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Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many households were overpaid tax credits in each year since 2003; how much was overpaid in tax credits in each of those years; and how much of that overpaid money was not recovered in each of those years. 
Mr. Timms: Information on the number of families who incurred overpayments and on the total value of overpayments in 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 is provided in part 2, figure 9 of the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, in the HM Revenue and Customs 2007-08 accounts. This is available on the HMRC website at:
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish his Departments assessment of the proposal for tax-exempt care vouchers to help carers of adults remain in employment whilst balancing their caring responsibilities. 
Mr. Timms: I refer the hon. Member to the answer the then Financial Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy) gave on 26 November 2007, Official Report, column 128W.
Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 29 September 2008, Official Report, column 2307W, on the Valuation Office Agency: Rightmove, what work was approved to identify cost-effective approaches to gathering more information. 
Mr. Timms: Investigative work was undertaken to assess market coverage and to support the Agency's aims of (1) reducing further the numbers of visits to taxpayers' homes, (2) aiding the accuracy of bandings and (3) improving timeliness in dealing with taxpayers' queries.
Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 29 September 2008, Official Report, column 2307W, on the Valuation Office: Geographical Information Systems, whether the Agency or HM Revenue and Customs plans to publish an invitation to tender document for any of the project for the new system. 
Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 29 September 2008, Official Report, column 2307W, on the Valuation Office: Geographical Information Systems, what the timetable is for finalising the specification of the geographic information system. 
Maria Eagle: Data on community sentences (including the community order and other community sentences) are available by police force area and the following table shows the number of community sentences imposed by the courts in the Hertfordshire police force area 2002 to 2006. Data for 2007 will be available later in the year. Community sentence data are not made available for smaller areas because detailed checks on sentencing data are not carried out at court level.
|Number of persons sentenced( 1) to community sentences in Hertfordshire police force area, 2002 to 2006. England and Wales. Criminal justice area|
|Hertfordshire police force area (Number of persons)|
|(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.|
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
Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many former members of the armed forces were taken into custody following a conviction for a violent offence in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hanson: We are unable to identify the occupation of an offender from the courts proceedings database. As such, we cannot tell the number of ex-service personnel that were convicted and sentenced to immediate custody for violent offences.
Data from nationally representative surveys of some 2000 sentenced prisoners near release conducted in 2001, 2003 and 2004 show the proportion of prisoners who had previously served in the armed forces as 6 per cent. 4 per cent. and 5 per cent. respectively.
Maria Eagle: Where a court imposes a custodial sentence the offender is sent to prison immediately unless the court decides to suspend the sentence. We have no plans to introduce provisions to defer the commencement of custodial sentences.
Bridget Prentice: There is no set budget for civil legal aid. Civil legal aid is funded from the overall budget for legal aid which itself forms part of the Departments delegated expenditure (DEL). Funding for legal aid can be increased or decreased from within DEL according to need.
|Community Legal Service expenditure|
|Resource (£ million)|
Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what steps he is taking to ensure the rights of women are protected in the approval by English courts of (a) marriages and (b) divorces completed under Sharia law; 
(2) what steps he is taking to ensure that English courts have the (a) resources and (b) expertise to exercise proper scrutiny of marriages and divorces completed under Sharia law which come before them; 
(3) how many consent order forms were issued by his Department for approval by English courts of (a) marriages and (b) divorces completed under Sharia law in each of the last five years; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the necessary form; 
Mr. Straw: When a petition for divorce is lodged at a court the court requires information to ascertain that there was a valid marriage between the parties, and the grounds on which a divorce is sought. The religious affiliation of the parties is not included on divorce documents. Hence it is not possible to provide any statistics that relate to the parties' religion.
Marriages conducted in this country under Sharia law are not recognised in England and Wales unless they also comply with the provisions of the Marriage Acts. Therefore Sharia marriages are not a legal reality in this country and we cannot obtain statistics for them. We are aware that many Muslim couples undergo both a civil ceremony in a register office and a purely religious ceremony. The former is recognised but the latter is not. Increasing numbers of mosques are registered so that they can offer a joint civil and religious marriage ceremony. Section 55 of the Family Law Act 1986 allows parties to a marriage to apply for an order that their marriage is valid, or to allow divorced parties similarly to test the validity of their divorce. This provision is used rarely, and generally to test the validity of marriages contracted abroad and foreign divorces. A Sharia marriage contracted in this country which does not comply with Marriage Act requirements would not be validated.
