Previous Section Index Home Page

13 Dec 2007 : Column 903W—continued

13 Dec 2007 : Column 904W

This proposal was implemented through the inclusion of guidance in the revised Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, issued in July 2006. Chapter 17 of the Code, Suitability of Accommodation, provides guidance on the factors to be taken into account when determining the suitability of temporary accommodation secured under the homelessness legislation, including fitness for habitation, housing healthy and safety, overcrowding and houses in multiple occupation. Also in chapter 17, the Secretary of State recommends minimum standards that should be taken into account by local authorities when assessing whether bed and breakfast accommodation is suitable. The recommended minimum standards are set out in detail in annex 17 of the Code. Annex 16 of the Code sets out the statutory definition of overcrowding.

The Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities is available on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s website at:

Thames Gateway Forum: Official Hospitality

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the cost to the public purse of the dinner at the Thames Gateway Forum on 28 November at Excel, London; from what budget funding will be drawn; and if she will make a statement. [165129]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 20 November 2007]: Communities and Local Government has not contributed any money to the cost of the Thames Gateway Forum dinner. The Thames Gateway Forum dinner is a private sector endeavour run by CMPi, the organisation that manages the whole Thames Gateway Forum event.


Courts: Gwent

Jessica Morden: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to provide new court buildings in Gwent. [173619]

Maria Eagle: The provision of new court facilities in Newport, Gwent is a priority for Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS). HMCS are developing proposals on how best to deliver these facilities to ensure they are both affordable and represent value for money.

Divorce Courts: Children

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps the Government has taken to minimise the burden of court proceedings relating to divorce for children affected. [172936]

13 Dec 2007 : Column 905W

Bridget Prentice: The welfare of any child is of paramount importance where children are the subject in family proceedings. Irrespective of parents’ marital status, children are most often the subject of proceedings about contact and residence arrangements following parental separation.

The Government believe that court is not always the best place to resolve these disputes. Court proceedings can prolong parental conflict which is damaging for children. Unless there are safety issues, it is generally better for the children concerned that parents reach agreement themselves. In “Parental Separation: Children’s Needs and Parents’ Responsibilities” (January 2005) the Government announced a range of measures to support this aim, including promoting family mediation which can offer advantages over going to court, especially where children are involved.

Children can find the court process frustrating and stressful if they feel that their wishes and feelings are being ignored. Where parents cannot agree, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) has a key role in ascertaining the wishes and feelings of the child involved, dependent on their age and understanding. In the most difficult cases, the court can request that the child is separately represented to ensure that their views are properly heard.

When parents do come to court, there is still the opportunity for them to reach agreement themselves and avoid the stress, for them and their children, of a contested hearing. In-court conciliation is a service available in most family courts which aims to facilitate agreement between the parents when they first attend court. The Government commissioned Dr. Liz Trinder of the university of East Anglia to evaluate the effectiveness of various models of in-court conciliation and to look at longer-term outcomes.

The latest report, published on 21 November, found that two years following conciliation, the great majority (79 per cent.) of cases had an agreement about contact and were closed. More children were having overnight contact and the overall amount of contact per child had increased since the initial conciliation intervention. However, during the two years following the intervention, the majority of parents had required further professional intervention and 40 per cent. had been involved in further litigation. Around 60 per cent. of agreements made at the ‘original’ conciliation meeting had been changed or had broken down by the two-year follow-up.

The well-being of parents had improved significantly and was at a similar level to those who had not come to court. However, this improvement was not apparent in children. After two years, 35-43 per cent. of these children still had borderline or abnormal well-being scores.

The report recommends the development of more relationship-based or therapeutically-orientated interventions as additional family justice systems or as referral-based services. The Government recognise that more needs to be done to support these parents and have already legislated to provide the courts with powers to refer parents to more therapeutic activities designed to help them overcome some of the underlying issues they face. These issues can often act as barriers that prevent parents from making
13 Dec 2007 : Column 906W
arrangements that work for their children. The Government will shortly announce the timetable for implementing these provisions.

Electronic Tagging

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many individuals are electronically tagged in (a) England and (b) Wales, broken down by the companies carrying out the monitoring. [173987]

Mr. Hanson: On 30 November 2007, 16,519 individuals in England and 698 individuals in Wales were subject to electronic monitoring of a curfew. In England, 11,226 were monitored by Group4Securicor (G4S) and 5,293 by Serco. In Wales, all 698 were monitored by Serco, which holds the contract for the West Midlands and Wales Area

Fatal Accident Inquiry System

Mr. Ingram: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on its plans to reform the Fatal Accident Inquiry system in order to allow inquiries into the deaths overseas of armed forces personnel who are based in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [173068]

Bridget Prentice: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Justice and the Lord Chancellor (Mr. Straw) had the opportunity to raise this issue with Kenny MacAskill when he spoke to him recently. It was agreed that our officials should meet to explore possible ways forward on this issue.

