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16 July 2008 : Column 456W—continued

Non-domestic Rates: Wales

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 14 May 2008, Official Report, column 1627W, on taxation, whether (a) the 2005 business rates revaluation and (b) the most recent council tax revaluation in Wales were revenue neutral. [218299]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I have been asked to reply.

The 2005 business rates and 2005 council tax revaluation in Wales were revenue-neutral. The overall increase in receipts in the year of revaluation arose from councils’ decisions to increase council tax rates, and were broadly in line with increases in the previous years.

Revenue and Customs: Chorley

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 2 July 2008, Official Report, column 966W, on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC): Chorley, what the evidential basis is for his assessment that the effects on Chorley residents of the vacating of the HMRC office there will be minimal. [218926]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 15 July 2008]: Further to the answer I gave my hon. Friend on 2 July 2008, Official Report, column 966W, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has given a commitment to continue to provide inquiry centre services in locations where decisions have been made to withdraw, as is the case with Chorley. As a result, the services HMRC provides directly to the population of Chorley will remain unaffected.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Lingmell House, Chorley are (a) full-time and (b) part-time; how many and what proportion of HMRC staff at this office will be (i) relocated, (ii) made redundant and (iii) undergo some other change in employment conditions as a result of HMRC plans; and if he will make a statement. [218928]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 15 July 2008]: As at 1 July 2008, there were 54 full-time staff and 23 part-time staff working for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at Lingmell House Chorley.

Alternative locations for all staff in Chorley have been identified, although final decisions on which individuals can relocate to the proposed location for
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their work within reasonable daily travel have not been reached for all staff at this stage. HMRC is committed to avoiding redundancies wherever possible and will seek to identify alternative solutions for anyone who cannot move with their work.

HMRC has no plans to change the employment conditions of staff who relocate as a result of Regional Review decisions for Chorley.

Tax Credits: Fraud

Jenny Willott: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment his Department has made of the possible effect on child poverty if fraud and error were eradicated from working tax credit payments; and if he will make a statement; [218671]

(2) what estimate his Department has made of the effect on levels of child poverty of the eradication of fraud and error in child tax credits; and if he will make a statement. [219568]

Jane Kennedy: Tax credits play a key role in making work pay and reducing poverty, and have helped to lift 600,000 children out of relative poverty since 1998-99.

The Government are keen to ensure that support goes to the right customers at the right time, and is committed to reducing error and fraud across tax credits. I refer the hon. Member to my written statement of 14 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1-2WS.


Courts: Children

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps the Government has taken to minimise any harmful effects on children arising from their participation in court proceedings. [218745]

Bridget Prentice: In the criminal courts a series of measures are in place aimed at minimising the distress of court proceedings on young defendants as follows:

Children can apply for special measures to assist them in giving their best evidence in court. This includes giving evidence outside the courtroom through a televised link or screens around the witness box to shield the witness from the defendant.

Children involved in family proceedings do not normally attend court. Children who are subject to an application for care or supervision proceedings by social services (public law) are entitled to separate representation by a Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) Children’s Guardian and a solicitor, and are made a party to proceedings. Children’s Guardians are there to help achieve the best possible outcomes for
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the child they represent. The Government have consulted on the representation of children in private law proceedings, when families disagree about who children should live or spend time with. However, research has shown that bringing a child into proceedings could be stressful and put too much responsibility on the child. Therefore, party status and separate representation will only be ordered in private law cases which involve an issue of significant difficulty and consequently will occur only in a minority of cases.

Crime: Victims

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent steps the Government has taken to work with the third sector when supporting victims of crime. [218163]

Maria Eagle: Following a recent public consultation, the Ministry of Justice has published a Third Sector Strategy which sets out the Department’s commitment to working with the Third Sector.

Victim Support, an independent charity, is the Government’s main provider of services to victims and witnesses of crime across England and Wales. Over recent years annual Government funding to Victim Support has increased from £11.7 million to £30 million. The Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) has provided additional investment in Victim Support to rollout Victim Support Plus nationally (£5.6 million in 2007-08 and £7 million in 2008-09).

In addition, the Government funds a number of specialist services for victims of individual crime types. The charity Support After Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM) receives a grant of £140,000 a year to provide services to family and friends bereaved through murder and manslaughter.

Over the last four years, we have invested £6.5 million in specialist services for victims through the Victims Fund, with the majority going directly to Third Sector organisations. In 2008-09 a further £1.75 million has been invested into the fund. Specialist services that receive funding through the Victims Fund provide support to victims of sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse, hate crime and homicide.

Since 2003 the Government has worked in partnership with Eaves Housing for Women to deliver bespoke specialist services for women trafficked into sexual exploitation, through the Poppy project. We are investing a further £1.3 million into the project this year, taking the total to £5.8 million since it opened.

In 2007-08 the Government provided £3 million for Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs), trained specialists who provide a service to victims who are at high risk of harm, to support victims as their cases progress through Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs).

The Youth Crime Action Plan, published on 15 July 2008 will include proposals to support young victims of crime.

Family Courts

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he has taken to improve the procedures of family courts. [218744]

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Bridget Prentice: The new Family Procedure Rules will make court procedures easier to use and understand. They will provide a modernised and simply expressed code of practice for all levels of court. A significant first segment, the Family Procedure (Adoption) Rules, was made in October 2005. The Department and the Family Procedure Rule Committee are now completing the task for all family proceedings.

