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However, the Co-ordinated Online Record of Electors (CORE) project aims to provide a single authoritative source of electoral registration data through assembling copies of local electoral registers into a single national database.

An initial cost-benefit analysis has been undertaken as part of the business case for the project. The cost-benefit analysis will develop as the business case develops, and will inform decisions on the final scope of the CORE scheme and on the development of the project. A final business case, including a final cost-benefit analysis, cannot be settled until the CORE scheme is specified in detail and a procurement strategy is agreed. The CORE project team is currently gathering user requirements to inform development of a “high level statement of requirements”, which will inform decisions on scope, procurement and define the detailed specification, and the business case and cost-benefit analysis will be updated in the light of that work.

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the status is of the development of the coordinated online record of electors project. [228868]

Mr. Wills: The CORE project is currently moving forward with two parallel strands of work: implementation of electoral registration data standards and the gathering of user requirements for the CORE system and CORE service to service the detailed specification of the system.

In April 2008, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice) issued direction under section 52(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (c.2)(as amended) with which Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) in Great Britain are required to comply by 1 December 2009. The direction requires that any electoral registration data held on electronic systems are formatted in compliance with the standards.

Throughout 2008 officials have been holding meetings and workshops with potential users of the system to gather user requirements, identify issues and test assumptions around how the CORE Service and its IT and business systems will operate. This will inform development of a ‘high level statement of requirements’. It is expected that this high level statement of user requirements will be complete by March 2009. That statement will inform decision about the design, scope and build of the CORE system.

We continue to engage with the Electoral Commission as the preferred choice to fulfil the role of the CORE Keeper.

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether a final decision on the scope and specification of the Co-ordinated Online Register of Electors project has been made. [228869]

Mr. Wills: A final decision has not yet been made on the scope and specification of the CORE service. The CORE project team is currently gathering user requirements to inform development of a “high level statement of requirements”: this in turn will inform decisions on scope and the detailed specification. Throughout 2008 we have been holding meetings and workshops with potential users of the system to gather user requirements, identify issues and test assumptions around how the
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CORE Service and its IT and business systems will operate. It is expected that the high level statement of user requirements will be complete by March 2009.

Electronic Voting

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether there are any plans to introduce e-voting mechanisms before the local and European elections in 2009. [228861]

Mr. Wills: No. The Government do not plan to introduce e-voting for the 2009 European or local elections.

The way forward more generally on e-voting will be informed by the valuable experience gained from earlier pilots, analysis of the responses to the election day consultation, and further development work including the possible further testing of e-voting solutions in non-statutory elections.

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether there are any plans for further e-voting pilots in the next 12 months. [228862]

Mr. Wills: The Government have no plans for further e-voting pilots in statutory elections at this stage.

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the budget is for work on remote electronic voting over the next two years. [228864]

Mr. Wills: Detailed budgets for future years have not yet been specifically allocated. Further work on remote electronic voting will be funded as necessary from existing budgets agreed for Electoral Modernisation, subject to ministerial and HM Treasury approval. The Government are currently taking stock of the previous work on remote e-voting, including the experience gained in earlier pilots, and the responses to the consultation on election day, to inform the way forward.

Energy Savings Trust

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much funding his Department provided for the Energy Savings Trust in 2007-08; and how much it is providing for 2008-09. [225997]

Joan Ruddock [holding answer 13 October 2008]: I have been asked to reply.

DEFRA provided £29 million for the Energy Savings Trust in the period 2007-08 and will provide £36.2 million for the 2008-09 period.

HM Courts Service: Databases

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what percentage of HM Courts Service staff are now linked to the LIBRA system; [228848]

(2) when LIBRA will become operational across the whole magistrates court network. [228849]


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Bridget Prentice: As at 17 October 2008, 77 per cent. of magistrates courts are linked to the Libra application. This equates to approximately 75 per cent. of our anticipated total user numbers. Libra will be deployed and operational in all magistrates courts in England and Wales by 9 December 2008.

Judiciary: Pensions

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the implications of the deficit in the Judicial Contributory Pension Fund. [229198]

Mr. Straw: The Judicial Pension Scheme is unfunded, so when benefits fall due for payment they are met from Government revenues. There is no actual pension fund or deficit. However, in any particular year, income from contributions from administering bodies and scheme members is used to offset the costs of paying benefits to pensioners.

Matrimonial Proceedings: Religion

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what guidance is issued on the validity of (a) fatwas and (b) other rulings issued by religious authorities in the determination of matrimonial disputes. [228591]

Bridget Prentice: We do not issue any guidance on the validity of fatwas or other rulings by a religious authority because there is no need for such guidance. Shari'a law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales and there is no intention to change this position. Similarly, we do not accommodate any other religious legal system in this country's laws. Any order in a family case is made or approved by a family judge applying English family law.

If, in a family dispute dealing with money or children, the parties to a judgment in a Shari'a council wish to have this recognised by English authorities, they are at liberty to draft a consent order embodying the terms of the agreement and submit it to an English court. This allows English judges to scrutinise it to ensure that it complies with English legal tenets.

The use of religious courts to deal with personal disputes is well established. Any member of a religious community has the option to use religious courts and to agree to abide by their decisions but these decisions are subject to national law and cannot be enforced through the national courts save in certain limited circumstances when the religious court acts as arbitrator within the meaning of the Arbitration Act 1996. Arbitration does not apply to family law and the only decisions which can be enforced are those relating to civil disputes.

Religious courts are always subservient to the established family courts of England and Wales.

