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12 Nov 2008 : Column 1154W—continued


Electoral Commission: Powers of Entry

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether the Electoral Commission will be required to give prior notice in order to use the proposed new powers of entry contained in the Political Parties and Elections Bill. [233377]

Mr. Straw: The Political Parties and Elections Bill provides two powers for the Electoral Commission to enter premises. The first power is contained in paragraph 1(5) of schedule 1 to the Bill, and replicates, with one important change, the existing power in section 146(3) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. This provides that, at any reasonable time, the Commission may enter premises for the purposes of carrying out its functions. Having entered under the power, the Commission may inspect documents relating to the income and expenditure of the individual or organisation whose premises the Commission has entered. It may also make copies.

The existing power in section 146(3) enables the Commission only to enter the premises of registered political parties, recognised third parties who campaign in elections, and permitted participants who campaign in referendums. In addition to these categories of people, paragraph 1(5) will allow the same power also to be used in relation to regulated donees (including MPs, candidates and their election agents).

Paragraph 3 of schedule 1 to the Bill provides that the Electoral Commission may apply to a justice of the peace for a warrant to enter premises. In order to obtain a warrant the Commission must demonstrate, on oath, to a justice of the peace that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person has committed an offence or contravened a restriction or requirement and that an earlier request for documents has been made and not complied with. If these requirements are satisfied a justice of the peace can issue a warrant allowing a constable, together with any other person named in the warrant, to enter premises. Such a warrant may authorise the use of reasonable force, the searching of premises and taking of documents and may require a person named in the warrant to provide an explanation about any of the documents that are the object of the search.

No prior notification of the Commission’s intention to enter premises would be required. The person would be notified at the time of the Commission’s entry to the premises.


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As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills) and I have made clear, we have heard the force of opinion in the House on the issue of the Commission’s powers and we have proposed measures to address these concerns for debate at Committee stage on 11 November.

HM Courts Service: Per Capita Costs

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 28 October 2008, Official Report, column 849W, on the Courts Service, what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of 5,800 hours of court time at 2008 prices. [232521]

Bridget Prentice: The cost to the public purse of 5,800 hours of court time is estimated to be approximately £1,700,000. This is based on current costings for court time in the magistrates courts.

Legal Aid

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the average processing time for legal aid applications was (a) in total and (b) in each of the smallest geographical areas for which information is available in each quarter of each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [230437]

Bridget Prentice: The information in the following tables shows the average time taken to process applications in working days.

For civil legal aid, the figures include the overall average time to process civil applications from the point of receipt to final decision. This time will include any appeal activity in the event of any refused applications. It will also include time taken to deal with any pre-certificate representations and/or the involvement of the LSC’s Special Investigations Unit should the applicant be listed as the director of a company or their means assessment be particularly complex.

For criminal legal aid, the figures include the average time taken by the LSC itself to process applications and the time taken by Her Majesty’s Court Service (HMCS) to process applications for legal aid in the magistrates courts on behalf of the LSC under a service level agreement.

The average number of days to process applications for civil legal aid in England and Wales overall, for each quarter of the most recent years for which information is available, is shown in table 1 as follows. This includes applications for a legal aid certificate only. Applications for legal help are considered by the service provider. The average processing time for applications for legal help is not recorded centrally.

Table 1: The average number of days taken by the LSC to process applications for civil legal aid certificates in the most recent periods for which information is available

April to June July to September October to December January to March

2003-04

7.4

8.2

7.7

8.1

2004-05

9.3

8.6

8.4

8.1

2005-06

8.5

5.8

4.6

4.5

2006-07

4.8

6.3

8.3

5.5

2007-08

6.5

5.8

6.7

7.4


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The average number of days taken to process applications for criminal legal aid is available only for applications made in the magistrates courts since the introduction of means testing in October 2006 and is shown in table 2 as follows.

Table 2: The average number of days taken by HMCS and the LSC to process applications for criminal legal aid in the magistrates courts for the most recent periods in which information is available

April to June July to September October to December January to March

2004-05

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

2005-06

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

2006-07

n/a

n/a

3.1

2.6

2007-08

2.8

2.4

2.7

1.8

2008-09

1.6

1.5

n/a

n/a


LSC bid zones are the smallest geographical areas by which the average number of days taken to process applications for civil legal aid for each quarter of the most recent years for which information is available and is shown in table 3, which has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Individual magistrates courts are smallest areas by which the average number of days taken to process criminal legal aid applications is available. The average time taken to process the applications for each quarter available since means testing was introduced in October 2006 is in table 4, which has also been placed in the Libraries of the House.

There are a small number of irregular figures contained within the tables. This could be for reasons such as one-off human error or where the application received data links back to a reopened case. These anomalous entries do not have a significant effect on the data overall and have been included for the sake of completeness.

Penalty Notices: Shoplifting

Ann Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many penalty notices for disorder were issued for shoplifting in the latest period for which figures are available. [234783]

Maria Eagle: The number of persons aged 16 and over, issued with PND for shoplifting (of goods up to a value of £200), from 2004 to 2006 in England and Wales can be viewed in the following table. Data for 2007 will be available at the end of November 2008. The offence of theft (retail) was added to the PND Scheme in November 2004.

