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5 Feb 2008 : Column 1114Wcontinued
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether his proposals for enforcement restriction orders will allow householders in financial difficulty to delay payment of council tax payments. 
Bridget Prentice: Council tax benefit is available to help those genuinely in need to meet their council tax commitments. A consultation paper Administration and Enforcement Restriction Orders: setting the parameters (CP01/08) was issued on 16 January 2008.
The consultation paper suggests that council tax should be specifically excluded from an enforcement restriction order. A final decision will be made when we have received and evaluated responses from the consultation.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what anti-fraud measures will be in place for the (a) English local elections, (b) Welsh elections and (c) Greater London Authority elections in May 2008 to prevent postal voting fraud and electoral registration fraud. 
Bridget Prentice: The Electoral Administration Act 2006 introduced a range of new anti-fraud measures that came into force in time for the May 2007 elections and apply to English local elections, Welsh local and Assembly elections and Greater London authority elections held thereafter. They include:
The introduction of personal identifiers for postal voters, which will help to ensure that postal voting is safe and secure.
The new offence of falsely applying for a postal or proxy vote.
Allowing any individual to object to another persons registration details at any time.
Allowing an electoral registration officer (ERO) to initiate and conduct a review of a persons registration at any time.
Creating a new criminal offence of supplying false information or failing to supply information to the ERO at any time.
Giving the police more time to carry out investigations into electoral fraud (they may apply to court to have the normal one year limit for bringing prosecutions increased to two years).
Dan Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 24 January 2008, Official Report, column 2202W, on the Harassment Act 1997, how many prosecutions were brought by (a) local authorities against individuals and (b) individuals against local authorities in each year since the Act entered into force. 
Maria Eagle: I will respond to the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible.
Substantive answer from Maria Eagle to Dan Rogerson:
If a prosecution is brought by a local authority against an individual or vice versa it falls within the jurisdiction of the civil courts.
Information on civil proceedings is not held centrally.
Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many offenders were serving whole life orders at the latest date for which figures are available. 
Mr. Hanson: As at 31 December 2007, the number of indeterminate sentence prisoners serving a whole-life tariff was 35.
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many staff are employed in the National Offender Management Service in Wales; and how many will be employed in the new structures (a) one month, (b) six months and (c) 12 months after the restructuring to be implemented on 1 April. 
Mr. Hanson: 2,886 staff are currently employed by the National Offender Management Service in Wales. This number comprises:
We are currently consulting on the proposals. We do not expect front line staff numbers in either prison or probation to change as a result of the new structures. It is not possible at this stage to say how many staff will be employed in the office of the Welsh Director of Offender Management either one month, six months, or 12 months after the restructuring has been implemented. It will be for the Director of Offender Management for Wales, supported by NOMS HQ, to determine exactly how the new merged office will be structured.
Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many offenders were granted reductions in sentences for guilty pleas in each of the last three years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Hanson: Table 2.19 of the Ministry of Justice annual publication 'Sentencing Statistics 2006' shows the number of persons sentenced for indictable offences broken down by plea:
It is not possible to be certain that all those who plead guilty are granted reductions in their sentences. However, the Sentencing Guidelines Council guidelines on guilty pleas say that a reduction should be considered by the sentencer when a defendant pleads guilty.
Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many offenders who were given custodial sentences for driving offences served concurrent driving bans as part of their sentence in each of the last three years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Hanson: Although the court proceedings data held by my Department provide information on the sentencing of individuals for individual offences, including whether they are disqualified from driving as a result of those offences, they do not hold information on whether each person is already banned from driving when sentence is passed.
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many offenders who come from Wales are in prison; and how many are the subject of community penalties. 
Mr. Hanson: Data for September 2007 show that there were approximately 3,800 male and female prisoners with a home area of Wales in custody in prisons in England and Wales. Where no home address is listed for a prisoner the committal court is used as a proxy address.
At the end of September 2007 there were 9,286 offenders being supervised by the Probation Service in Wales under all court orders. Information on how many offenders under court order supervision originally came from Wales is not recorded centrally.
Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many absconds there have been from open prisons since May 1997. 
Mr. Hanson: Since 1997 the number of absconds has fallen steadily across most years. In the last two years the number of absconds recorded has been just over half the levels recorded in 1997.
The information requested is in the following table and shows the number of prisoners absconded from prisons which have, or had in the past, an open or semi-open element. This figure does not include absconds from other types of prison.
|Number of absconds( 1)|
|(1) All prisonsEngland and Wales.|
Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many Parole Board decisions were made in each of the last three years; and what percentage of these were unanimous decisions. 
Mr. Hanson: According to the information provided in the Parole Board Annual Reports, the Parole Board reviewed 18,583 cases in 2004-05, 19,402 cases in 2005-06 and 25,436 cases in 2006-07. The Parole Board does not record whether decisions are unanimous and therefore this information is not available.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many branded plastic bags his Department and its agencies have purchased since his Department was created; and at what cost; 
(2) pursuant to the answer of 7 January 2008, Official Report, column 171W, on procurement, how many plastic bags have been procured by the division of his Department responsible for communications and marketing; and at what cost. 
Bridget Prentice: The Ministry of Justice, the National Offender Management Service and the Prison Service do not procure promotional bags under the departmental supplies contracts.
In past years, there have been isolated projects where promotional material has been produced. The following table shows how the number and costs of branded plastic bags the communications and marketing department has procured in each area and agency of the Ministry of Justice since its creation on 9 May 2007.
|Number of bags purchased||Total cost of purchase (£)|
A sustainability board has been established and is reviewing current arrangements.
David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) escapes and (b) unapproved absences there were from prisons in England in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Straw: The number of escapes and incidents of unapproved absences over the last five years from prisons in England is shown in the following table. The figures shown for prisoners breaching the terms of their temporary release licence may include prisoners whose breach of licence conditions has not been considered serious enough to recall them. While the latter are not unapproved absences it is not possible to distinguish this type of licence breach without examining every incident report which would incur disproportionate cost.
Data on escapes, absconds and temporary release licence failures are published for all prisons at the following link:
|Number of escapes and incidents of unapproved absences over the last five years from prisons in England|
|(1) Figures for escapes from Prison Escort Contractors include the four Welsh prisons that are not run as a separate contract and cannot be disaggregated from the overall totals.|
(2) Absconds are instances where a prisoner absents himself from prison custody without lawful authority and without overcoming physical security restraints usually from open prisons.
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