Medicine: Guernsey

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether any bills originating in Guernsey making provisions for the law relating to medicine have received Royal Assent in the last two years; and if he will make a statement. [228575]


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Mr. Wills: In the past two years no medicines legislation from Guernsey has been submitted for Royal Assent.

National Probation Service for England and Wales: IT

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effect of not completing the implementation earlier in 2008 of C-NOMIS to the Probation Service in terms of end to end management of offenders. [228845]

Mr. Hanson: The revised NOMIS Programme, which replaces C-NOMIS, will deliver the same objectives through a strategy that delivers a component based solution rather than a single solution.

Within the National Probation Service (NPS) steps have been taken to replace at risk case management systems in three areas. All probation areas in the longer term will receive a centralised version of a redeveloped case management system known as Delius. This development will enhance the exchange of information between probation areas and provide potential for data sharing with the Prison Service (HMPS).

The two existing Offender Risk Assessment Systems (OASys), used by HMPS and NPS, will be replaced by an improved, centralised system which will enhance sharing of information and support end to end offender management.

Offenders: Deportation

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice for which categories of offences those foreign national prisoners who have been released in the UK without being deported in the last five years were originally convicted. [228633]

Mr. Hanson: The information requested is not available and can be obtained only by cross-referencing records held by the Ministry of Justice and UK Border Agency at disproportionate cost.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps his Department has taken to ensure that (a) existing and (b) potential users of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal have full and accurate information about the changes being made to the system; and what consultation his Department has undertaken with voluntary sector organisations on the changes being made to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. [229026]

Bridget Prentice: SENDIST judiciary have been concerned to make sure that full and accurate information was provided to users as soon as it was confirmed and available and to engage users in the development of new processes. Two newsletters have been issued to users; the first in July and the second in October. Both contained detailed information on changes to processes and the latter addressed specific issues of concern raised by users. There has also been a service user group made up of representatives from a range of voluntary groups and local education authorities working with the judiciary to ensure the rules, practice directions and case management system are fit for purpose. SENDIST judiciary and
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members of the service user group will be providing free training on the rules, practice directions and case management system for parent representatives from November.

Information on the draft practice directions was available on the SENDIST website in July and the draft practice directions themselves were also sent out to a wide range of service user groups in early October.

There has been a two-part consultation process on the changes for those jurisdictions, including SENDIST that will move into the new tribunals structure. “Transforming Tribunals” discussed the proposals for the new tribunals structure and ran from 28 November 2007 to 22 February 2008. The “Health, Education and Social Care Chamber Rules” were consulted upon from 29 May until 11 July 2008.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the likely effects of the new arrangements for the Special Education Needs and Disability Panel on access to the tribunal for parents without legal representation. [229027]

Bridget Prentice: The new case management system will ensure that evidence is limited to relevant issues, that witnesses at hearings are restricted to those strictly necessary to the case and are fairly balanced between parties and that adjournments largely avoided. This new process will enable the tribunal to provide more help to unrepresented parents to ensure they provide, and also obtain from the local education authority, the right information at the appropriate stages of the process. Representatives from voluntary sector groups providing advice and assistance to parents have had input into the design of the processes. Many parents successfully appeal without the need for legal representation at hearings and it is not anticipated there will be any increase in the level of need for such legal representation.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the potential cost implications of the new system for special educational needs and disability tribunals for (a) parents, (b) local authorities and (c) voluntary and advocacy organisations. [229028]

Bridget Prentice: Case management may result in some additional upfront cost in some individual cases: whether in the form of paperwork to provide better information or a preliminary hearing, in complex cases, to identify the issues and tell the parties what they need to provide. But the case management system is designed, in the interests of the child, to ensure speedier resolution, shorter final hearings and the avoidance of adjournments by identifying the issues at an early stage and getting the right information to the tribunal at the right time. Overall, it is expected that this will lead to a reduction in time spent and cost for users.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether the new case management system for the Special Educational Needs and Disability Panel has been piloted. [229029]

Bridget Prentice: A live case was registered on 3 October with the case management hearing scheduled for mid-December and the final hearing set for a date in February.
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With the consent of the parties it is being used as a pilot for the new case management system. Where possible other cases will be used as pilots before the system is wholly implemented. Operation of the new system will be kept under review.

Voting Methods

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice when his Department plans to publish the response to the consultation on weekend voting. [228860]

Mr. Wills: The “Election Day: Weekend Voting” consultation ended on 26 September. Analysis of the responses received is now under way. We aim to publish the consultation response as soon as practicable.

Werrington Young Offender Institution

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the Independent Monitoring Board Annual Report on HM Young Offender Institution Werrington, what assessment he has made of the availability of places for young offenders from the Potteries area; and if he will make a statement. [228580]

Mr. Hanson: The Youth Justice Board considers there to be adequate local provision for young people from the Stoke-on-Trent area, who are usually placed in the closest suitable establishments—the young offender institutions at Stoke Heath, Brinsford and Werrington. On occasion, young people from the area may be placed further away, where there are good reasons for doing so, such as the need to access the regime in a secure training centre or secure children’s home.

During the period covered by the Independent Monitoring Board’s report (1 June 2006 to 31 May 2007), population pressures on the under-18 estate made it necessary to move some young people from the south of England to the Midlands. For that reason Werrington received a number of young people from the south of England. Since the opening of Cookham Wood as a young offender institution earlier this year, such placements have not been necessary and, other than in exceptional circumstances, the Youth Justice Board does not envisage a need for them in the foreseeable future.

Young Offender Institutions: Social Services

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many young offender institutions have specialist social workers in permanent posts working in them. [228725]

Mr. Hanson: 12 young people’s establishments in the young people’s estate and dedicated prison service units for young women have social workers in post.


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