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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 8 May 2008

Church Commissioners

Church of England Website

8. Miss McIntosh: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, how often guidance provided by the Church of England on its website on prevention of theft from churches has been accessed. [204059]

Sir Stuart Bell: The main source of advice for parishes is the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office, whose comprehensive guidance on the problem of theft of metal from churches has been endorsed by the Church of England, English Heritage and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. A total of 36,000 copies have been printed and 620 more downloaded from their website, and the relevant advice sections of the site have been visited over 1,100 times.

In addition, there have been 526 hits on the Archbishops’ Council’s ‘churchcare’ website since the theft pages were added on 20 January this year, and the Council has e-mailed information on the guidance to dioceses for onward circulation to parishes via their own networks.

Women and Equality

Trafficked Women: Regional Refuge Centres

20. Mr. Bone: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if the Government will bring forward proposals to establish regional centres to provide refuge, rehabilitation and support for women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. [204064]

Barbara Follett: The Government have funded the Poppy Project—which takes referrals from all regions in the country, since 2003. It provides refuge and comprehensive support for women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The project received additional resources during our recent national campaign, Operation Pentameter 2, to identify trafficked women and apprehend traffickers, which it used to develop partnerships with 17 third-sector organisations to enable them to better support trafficked women locally.

Single Equality Bill

21. Jo Swinson: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality when the Government plan to publish the Single Equality Bill. [204065]

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Barbara Follett: The Government will introduce an equality Bill during this Parliament. If it is included in the draft legislative programme for the next Session of Parliament, we will publish it then.

Domestic Violence

22. John Robertson: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent steps the Government have taken to support victims of domestic violence. [204066]

Barbara Follett: I am proud to say that this Government have introduced more measures to support victims of domestic violence than any other before. They include

Corston Report

23.Mrs. Hodgson: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what progress the Government have made in implementing the recommendations of “The Corston report: A review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system.” [204067]

Barbara Follett: The Government welcomed Baroness Corston's report, and accepted the majority of the report's recommendations. When we published our response, we committed to achieving a number of actions within six months. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) will make a statement on our progress this summer.

Female Entrepreneurship

24. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality when she next expects to meet representatives of small businesses to discuss measures to encourage female entrepreneurs. [204068]

Barbara Follett: The Under-Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Lady Vakra, is responsible for business and competitiveness. She leads on women's enterprise issues, and regularly meets representatives of small businesses. In addition, on May 12 my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Women and Equality will host an event to encourage women to start their own businesses, which I will also attend. Leading women entrepreneurs and the Federation of Small Businesses have been invited.

Employment Discrimination: Pregnancy

25. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government have taken to prevent employment discrimination against women on grounds related to pregnancy. [204069]

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Barbara Follett: Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 it is unlawful to treat a woman less favourably on the ground of her pregnancy.

In October 2005, we amended the Sex Discrimination Act to make this clear and to allow employees to know their rights and employers their responsibilities.

Departmental Freedom of Information

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how many freedom of information requests made to the Government Equalities Office were (a) answered (i) within 20 days, (ii) within 40 days, (iii) within 60 days, (iv) after 60 days, (b) not answered and (c) answered citing an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as a reason not to provide the requested information since the GEO was established. [201734]

Barbara Follett: Since the establishment of the Government Equalities Office, the breakdown of freedom of information requests made is as follows.


Answered within 20 days


Answered within 40 days


Answered within 60 days

Not answered


Answered citing an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act 2000


The GEO has also received a request to review a decision made to not publish information sought under section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act. This was responded to within six weeks.

In anticipation of future requests, the GEO is increasing its capacity to deal effectively with freedom of information requests.

Leader of the House

Post-Legislative Scrutiny

32. Mr. Dunne: To ask the Leader of the House what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of post-legislative scrutiny undertaken by the House and its Committees. [204047]

Helen Goodman: The Government published their plans for strengthening the process of post-legislative scrutiny of Acts in a White Paper in March. This reflects the Government’s agreement with other commentators that post-enactment consideration of how Acts have worked in practice has been something of a gap in the scrutiny of Government activity. It responds in particular to the report of the Law Commission on this subject in 2006 (following an inquiry undertaken by the Commission at the Government’s specific request).

Under the new process, the relevant Government Department will—from now on, beginning with Acts which received Royal Assent in 2005—be submitting to the appropriate departmental Select Committee a
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memorandum, three to five years after Royal Assent, summarising the steps taken in implementation of each Act and giving a preliminary assessment of how it is working out in practice.

