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Tom Brake: To ask the Solicitor-General how many prosecutions have been brought for offences related to the use of a mobile telephone whilst driving in each London borough in the latest year for which figures are available. 
The Solicitor-General: These cases are investigated by the Metropolitan Police in London and the police apply for the issue of summonses in cases they decide to prosecute through the courts. These are offences that are specified under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 and as such they are reviewed and presented at court by the police court presentation officers. In the event of a plea of not guilty, or if the defendant fails to attend and evidence is to be called, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) takes over the conduct of proceedings.
The CPS is guided by the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which is issued under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. The CPS applies the code so that it can make fair and consistent decisions about prosecutions. The reviewing crown prosecutor must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction. If the case does not pass that test it will not go ahead. If the case does pass the evidential test the crown prosecutor goes on to consider the second stage test to decide if a prosecution is needed the public interest. The dominant public interest factor that applies in these cases is that of road safety. The crown prosecutor will continue a prosecution when the case has passed both the evidential and the public interest tests.
Public consultation shows how seriously society views the potential dangers of the use of mobile telephones and other hand-held devices, while driving. The CPS has issued a policy for prosecuting cases of bad driving. In cases where the driver was avoidably dangerously distracted by that use, a charge of dangerous driving is the starting point for charging decisions.
The CPS prosecuted a total of 502 offences of using a mobile telephone while driving in the year 2007-08. The data for 2008 show that in the year 2008-09 538 offences were prosecuted up until and including September 2008. The borough breakdown for 2007-08 is as follows:
These figures only represent the cases that the CPS took over from the police because the defendant either pleaded not guilty or failed to attend court and evidence was to be called. A greater number will have pleaded guilty either in person or by post. Those cases will have been prosecuted by the police. The CPS figures show that prosecutions for this type of offending is increasing.
CPS London has set up a unit specialising in traffic prosecutions. serves a number of courts across London and one court centre will take cases from a number of boroughs. The unit makes best use of its resources by serving a restricted number of court centres only. It has been a great success in many ways but not least because it manages to bring successful prosecutions in an overwhelming number of cases.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General how many prosecutions were brought for shoplifting by the Crown Prosecution Service in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. 
The Solicitor-General: While Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) records include details of proceedings for theft, they provide no discrete count of offences of shoplifting. The Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) has provided the following table of figures derived from the court proceedings database. The figures show the number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates' courts, and found guilty at all courts, for offences of stealing from shops and stalls (shoplifting) in England and Wales during the years 2004 to 2006, the latest period for which figures are available.
A range of responses, proportionate to the circumstances of the case, is available for dealing with offences of shoplifting. An offender may be prosecuted, cautioned, or dealt with by way of a fixed penalty notice. The decision to prosecute is taken in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors. Where a case passes the evidential test set out in the code, a number of public interest factors then weigh in favor of a prosecution. these include: evidence that the offence was premeditated; evidence that the offence was carried out by a group; the defendant's previous convictions or cautions; and any grounds for believing that the offence is likely to be repeated.
Under the Penalty Notice for Disorder scheme a fixed penalty of £80 can be issued for the shoplifting of goods, normally up to the value of £100. The introduction of fixed penalty notices was welcomed by the police as it enabled them to do their job quickly and to return to patrolling the streets, which is what the public wants them to do.
7. Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made in increasing diversity through the recruitment of firefighters; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Khan: The numbers of women and minority ethnic applicants succeeding in the firefighter selection process has shown steady improvement in recent years. Communities and Local Government is working closely with its service partners to further improve performance through the national Equality and Diversity Strategy, which includes recruitment targets.
Mr. Khan: The number of women and minority ethnic applicants succeeding in the firefighter selection process has shown steady improvement in recent years. Communities and Local Government is working closely with its service partners to further improve performance through the national Equality and Diversity Strategy, which includes recruitment targets.
Margaret Beckett: The Government's policy on building on green belt land is set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 (PPG2). PPG2 makes clear that there is a presumption against inappropriate development in the green belt. Such development should not be approved except in very special circumstances.
Mr. Iain Wright: Our policy on new towns is set out in Eco-townsliving a greener future: progress report, published on 24 July. Eco-towns will help us deal with the issues of housing shortage, sustainable living and climate change. We have set tough standards, and more details about these will be published shortly in the draft PPS.
11. Mark Fisher: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made in engaging young people to make communities more resilient against violent extremism. 
Mr. Khan: We are engaging with young Muslims in many ways. As well as funding a range of projects nationally and locally to help young people become more resilient to violent extremism, last week, we launched the Young Muslims Advisory Group. This group of 22 young Muslims, aged 16 to 25, will advise Government on a variety of issues.
12. Nia Griffith: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made on her proposals for the transfer of assets to community groups; and what effect the proposals in the "Communities in control" White Paper will have on this process. 
Hazel Blears: Since May 2007 with CLG support at least 20 assets have already been transferred or are due for transfer in the next 12 months; and £30 million from the Cabinet Office in refurbishment grants will facilitate an additional 35 transfers. Following the White Paper an independent England-wide Asset Transfer Unit will launch in January 2009, and the £70 million Communitybuilders Fund will also invest in further asset transfers.
13. Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average response time for the fire service in the London borough of Havering was in the most recent period for which figures are available. 
The average arrival times for fire engines in the London Borough of Havering for 2007-08 (ending March 2008) is 6 minutes and 35 seconds for the first fire engine and 7 minutes and 5 seconds for the second fire engine
London Fire Brigade
14. Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment has been made of the effect of home information packs on the housing market since their introduction. 
Mr. Iain Wright: Independent research into the impact of home information packs (HIPs) was undertaken by Europe Economics and published on 22 November 2007. The report concluded there was no evidence of any impact on property transactions and prices following the introduction of HIPs. The report also noted a predicted short-term impact of HIPs on new listings, but concluded this would be short lived and the impact on the market would be marginal compared to wider factors. A copy of the report can be found on the Communities and Local Government website at:
15. John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department plans to take to assist local authorities to ensure that housing meets the decent homes standard. 
Margaret Beckett: Housing policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are the responsibilities of the respective Secretaries of State. In England the Government required local authorities owning housing stock to undertake an options appraisal to determine how they would deliver decent homes. Authorities can retain the management and ownership of their housing stock or for authorities who needed extra resources, we provided three delivery options:
setting up an arms length management organisation;
transferring the ownership of the homes to a registered social landlord; and
entering into a private finance initiative contract.
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