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20 Nov 2008 : Column 793W—continued

Smarta

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much funding his Department provided for Smarta in each of the last three years. [231953]

Ian Pearson: Smarta is a private sector enterprise, of which the Department is aware but has no direct involvement in its day to day operations. The Department has not given any funding to Smarta in the last three years.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate his Department has made of the user numbers for Smarta in each of its first three years. [231955]


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Ian Pearson: The Smarta website is a private sector enterprise, of which the Department is aware but has no direct involvement in its day to day operations.

Justice

Administration of Justice: Mental Health Services

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what discussions he has had with the Welsh Assembly Government on the implementation of the proposals on service users in the justice system made by Professor Michael Williams in his review of mental health services in Wales. [235989]

Mr. Hanson: No ministerial discussions were held between the Ministry of Justice and Welsh Ministers about Professor Williams's report: "Iechyd Meddwl Cymru—A Well Being and Mental Health Service Fit for Wales". The report was published in April 2008 and proposed a statutory body responsible for Mental Health and Well Being in Wales.

The Welsh Assembly Government subsequently undertook a consultation on the proposal, which involved local partnerships whose shared responsibilities include those in the justice system. Welsh Ministers announced on 29 September that mental health services will become a fundamental part of the new integrated local NHS bodies, which was also subject of a consultation exercise, and not the responsibility of a separate statutory body.

Civil Proceedings

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what research his Department has carried out on the cost to the Courts Service of litigants in person. [235900]

Bridget Prentice: The Ministry of Justice has carried out no research on litigants in person.

The former Department of Constitutional Affairs published research on two projects in 2005 that are broadly relevant:

Both documents are available from:

Cremation

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many cremation certificates were issued in each of the last five years; [237074]

(2) what guidance he issues on good practice in issuing cremation certificates; [237075]

(3) what representations he has received on an unsatisfactory practice in the issuing of cremation certificates. [237076]


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Bridget Prentice: The Cremation Society of Great Britain provides statistical information about the number of cremations authorised each year. In England and Wales the number of cremations for each of the last five years was as follows:

Number

2003

404,754

2004

388,336

2005

387,874

2006

380,663

2007

381,067


Each cremation requires three or four certificates depending on the circumstances of the death. These are completed by the applicant, two medical practitioners or the coroner, and the medical referee at the crematorium. Guidance on the completion of the medical certificates was published in 2002 and 2003. New cremation regulations come into effect on 1 January 2009 and new guidance has been issued to cremation authorities, medical referees, funeral directors, medical practitioners and applicants for cremation as well as being published on the Ministry of Justice website and elsewhere within the cremation industry. Representations about the poor completion of medical certificates are made very occasionally to this Department. In certain circumstances these may be referred to the prosecuting authorities for investigation.

Departmental Land

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans there are for each of the sites owned by HM Courts Service registered on the Register of Surplus Public Sector Land; what construction projects are planned for each site; and when he expects each site to be returned to use. [236439]

Bridget Prentice: HM Courts Service has three sites listed on the Register of Surplus Public Sector Land. There are two sites listed at New Mitts, High Peak which were to be used as part of the Derbyshire Magistrates' Court PFI scheme but we are no longer proceeding with a new courthouse at New Mills. HM Courts Service and New Mills Town Council (who own one of the areas of land) are now in the process of selling this land. We also own land at Ebbw Vale, Gwent that was acquired by the former Gwent Magistrates' Courts Committee for a possible new courthouse but. there are no plans in the current spending round to progress this project.

Disability Living Allowance: Appeals

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many disability living allowance and incapacity for work cases his Department lost on appeal in the latest period for which figures are available, broken down by category of reason. [234971]

Bridget Prentice: The total number of disability living allowance cases where the Department of Work and Pensions lost on appeal in the latest period for which figures are available was:


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The total number of incapacity benefits cases where the department for work and pensions lost on appeal in the latest period for which figures are available was:

The tribunal only records the outcome of appeals and not the reason.

Legal Advice and Assistance

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many individuals have been assisted using the Legal Help Scheme since the introduction of fixed fees; [235910]

(2) how many individuals have had more than one case prepared with assistance from the Legal Help Scheme since the introduction of fixed fees. [235911]

Mr. Malik: In the 12-month period from 1 October 2007 to October 2008, when the Legal Services Commission (LSC) introduced new fee schemes as part of the legal aid reform programme, the number of separate clients reported by providers in all Legal Help categories including immigration was 551,353. Of these, 77,514 received help on more than one occasion.

From 1 October 2007 to October 2008 legal aid providers started 625,670 Legal Help matters including immigration and excluding the Community Legal Advice telephone helpline. New matters started can help one or more people, and one individual can receive help on more than one matter in any given period.

From 1 October 2007 the LSC has required providers to record a Unique Client Number for each case they report. The client identifier means that the LSC can estimate how many individual clients legal aid providers have helped as well as the number of new matters started.