The Government are committed to helping bereaved families by holding inquests as close to home as possible and is pleased that the Scottish Executive is now addressing this issue.

Identity Cards

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 19 November 2007, Official Report, column 513W, on national identity cards, what budget has been allocated for the consultation referred to. [173149]

Mr. Wills: We are still finalising the budget for the process of engagement to develop a British statement of values. Parliament and the public can be assured that the Government will look for value for money in carrying out this programme.

Legal Services Commission: Information and Communications Technology

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people are registered to use the Legal Services Commission's new IT system for online reporting of case outcomes and solicitors' claims for costs. [173462]

Maria Eagle: The Legal Services Commission issued 8,882 LSC online passwords to all legal aid contract holders. Some providers have more than one office and would therefore require more than one password.

13 Dec 2007 : Column 907W

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what the reason was for the delay in the launching of the Legal Services Commission's new IT system for online reporting of case outcomes and solicitors' claims for costs; and if he will make a statement; [173463]

(2) what funding his Department has provided for the Legal Services Commission's new IT system for online reporting of case outcomes and solicitors' claims for costs; and if he will make a statement; [173465]

(3) what assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the Legal Services Commission's new IT system for online reporting of case outcomes and solicitors claims for costs; and if he will make a statement. [173466]

Maria Eagle: I refer the hon. Member to the replies I gave to the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) on 5 December 2007, Official Report, column 1260W.

Ministerial Duties: Public Sector

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice which Minister has responsibility for public sector information. [173477]

Mr. Wills: I am the Minister responsible for the Office of Public Sector Information. The Department for Constitutional Affairs, the predecessor to the Ministry of Justice, took over responsibility for public sector information from the Cabinet Office on 31 October 2006.

Offenders: Unemployment

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how the piloting of withdrawal of benefits from unemployed offenders who do not comply with the terms of a community order made under section 177 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 is being monitored; and if he will make a statement. [172808]

Mr. Hanson: The piloting of the withdrawal of benefits from unemployed offenders was thoroughly monitored and evaluated between 2001-05 and the results of this process contributed to the formal assessment of the pilots. Advice about the future of the pilots, which includes the findings of that assessment, is currently under consideration. Monitoring is therefore suspended until a decision has been made.


Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what estimate he has made of the likely change in the number of people who will be sent to prison in the first 12 months after the abolition of suspended sentences. [172708]

Mr. Hanson: Suspended sentences are not being abolished. Suspended sentence orders for summary-only offences are being abolished. We expect this will mean 400 offenders being given alternative non-custodial penalties over the next two years.

13 Dec 2007 : Column 908W

Prisoners: Illegal Immigrants

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many (a) illegal immigrants and (b) failed asylum seekers were serving custodial sentences in UK prisons in each of the last 10 years; and what proportion of the prison population these figures represented; [173773]

(2) how many and what proportion of offenders convicted for (a) violent offences and (b) all offences were (i) illegal immigrants and (ii) failed asylum seekers in each of the last 10 years. [173774]

Mr. Hanson: Information on the number of illegal immigrants who are held in custody is not held centrally and would involve detailed cross referencing of BIA case files with Prison Service records to ensure accuracy. As a result, the information required to answer this question cannot be obtained without incurring disproportionate cost.

Regarding failed asylum seekers serving custodial sentences, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given to the hon. Member for South Holland and the Deepings (Mr. Hayes) on 27 November 2007, Official Report, column 300W.

Prisoners: Sexual Offences

Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many allegations of prisoners being (a) raped and (b) sexually assaulted have been received by the Prison Service in each of the last five years. [173436]

Maria Eagle: Rape is a legal term dependent on conviction and this information is not held centrally.

The Prison Service Incident Reporting System (IRS) collects information supplied by prisons on the reported numbers of sexual assaults. At any one time the system will include some proven and unproven allegations; some of the latter are removed/reclassified at a later date. The system provides a useful indicator, but the numbers should not be treated as absolute. It is not possible to separate incidents of sexual assault from allegations.

The numbers of sexual assaults reported through IRS are shown in the following table.

Prisoner on prisoner sexual assaults












Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many sentenced receptions in prisons in England and Wales were for (a) less than one month, (b) between one and three months, (c) between three and six months and (d) between six and 12 months in each of the last five years. [173445]

13 Dec 2007 : Column 909W

Mr. Hanson: The following table shows the number of sentenced receptions into prisons in England and Wales by sentence length band from 2002 to 2006.

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006

Less than or equal to 1 month






Greater than 1 month and less than or equal to 3 months






Greater than 3 months and less than or equal to 6 months






Greater than 6 months and less than 12 months






Next Section Index Home Page