial and (b) other assistance is available to prisoners on release after serving their term. [136653]

Mr. Sutcliffe: On release all prisoners that serve a custodial sentence of more than 14 days receive a discharge grant of £46.

The Government are committed to ensuring that all prisoners are able to access resettlement programmes and practical support within the prisons and on release to effectively help them re-integrate back into the community.

Our cross-Government programme of work seeks to reduce re-offending by rehabilitating offenders so they are less likely to commit crime. This is being done by tackling the root causes of offending behaviour and working to reduce social exclusion. The priority is to ensure that offenders are able to access mainstream services and, in particular, have accommodation and sustainable employment on release.

Prisoners: Self-mutilation

Harry Cohen: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice what provision is in place for the treatment of women prisoners deemed at risk of self-harm in settings outside the prison estate. [136683]

Mr. Sutcliffe: An assessment and care planning tool known as an Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork plan (ACCT) is opened for women (and men) prisoners identified at risk of self-harm in prison. If an at-risk prisoner is escorted out of the prison setting, the ACCT plan and its instructions to support the prisoner and keep them safe goes with them. Where risk is identified before a prisoner new to custody reaches prison, court or escort staff will open a suicide/self-harm warning form to keep the prisoner safe until they arrive at prison (where ACCT procedures are activated).

Prisoners: Sexual Offences

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice how many prisoners convicted of a sex offence were released under the Home Detention Curfew scheme in each year since 1999. [137162]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Information on the numbers of prisoners released from prison establishments in England and Wales on Home Detention Curfew for offences recorded as sexual in the years since 1999 can be found in the following table. The figures are taken
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from volumes of the Prison Statistics in England Wales for the years between 1999 and 2002, and volumes of the Offender Management Caseload Statistics between 2003 and 2005. Copies of these volumes are available from the House of Commons Library and at:

These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale recording system, and although shown to the last individual the figures may not be accurate to that level. As noted in the footnote to table 10.19 in the 2005 table, the reasons for recall from Home Detention Curfew are sometimes confused with the reason for the original imprisonment, and inquiries show that that is the case with the two sexual offenders in the table for that year. Further investigations suggest that around 5 per cent. of offence types recorded do not relate to the offence for which they were sentenced and subsequently released on Home Detention Curfew, but relate to offences committed after release from prison and before the licence expiry date for their sentence.

Prisoners released on Home Detention Curfew since 1999 who were serving sentences for sexual offences
Number

1999

24

2000

29

2001

17

2002

20

2003

8

2004

6

2005

2


Voting Rights: Commonwealth

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice whether citizens of Commonwealth nations who are (a) expelled from the Commonwealth and (b)
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suspended from the Commonwealth who are residing in the United Kingdom with leave to remain are eligible to vote in UK elections. [137077]

Bridget Prentice: The Representation of the People Act 1983 provides that those entitled to register and vote in elections in the United Kingdom (UK) include citizens of Commonwealth countries who are lawfully resident here.

The definition of a Commonwealth country for electoral purposes is that it should be included as such in the list contained in schedule 3 to the British Nationality Act 1981. It follows that those citizens of a country that has been expelled or suspended from the Commonwealth who are lawfully resident in the UK remain eligible to vote in UK elections unless the 1981 Act is amended specifically to delete from schedule 3 the name of that country.

Duchy of Lancaster

Departments: Internet

Mrs. May: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for which Government websites she is responsible; how many visitors each received in the latest period for which figures are available; and what the cost (a) was of establishing and (b) has been of maintaining each site. [135721]

Mr. McFadden: As part of the Government’s website rationalisation strategy, the Cabinet Office is focusing its own internet presence on two websites—the civil service site (www.civilservice.gov.uk), and the Cabinet Office site (www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk). All other Cabinet Office websites will be closed by March 2011.

The following table contains a list of the websites for which Cabinet Office is currently responsible and the latest available numbers of visitors to each.

Visitors( 1)
Website Period Number

Civil Service (www.civilservice.gov.uk)

January-December 2006

242,196

Cabinet Office (www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk)

April 2006-March 2007

757,502

Better Regulation Portal (www.betterregulation.gov.uk)

April 2006-March 2007

101,732

Government Communication Network (www.comms.gov.uk)

April 2006-March 2007

52,716

Chief Information Officers Council (www.cio.gov.uk)

April 2006-March 2007

90,743

UK Honours (www.honours.gov.uk)

April 2006-March 2007

142,034

UK Resilience (www.ukresilience.info) and Preparing for Emergencies (www.preparingforemergencies.gov.uk)

January-December 2006

265,485

Emergency Planning College (www.epcollege.gov.uk)

April 2006-March 2007

24,749

National Steering Committee on Warning and Informing the Public (www.nscwip.info)

April 2006-March 2007

5,600

Civil Service Pensions (www.civilservice-pensions.gov.uk)

January-December 2006

73,227

Civil Service Recruitment Gateway (www. careers.civil-service.gov.uk)

October 2005-September 2006

683,130

Faststream (www.faststream.gov.uk)

September 2005-August 2006

289,130

GovTalk (www.govtalk.gov.uk)

May 2006-April 2007

635,775

(1) Specific days between June 2006 and March 2007 are not included due to technical issues

For all other Cabinet Office websites it is not possible to separate out costs for establishing or maintaining the websites because they were set-up using in-house resources
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and sit on infrastructure shared with other external sites including the Advisory Commission for Business Appointments and the House of Lords appointments commission.

Treasury

Departmental Hospitality

Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his Department’s expenditure on hospitality and entertainment was in (a) 1996-97 and (b) 2005-06. [114108]

David Simpson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much was spent on hospitality by his Department in the financial year 2006-07. [133254]

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much his Department spent on hosting dinners and other social functions in each year since 1997. [134561]

John Healey: The Treasury classifies all expenditure on food and refreshments for visiting guests as ‘official entertainment’ including those served at meetings with, or receptions held for, external stakeholders and overseas visitors, and any costs incurred therein when booking rooms and catering staff. All such expenditure is made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on the principles set out in “Government Accounting”. Relevant expenditure in 2006-07, subject to any adjustments arising from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s audit of the department’s 2006-07 resource accounts, was £197,000, a reduction of approximately £60,000 compared to relevant expenditure in 2005-06, and £15,000 compared to 2004-05.

For details of spending in earlier years I refer the hon. Gentlemen to the answers given to the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 14 February 2006, Official Report, columns 1833-34 and to the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) on 15 December 2004, Official Report, column 1084W.


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