Court procedures have also been recently improved in domestic violence and care proceedings cases. On 1 April 2008, the judicially led Public Law Outline came into force, streamlining the care proceedings process and contributing to a reduction in unnecessary delay. In May 2008 a new practice direction changed current procedures in private law proceedings to give better protection for children in cases where domestic violence has been raised as an issue.

Family Courts: Accountability

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent steps the Government has taken to improve accountability in family courts. [218743]

Bridget Prentice: We have consulted twice on how we could improve transparency in family courts. It is important that the courts are more open and accountable and it is important that children’s interests are protected. The right of the public to know what is happening needs to be balanced with a child’s rights to privacy.

It is also important to help the public understand what happens in family courts and how the courts make these difficult decisions. That is why we have already announced that we will be piloting the publication of judgments for some family cases.

This is an important and complex area of policy about which people have strong views. We must ensure we get it right. We will be making an announcement to the House about the pilots, and our other proposals, after the summer.

Firearms: Sentencing

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to his answer of 8 July 2008, for what reasons individuals found in unlawful possession of a firearm were not given the mandatory sentence of five years, broken down by category of mitigating factors. [218537]

Mr. Hanson: Sentences are decided by sentencers. Data on mitigating factors at the time of sentencing are not collected on the courts proceedings database held by my Department.

Examples of exceptional circumstances might be where the holder of a firearms certificate inadvertently forgets to renew his authority or where a war trophy is discovered among a deceased person's effects. Rehman. R v . [2005] EWCA Crim 2056 (18 July 2005) considers the issue of “exceptional circumstances.”

Legal Services Commission: Complaints

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the merits of (a) audit and (b) scrutiny of the recording of (i) complaints to
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the Legal Services Commission and (ii) responses to correspondence by (A) the Legal Services Commission and (B) his Department. [217288]

Bridget Prentice: It is well established practice throughout the public sector to ensure that there are robust systems in place to deal with correspondence and complaints handling. Proportionate auditing and scrutiny are a normal part of those systems. I also refer the hon. Member to my answer to him of 22 May 2008, Official Report, column. 411-12W.

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many complaints under the Legal Services Commission's complaints procedures were recorded by the Legal Services Commission in each year since 2004-05. [217300]

Bridget Prentice: The number of complaints received in the Legal Services Commission is as follows:








The figures for 2007-08 will be published shortly in the 2007-08 annual report.

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what procedures are used to process complaints on action by the Legal Services Commission in breach of its complaints procedures guarantee. [217302]

Bridget Prentice: I refer the hon. Member to the answers to him on 4 June 2008, Official Report columns 1040-41W and 22 May 2008, Official R eport columns 411-12W. If a complainant does not feel that their complaint has been dealt with in accordance with the LSC's complaints procedure, the parliamentary ombudsman can investigate. All complaints referred to the ombudsman must be done so through a Member of Parliament.

Legal Services Commission: Standards

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how the Legal Services Commission's national customer service score is calculated. [217297]

Bridget Prentice: The Legal Services Commission introduced a customer service single score from 2003-04 in its regional offices and throughout the organisation from 2004-05 to reinforce its commitment to improve all levels of customer service. The measures used in the score are tailored to each department and include: the time taken to perform key tasks; telephone handling skills; quality control; complaints handling and the ability to respond swiftly. In 2007-08, the LSC achieved 93 per cent. in its customer service score against a target of 90 per cent.

Magistrates: Personation

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice on how many occasions since 2003 he has been informed of instances where individuals have claimed falsely to be a justice of the peace; and if he will make a statement. [218125]

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Mr. Straw: Such instances are very rare and my Department does not keep a record. My hon. Friend is obviously aware of the matter regarding Ray Lewis, former Deputy Mayor for London for young people. He has not been appointed as a magistrate.

Members: E-mail

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State plans to reply to the email from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire, dated 18 June 2008, Ref: 204969, on the transcript of an appeal proceedings. [218159]

Maria Eagle: The Ministry of Justice aims to reply to correspondence from hon. Members of both Houses within 20 working days of receipt. I replied on 15 July 2008.

Members: Mentally Ill

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will make it his policy to bring forward proposals to remove the current provisions in common law which prevent a person with mental illness from standing or
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remaining as an hon. Member; and if he will make a statement. [218435]

Bridget Prentice: Under the Electoral Administration Act 2006 we have already abolished the common law provisions which related to mental state for voters.

We will consider with our stakeholders whether a similar change should be made to remove the current provisions in common law which may be used to prevent a person who has experienced mental health problems from standing or remaining as an hon. Member.

Offensive Weapons: Young Offenders

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 9 July 2008, Official Report, column 1620W, on offensive weapons: young people, what sentence was imposed in each case in each year; and, where fines were imposed, what the (a) smallest, (b) largest and (c) average fine imposed was in each year. [219119]

Mr. Straw: Statistics on the number of persons sentenced for the offence of selling knives to persons under 18 by result are contained in the following table.

Number of persons sentenced( 1) by result for the offence of selling a knife to a person under 18 years, all courts, England and Wales, 2002-06
Number of persons
Offence description Year Total proceeded against( 2) Absolute/ conditional discharge Fine Community sentence Fully suspended sentence Immediate custody Otherwise dealt with

Selling to a person under the age of 18 years a knife, knife blade, razor blade, axe or any other article which has a blade, that is sharply pointed and which is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person
























(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.
(2) Will include cases that were withdrawn or dismissed.
These figures have been drawn from administrative data 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.
OMS Analytical Services

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