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17 July 2008 : Column 574Wcontinued
Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if the Government will bring forward proposals to amend section 73(7) of the Land Registry Act 2002. 
Bridget Prentice: It is possible that an amendment will be required to some of the provisions in the Land Registration Act 2002 to reflect the transfer of the Adjudicators present jurisdiction into the proposed Lands and Housing Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal to be created under the provisions of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and announced following the Ministry of Justices recent consultation.
However, the changes will only reflect the transfer and will not affect the rights of the parties in these disputes. At this stage, no timetable has been fixed for making the transfer.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effects of regional variation in sentencing practices, including custodial sentences, affecting young offenders. 
Mr. Hanson: The Youth Justice Board have commissioned a research study of sentencing decisions made by courts, to identify why some young people are sentenced to custody and others to community sentences. They will be considering its recommendations to inform any future work in respect of sentencing practice.
In the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 we introduced the Youth Rehabilitation Order, the new generic community sentence for young people aged under 18, and made a number of other youth justice provisions. To reflect this change we will also be asking the Sentencing Guidelines Council to produce sentencing guidelines for young people. The guidelines and training will be delivered to sentencers to help ensure consistent and appropriate application of the new sentencing framework.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what guidance his Department has issued to secure establishments on screening of young offenders for (a) mental illness, (b) learning difficulties and (c) physical disabilities. 
Mr. Hanson: All young offenders receive health screening on reception into prison. This is via an evidence based initial health screen used throughout all prisons in England and originally developed by Professor Grubin of the University of Newcastle. Young offenders are also screened for their educational needs. A new reception screen for young people has been developed by the Youth Justice Board and is being piloted. It contains a section looking at disability and impairment and covers physical and mental health problems.
A general learning needs assessment is used to identify all learning difficulties and disabilities. Where problems are identified, either as a result of the health screen or the education screen, a referral to an appropriate professional would be expected to be made.
Transfer of the responsibility for commissioning health services in Young Offender Institutions, and adult prisons in England, commenced in 2003 and was fully devolved to the NHS by April 2006. Primary Care Trusts work with their partner establishments to develop a comprehensive health needs assessment of the population and commission on the basis of that need.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will take steps to prohibit imprisonment of offenders under the age of 14 years. 
Mr. Hanson: We have greatly strengthened and expanded the range of pre-court diversions and community sentences available for the police and courts to use when dealing with young people who have offended. The Governments Youth Crime Action Plan, which was published on 15 July, builds on this by setting out cross-Government arrangements for tackling offending and re-offending by young people.
However, for a small minority of young people who commit serious offences, custody is the only appropriate response to what has occurred and the only means of protecting the public.
Any offender aged 14 or under who is sentenced to custody is accommodated in a secure training centre or secure childrens home. These have high staffing ratios, a child-centred approach and a particular emphasis on education.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what facilities there are for the detoxification of children in each (a) secure training centre, (b) secure children's home and (c) young offender institution. 
Mr. Hanson: There is a 24-hour clinical presence in each of the young offender institutions, and in Oakhill secure training centre, which experiences and manages the greatest number of cases of drug and alcohol dependence among young people. All other secure training centres and secure children's homes have arrangements in place to identify and manage, often with the assistance of local NHS substance misuse services, cases of substance dependence.
The Youth Justice Board, Department of Health and the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse are about to issue jointly developed clinical guidance for the treatment of substance dependence among young people in secure settings. This will be the first document of its kind in the world.
The guidance has been piloted in five young offender institutions (Ashfield, Downview, Hindley, New Hall and Wetherby), one secure training centre (Oakhill), and two secure children's homes (Vinney Green and Aycliffe).
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of trends in the number of children remanded in custody while awaiting trial. 
Mr. Hanson: The proportion of young people held on remand in custody has remained relatively stable over the past five years. The decision to remand a young person in custody remains a matter for the courts.
The following table (based on data supplied by the Youth Justice Board) shows the number of young people remanded to custody at the end of June in the years 2003-08 and the percentage of the overall under-18 custodial population this represented.
|Number of young people remanded to custody( 1)||Percentage of under-18 custodial population|
|(1) Young people remanded to custody on the last Friday of June 2003-08.|
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what guidance his Department has issued to (a) local authorities and (b) police services on the use of restorative justice techniques as a way of preventing young people entering the criminal justice system. 
Mr. Hanson: The Ministry of Justice has not issued any guidance to local authorities and/or police services on the use of restorative justice techniques as a way of preventing young people entering the criminal justice system.
However Restorative Justice has been embedded in the youth justice system since the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act which recommends its use as part of existing disposals, if appropriate for the individual/s involved. Restorative justice approaches can be found in both out-of-court and in-court disposals-for example, in reprimands, warnings, referral orders-and will also play a part in the delivery of youth conditional cautions and the youth rehabilitation order which form part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
We announced in the children's plan that we will be piloting a new out of court disposal that will sit below reprimands and final warnings. This will be the youth restorative disposal which uses restorative techniques to allow a young person to apologise for committing an offence thus making them take responsibility for their actions at the scene of the offence.
Our commitment to the use of restorative justice when dealing with young offenders is further evidenced by its inclusion in the youth crime action plan as part of our vision for the future of youth justice.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the number of local authorities exercising their discretionary powers to discount council tax for flood victims. 
John Healey: No estimate has been made of the number of local authorities exercising their discretionary powers to reduce the council tax payable in respect of properties damaged by floods.
The Government are, however, currently seeking information from local authorities to determine which of them intend to use their discretionary powers under Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to grant discounts in respect of the council tax payable on properties which are still vacant and require major repairs due to the floods of June and July 2007. The Government recently announced their intention to provide financial support to those authorities who exercise their discretion under section 13 A in these circumstances.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures are in place in her Department to monitor expenditure on alcohol for hospitality purposes. 
Mr. Dhanda: All official hospitality is recorded in a hospitality register, held at directorate level. Human resources require register holders to supply aggregate figures from time to time, and conducts spot-checks on the registers themselves.
Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the communications and press budget for her Department has been in each year since its establishment. 
Mr. Dhanda [holding answer 2 July 2008]: The Department was established in 2006. The pay budget for the Department's Communications Directorate is as follows:
This includes press office costs of £1,465,772 in financial year 2007-08.
For the press office element of the overall budget in previous years, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 31 March 2008, Official Report, column 717W.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of her Department's budget and that of its predecessor was used for research within its areas of responsibility in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Dhanda: The proportion of my Department and its predecessor's spend on research since1998-99 against the total Departmental spend for that particular year is set out in the following table.
|Financial year||Proportion of research expenditure against total departmental spend (percentage)|
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the presentation on the inclusion of a return path within help scheme equipment referred to in the minutes of the Emerging Technologies Group meeting of 27 February 2008. 
Mr. Iain Wright: A copy of the presentation made at the Emerging Technologies Group meeting of 27 February 2008 will be deposited in the Library of the House. One slide has been omitted from the slideshow since at this stage the disclosure of that slide would be likely to be prejudicial to ongoing discussions between Government Departments about the development of the policy.
Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for what reason the advertisement from her Department on eco-towns published in the Stratford Herald indicated that the site of the proposed eco-town at Long Marston fell entirely within Warwickshire; and if she will arrange for corrected versions of the advertisement to be placed in local newspapers in (a) Worcestershire and (b) Gloucestershire. 
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