Number of persons aged 16 and over, issued with a penalty notice for disorder for the offence theft (retail under £200), in England and Wales, 2004 to 2006( 1, 2, 3)

Theft (retail under £200)

2004

2,072

2005

21,997

2006

38,772

(1) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.
(2) Offence is a notifiable offence included within OBTJ figures.
(3) The offence of theft (retail) was added to the PND Scheme in November 2004.
Source:
Office for Criminal Justice Reform: Evidence and Analysis Unit.

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Prince Charles: Marriage

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will place in the Library the background legal advice given to the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, in respect of the application of the Marriage Act 1949 to the marriage arrangements of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. [234975]

Mr. Straw: The advice in question is subject to legal professional privilege. On 24 February 2005, Official Report, House of Lords, columns WS87-88, the then Lord Chancellor made a written statement on the Government’s view of the lawfulness of the marriage between HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Prison Service: Cost Effectiveness

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what cashable efficiency savings HM Prison Service was required to make in the financial year 2007-08; [232645]

(2) what cashable efficiency savings were made by HM Prison Service in each of the last five years; [232646]

(3) what cashable efficiency savings HM Prison Service made in 2006-07; and from what areas these savings were delivered. [232648]

Mr. Straw: HM Prison Service delivered cash savings of £16 million during 2006-07. This was achieved through the merger of administrative functions at a new shared service centre in Newport South Wales, improvement in the level of professional expertise in procurement activities and also consolidating national procurement contracts. Additionally, the Prison Service delivered improvements in energy efficiency and waste management and produced savings from headquarters.

During 2007-08 HM Prison Service delivered cashable efficiencies of £52 million against a target for the year of £50 million. The cashable efficiencies delivered by HM Prison Service each year for the past five financial years are:

£ million

2007-08

52

2006-07

16

2005-06

30

2004-05

34

2003-04

38


Prison Service: Manpower

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many posts in the Prison Service there are; and what projection he has made of the number of jobs in the service in 2011; [233690]

(2) how many posts in the Probation Service there are; and what projections he has made of the number of jobs in the service in 2011. [233691]


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Mr. Hanson: There is currently a requirement across the Prison Service, including vacancies, for 53,717 posts. This figure does not include the National Offender Management Service headquarters. Projections for 2011 are under consideration.

The National Probation Service comprises 42 boards and trusts each of which functions as a separate employer. Employment data is supplied to NOMS in the form of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff and vacancies rather than posts since this is considered to be the most accurate workforce measure. The latest available figures show there were 20,894 FTE staff in post in the National Probation Service on 31 December 2007. In addition, there were 343.11 FTE vacancies. These figures do not include the National Offender Management Service headquarters.

NOMS is currently rolling out an IT based HR Data Warehouse to the 42 probation boards and trusts. When this is fully implemented early in 2009, NOMS will be in a position to collate FTE workforce information on a monthly basis.

Projections of staffing requirements for 2011 will be determined by the individual probation boards and trusts based on local workforce requirements and available resources. Efficiency initiatives will impact by the year 2011, however it is too early to project accurate figures.

Prisons: Crimes of Violence

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many prisoner on staff attacks there have been at each prison in each of the last five years. [234215]

Mr. Malik: Table 1 shows incidents of prisoner on staff assaults in each of the last five years by prison.

The information set out is subject to important qualifications. The NOMS Incident Reporting System processes high volumes of data which are constantly being updated. The numbers provide a good indication of overall numbers but should not be interpreted as absolute.

Assault information is recorded at establishment level in four categories: prisoner on prisoner, prisoner on officer, prisoner on other and other (which may include non-prisoner perpetrators). The recorded incidents of assaults on prison officers are not completely exclusive to officers; establishment recording sometimes includes assaults on other prison staff in this category. Rises or falls in reported numbers from one year to the next are not a good indicator of an underlying trend for a particular prison. Additionally there have been improvements in reporting over the years, and this is reflected in the tables.

Assault data are complex and the numbers need to be interpreted with caution. Information recorded as assault incidents may involve one or many prisoners as some assault incidents may involve more than one assailant or more than one victim. Additionally in a proportion of incidents only the victim is known.

The numbers supplied refer to the number of individual assault incidents. The numbers refer to all incidents recorded as assaults; these may also include threatening behaviour, projection of bodily fluids and other non-contact events and allegations.


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The category “Prisoner on Other” contains few entries but these may include prison staff as well as visitors, legal visitors, etc. For the purpose of this response the categories “Prisoner on Officer” and “Prisoner on Other” are used.

Ministers, NOMS and the Prison Officers’ Association are collectively committed to ensuring that violence in prisons is not tolerated in any form. Since 2004, a national strategy has directed every public sector prison to have in place a local violence reduction strategy and since mid 2007 this has been applied to the public and contracted out estate. A whole prison approach is encouraged, engaging all staff, all disciplines and prisoners in challenging unacceptable behaviour, problem-solving and personal safety.


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