Early-Day Motions

33. Mr. Holloway: To ask the Leader of the House what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Early-Day Motions procedure. [204048]

Helen Goodman: The Government’s assessment of the procedures governing Early-Day Motions was set out in its July 2007 response to the Procedure Committee’s report “Public Petitions and Early Day Motions”.

The Government agreed with the conclusion of the Committee that—while there are some concerns about the number of EDMs—restricting the rules of eligibility for EDMs by reference to subject matter or by imposing a ration for each Member would not be appropriate.

Members' Correspondence

35. David Taylor: To ask the Leader of the House what recent representations she has received on the performance of Government Departments in dealing with correspondence from hon. Members in a timely manner. [204050]

Helen Goodman: My right hon. Friend receives occasional representations from Members, and is aware of points of order that have raised the issue. The Minister for the Cabinet Office has overall ministerial responsibility for this area, and I will be pleased to pass on any comments to him. The latest Cabinet Office report on departments’ and agencies’ performance on MPs’ and Peers’ Correspondence (issued by written ministerial statement on 20 March 2008, Official Report, column 71WS) announced that the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons responded to 94 per cent. of correspondence within its 15-day target.

House of Commons Commission

Staff: Disabilities

34. Nia Griffith: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what percentage of staff employed by the House have a disability. [204049]

Nick Harvey: On the basis of a disability questionnaire in December 2007 and subsequent information gathered, 2.67 per cent. of staff of the House have declared a disability.


Shoplifting: Prosecutions

13. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General what representations she has received from small businesses on the rate of prosecutions brought by the Crown Prosecution Service for shoplifting offences. [204038]

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The Solicitor-General: As far as I know neither the Attorney-General’s Office for the Crown Prosecution Service has received representations from small businesses.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor assured the House that the Government take very seriously the need for the whole criminal justice system to be as effective as possible in tackling crime against shopkeepers and small businesses.

I commend the hon. Member’s efforts to support small businesses in her constituency.

Dangerous Driving

14. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service takes in prosecuting cases to seek longer sentences for people convicted of dangerous driving which results in serious injury. [204039]

The Solicitor-General: Prosecutors have a general duty to assist the court when sentence is being considered, which may include advising the court of any aggravating factors, the appropriate sentencing range and, where applicable, relevant sentencing guidelines or guideline cases. The prosecutor will also inform the court when it is relevant of the effect of the crime on any victim or on the wider community. However, prosecutors cannot recommend or seek particular sentences; that is a matter for the sentencing court.

In respect of Crown court cases and more complex cases in the magistrates courts, prosecutors prepare a ‘plea and sentence document’. This identifies any aggravating factors in the case, together with relevant sentencing guidelines and guideline cases, so that the court is aware of all relevant factors when sentencing.

The guideline from the Sentencing Guidelines Council on seriousness sets out aggravating factors to be taken into account when sentencing generally. It includes among the factors indicating a more than usually serious degree of harm

Specifically on prosecuting cases of bad driving, including cases that result in serious injury or death, the Crown Prosecution Service published its Public Policy Statement on Prosecuting Cases of Bad Driving in December 2007. The Policy makes clear that the prosecutor has a duty to ensure that the court has all the information it needs to enable it to sentence appropriately.

Anthony Leon Peart aka Anthony Leon Joseph

15. Simon Hughes: To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made on implementing the recommendations of the report on Anthony Leon Peart, aka Anthony Leon Joseph. [204040]

The Solicitor-General: I refer the hon. Member to my written statement on 28 April 2008, Official Report, column 1WS. The cross-agency working group is meeting this week and will continue to take forward the detailed
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responses to the recommendations. I shall report back to the House on progress in due course.

Expert Evidence

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made by the review of expert witnesses in criminal trials; and if she will make a statement. [204033]

The Solicitor-General: The OCJR is preparing a summary of expert witness initiatives, which is expected in late spring. The CPS is about to undertake a revision of their current guidance on expert witnesses; it continues to work closely with the independent Forensic Science Regulator in setting standards; and the CPS is also working with the Legal Services Commission in its evaluation of appropriate standards for experts in criminal cases.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture: Climate Change

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent meetings his Department has held with farmers to discuss the impact of climate change on agriculture. [204303]

Mr. Woolas: The Department holds regular discussions about the impact of climate change on agriculture. DEFRA's main advisory body in this area is the Rural Climate Change Forum. Membership includes the National Farmers' Union and the Country Land and Business Association, and both organisations represent farmers and land managers. Other members of the Forum are the Carbon Trust, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission, the National Trust, Natural England and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The Forum's remit includes advising on policy, research and communications in relation to agriculture's role in climate change mitigation and the impacts of climate change on agriculture. The forum meets three to four times a year; its last meeting was on 6 February 2008 and it meets again in June 2008.

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