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Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what percentage of votes were postal in (a) the 2005 general election, (b) the 2005 local elections and (c) the 2006 local elections; and how many postal vote applications were disallowed per local authority in each case. 
Bridget Prentice: Research conducted by the Electoral Commission on turnout at the 2005 general and local elections concluded that 12.1 per cent. of the electorate opted to have a postal vote at those elections, and that postal votes accounted for 15 per cent. of all votes cast. The information for the 2006 local elections is not held centrally by Government.
Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps are being taken to (a) raise the awareness of postal voting availability and (b) reduce levels of disallowed postal votes. 
Bridget Prentice: The Government have prescribed that the annual canvass form that is sent to every household each autumn contains a provision allowing an elector to request a postal vote application form. The Government have expanded the information that is included on the poll card that is sent to electors at an election, and it now includes information about how to apply for a postal vote and the deadline for making a postal vote application at the forthcoming election.
The Electoral Administration Act 2006 brought forward measures to increase the security of postal voting. While this increased the amount of data needed when electors completed their forms, this was balanced by the removal of the requirement for a witness signature. The available information suggests that the levels of disallowed postal votes remain low. We will wish to keep the matter under review and to explore the issues involved with the Electoral Commission and Association of Electoral Administrators.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what prosecutions there have been involving the posting
or accessing of illegal content online in which legal proceedings are complete in each of the last three years. 
The number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts for various offences
relating to the publication, possession or distribution of obscene matter, and indecent photographs (including of children), in England and Wales for the years 2004 to 2006 can be viewed in the following table.
|N umber of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts for various offences relating to the publication, possession or distribution of obscene matter, and indecent photographs (including of children), in England and Wales for the years 2004 to 2006( 1,2)|
|(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.|
(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.
Court proceedings database held by RDS Office for Criminal Justice ReformMinistry of Justice
There is no specific offence of the posting or accessing of illegal content online as the UK prosecutes the offence, such as the creation or publication of illegal imagery, rather than the medium used. All published material is subject to the Obscene Publications Act 1959. Under the Protection of Children Act 1978 (as amended), the UK has an absolute prohibition on the production, circulation and possession with a view to distribution of any indecent photograph of a child under 18.
Maria Eagle: It is estimated that the cost of sick pay within the public sector Prison Service during 2007 was £68 million. Estimated costs for other parts of the Department are not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
The Cabinet Office published a report on sickness absence in the civil service on 7 February 2008. The report included an analysis of the days lost due to sickness absence. The report included an estimate of £887.66 for 2006-07 as the cost of absence per staff year in respect of all civil servants.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what average hourly rate his Department and its predecessors paid to employment agencies for agency staff in each year since 1999, broken down by employment agency. 
Maria Eagle: The Ministry of Justice was created on 9 May 2007 therefore my response refers to the former Department for Constitutional Affairs. The following table provides figures from 2001 to the end of the last full financial year. Information for the preceding financial years is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
|Average hourly rate (£)|
Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the (a) longest, (b) average and (c) shortest waiting period for domestic violence perpetrators programmes was for each probation area in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Offenders waiting for a place on a domestic violence programme are under the supervision of their offender manager from the day of sentence. The offender manager will monitor the risk posed by the offender and actively manage it. Additionally the offender manager will normally
prepare offenders for the programmes by carrying out set work. This can take between six and 12 weeks.
These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems, which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. The data take no account of time that elapses because of the need to deliver other
requirements of the sentence, or because the offender is recalled into custody, for example.
The domestic violence programmes are still relatively new and demand from the courts has exceeded expectations. A series of measures are in place to reduce the period of time before an offender can start a programme.
|Domestic violence programmes: time to commencements|
|Area||Mean time to commence group||Minimum time to commence group||Maximum time to commence group|
| Note: Comparable data from Cheshire and Greater Manchester areas are not available due to incompatible IT systems.|
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