Sharia divorces conducted in this country are also unrecognised by the legal system. The English courts do not approve divorces or annulments granted by any faith group, therefore no statistics are available for them. A Sharia divorce dissolves the religious limb of a marriage but leaves the civil marriage intact. This must be dissolved by a civil divorce. If no civil marriage has taken place then no civil divorce is required.
Consent orders differ widely according to what is required in each case. Therefore there is no standard form for a consent order. In a consent order relating to children the court can, among other things, make orders relating to contact, residence, a requirement that either
parent do something or refrain from doing it, an order for expert reports or for contact activities or for review. In financial matters a court can deal with income, capital, pensions, assets and can, among others orders, make periodical payment, secured periodical payment, lump sum or property adjustment orders, pension sharing orders, and asset distribution orders.
The only orders that can be made during an extant marriage are an order for validity of marriage, as described above, or an order for judicial separation, which has similar effects to divorce save that the parties are still regarded as married, albeit legally separated. This type of order is usually used by those with a religious objection to divorce. Neither of these orders is likely to be made by consent.
Consent orders can be applied for following negotiations and an agreement reached by the parties directly, or with the help of lawyers, mediators, or a third party, which might be a Sharia council. Sharia councils operate under the statutory basis of the Arbitration Act 1996, established by the previous Government. The family court would be unable to tell whether an application for a consent order (whether within a divorce or in other proceedings) had been made as the result of negotiations conducted through a Sharia council, by the parties themselves, through mediation or by the intervention of any other third party. Applications for consent orders are generally filed by solicitors. In those circumstances the court can see whether the parties had the benefit of legal advice. However, even if lawyers have represented the parties, the court will still check consent orders to ensure that they appear to be within the range of orders that could be made had the matter been adjudicated in court.
There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution available to assist parties to reach an agreement in family cases, but whichever method the parties use; the principles applied by the court are the same. The court cannot simply rubber-stamp an agreement in a family case, whatever the process by which the agreement has been reached, and judges can and do ask for further information where there is any doubt about the propriety of a proposed order.
Any proposed consent order submitted to the court, whether the product of an agreement by the Sharia council or not, might be made by coercion and it is the function of the judiciary to question any order which appears unfair.
An order which on its face involved an undue financial advantage to one party or set out arrangements for children which excluded care by or contact with one parent would be the sort of order which alerts a court to potential coercion and the need to ask for further information and, if appropriate, to refuse to make the order requested.
Court statistics do not include the ages of the parties at the time a consent order is made, although the information is available to the court when considering the terms of the order, and is one of the factors taken into account in making a decision as to the fairness or otherwise of an order. The Office for National Statistics' records show that between 1996 and 2005 only 18 women and no men under the age of 18 were divorced.
Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice when he plans to reply to the letter dated 19 September from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton on Mr. Abdoul Karim Barry. 
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many cases were considered by the Civil Service Appeal Board in regard to staff employed by HM Prison Service in each of the last five years. 
(3) on how many occasions where the Civil Service Appeal Board has recommended reinstatement or re-engagement of staff employed by HM Prison Service the Prison Service decided not to accept the recommendation of the Board in each of the last five years; 
(4) what the additional cost has been to the public purse of a decision by HM Prison Service not to accept the recommendation of the Civil Service Appeal Board to re-instate or re-engage a member of staff in each of the last five years; 
Mr. Malik: In the Prison Service, responsibility for defending cases at the Civil Service Appeal Board is devolved to a local level. Comprehensive records of the outcome of all Civil Service Appeal Board cases have only been maintained centrally since November 2007. Information on cases prior to that date can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
According to centrally held records, 64 cases were considered by the Civil Service Appeal Board in regard to staff employed by the public sector Prison Service between 1 November 2007 and 16 October 2008.
The public sector Prison Service decided not to accept the recommendation of the Civil Service Appeal Board in six cases where the Board had recommended reinstatement or re-engagement of staff between 1 November 2007 and 16 October 2008.
The sum of £40,820.00 was incurred in additional awards in those cases between 1 November 2007 and 16 October 2008 where the public sector HM Prison Service decided not to accept the recommendation of the Civil Service Appeal Board to reinstate or re-engage a member of staff.
The cost to the public purse, in terms of the compensation awarded following applications by staff employed by the public sector Prison Service to the Civil Service Appeal Board between 1 November 2007 and 16 October 2008 was £199,781.34.
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