As the figures relate to cases closed, they may include more simple or general Legal Help cases than complex ones. The complex cases, which may involve multiple problems, tend to last longer and may not have closed yet. Research shows that clients often experience problems in clusters.

Legal Representation: Fees and Charges

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent research his Department has carried out on the effect of fixed fees on the number of people who represent themselves in court proceedings. [235899]

Mr. Malik: The Government implemented new legal aid fixed payment schemes for solicitors and not-for-profit organisations in 2007. The impact of the fixed fee schemes is currently being reviewed by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) and relevant stakeholders. The LSC will consult on any improvements needed in January 2009, to take effect with new contracts in 2010.

The following figures from HM Court Service show that the number of litigants in person in the family courts have fallen slightly in the last four years.


20 Nov 2008 : Column 797W

Number

2004

52,905

2005

49,876

2006

49,410

2007

48,983

2008

(1)31,979

(1) January to August.
Note:
The figures exclude adoption work and relate to the status of the petitioner/applicant in county court actions only.

National Probation Service for England and Wales

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice when he plans to publish the report his Department commissioned from KPMG on options for the future structure of the National Probation Service. [222301]

Mr. Hanson: A number of options for change to the National Probation Service structure have been considered by Ministers, based on the analysis provided by KPMG and other sources of information. On 22 October 2008, Official Report, column 12WS, I set out plans for the implementation of probation trusts. All probation boards will have the opportunity to apply to become a trust by 2010. A copy of the report has been placed in the House Library.

Pleural Plaques

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many responses he has received from (a) trades unions, (b) insurers and (c) members of the public to his Department's consultation on pleural plaques; and if he will make a statement. [236534]

Bridget Prentice: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 18 November 2008, Official Report; column 330W.

A total of 224 responses were received to the consultation paper. Of these, 125 responses were received from individuals and 30 from the legal profession. 18 responses were received from insurers and defendant organisations. There were 15 responses from trade union bodies, and 12 from Members of Parliament. Seven responses were received from employers and business organisations; four from medical professionals; four from organisations representing asbestos victims; and two from academics. In addition there were responses from a devolved administration; a non-departmental public body; a constituency political party; an actuarial body; a charity for education in health and safety; a statutory public body; and a consultancy firm specialising in occupational environmental and public health risks.

Prisoners Transfers

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many requests were received from prisoners for transfer to a prison near their home in 2008; how many were approved; and if he will make a statement. [236839]


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Mr. Malik: Prisoners' requests for transfer are only recorded on their individual files. To obtain this information would therefore require a manual examination of the paper files of all those who have been in prison during 2008. This would involve disproportionate cost.

The National Offender Management Service recognises the part family ties can play in reducing re-offending on release, and will facilitate transfers to maintain family ties whenever possible. However, the prisoner's security category must be the primary consideration in determining the appropriate location, along with the availability of programmes which address the individual's offending behaviour. The current high population levels also make it difficult to hold prisoners as close to home as we would otherwise wish.

Prisoners: Employment

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what provision will be made in Titan prisons to enable prisoners to undertake skilled real work initiatives. [237297]

Mr. Hanson: Large prison complexes will offer prisoners the opportunity to engage in meaningful work or education. Work opportunities will lead to qualifications with a focus on NVQs. The work available will be focused on skills shortages in the areas in which these prisons are located, and so assist prisoners to find work on release.

Prisons: Drugs

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what comparative assessment his Department has made of the effects of using (a) buprenorphine naloxone, (b) methadone and (c) buprenorphone alone in prisons. [236668]

Mr. Hanson: Suboxone, buphrenorphine and methadone are available on the national health service for the treatment of heroin addiction. The decision to use a specific drug is a clinical one, taken in the community or in prison following consultation with the patient about their clinical needs and priorities.

Suboxone has been available to doctors since August 2007—its superiority or otherwise over other licensed treatments, buprenorphine or methadone, has yet to be determined, as experience of the effectiveness of this drug in clinical settings such as prisons is relatively recent, and it will take time for a clear picture to emerge. Offender Health will continue to keep this, and all other drug treatments, under review.

Rape: Sentencing

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people released from prison after serving a sentence for (a) rape and (b) sexual assault in England and Wales in each of the last five years have subsequently been convicted of another sexual offence. [236914]

Mr. Hanson: At present, figures on sexual reoffending post custody for a specific sexual offence are not available; extracting this information would be at disproportionate cost to the Ministry of Justice. However, published statistics on reoffending include information on the
20 Nov 2008 : Column 799W
reoffending rates of offenders who were released from custody following an offence classified as sexual or sexual (child). These are shown in the following table.

Number of releases from custody Rate of reoffending (one year) (percentage) Number of offences per 100 offenders (one year) Number of severe offences per 100 offenders( 1)

2002

347

14.1

43.5

0.6

2003

355

14.9

55.5

1.7

2004

456

13.4

44.5

1.1

2005

486

15.2

47.9

0.8

2006

583

11.7

39.5

0.0

(1) The number of severe offences committed by this group is very small and these numbers should therefore be treated with caution.

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