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The Legal Services Commission (LSC) will publish today a response to its consultation, published in February 2009, on prison law funding. The consultation focused on proposals to control the volume and cost of prison law cases and place funding on a sustainable basis for the future. Legal aid expenditure on prison law-which includes advice to prisoners on their treatment, discipline and sentence, and legal representation for parole hearings-has increased from £1 million in 2001-02 to nearly £22 million in 2008-09.
Following consultation, the LSC intends to implement a range of measures from July 2010 to control any further increase in prison law costs. The proposals, which will bring prison law funding arrangements in line with many other areas of legal aid, are:
A new fee scheme based on fixed and standard fees (amended in response to feedback from legal aid providers);
A strengthened eligibility test, coupled with more clarity on the cases the LSC will and will not expect to fund in future; and
A new quality requirement, based on 350 hours work annually, to ensure providers have sufficient experience and expertise in prison law.
In the light of consultation responses, the LSC has decided to assess the impact of these steps before introducing additional controls on the volume of cases or piloting alternative means of delivering prison law services, such as telephone advice.
Copies of "Prison Law Funding: A Consultation Response" have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The document can be downloaded from the consultation section of the LSC's website at www.legalservices.gov.uk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces and I wish to make the latest in the series of quarterly statements to the House about the inquests of service personnel and others who have died overseas. Our deepest condolences go, as ever, to the families of the service personnel who have lost their lives in the service of their country, and in particular to the 31 who have died since our last statement.
All the families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, or who have otherwise lost their lives in connection with the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, remain very much in our thoughts.
Today, we are announcing the progress that has been made since the written ministerial statement on 5 May 2009, Official Report, column 7WS, with information about the conduct of inquests by the Wiltshire and Swindon and other coroners. This statement gives the position at 6 July.
At the time of the last statement, we reported that up to 27 April 230 inquests had been held since June 2006: 216 into the overseas deaths of service personnel and 14 into the deaths of civilians in Iraq whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Brize Norton or RAF Lyneham.
Since operations commenced in 2001 there have been a total of 265 inquests into the deaths of service personnel who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including five service personnel who died in the UK of their injuries. In two further cases, no formal inquest was held, but the deaths were taken into consideration during inquest proceedings for those who died in the same incident.
Our Departments continue to work closely together, and with the coroners, to review the way in which the system is working and to look for opportunities, prior to the implementation of the coroners' legislation which is currently before Parliament in the Coroners and Justice Bill, to make improvements for the benefit of the bereaved families.
The statement in May reported that there was one remaining inquest to be held into a death where the body was repatriated via RAF Brize Norton prior to 31 March 2007, into the death of Marine Wigley. That inquest has since been concluded and there are no outstanding pre-March 31 2007 inquests in the Oxfordshire coroner's district
Since October 2007, additional resources have been provided by the Government to ensure that a backlog of inquests does not build up in the Wiltshire and Swindon district (since 1 April 2007 fatalities have been repatriated via RAF Lyneham). The coroner transfers inquests for service personnel to a coroner closer to the bereaved family, where possible. We are pleased that the district continues to benefit from the experience and expertise of David Masters, who retired as coroner on 31 March, following his appointment as an assistant deputy coroner by his successor, David Ridley.
There are 76 open inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan whose bodies were repatriated after 1 April 2007 (36 involving deaths in the last six months). Of these, Mr. Ridley has retained 41 inquests, while 35 inquests are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. At 6 July, two fatalities had been repatriated but inquests were yet to be opened, and four recent fatalities awaited repatriation. Hearing dates have been set in 22 of these cases.
We shall continue to keep the House informed about progress with the remaining inquests. I have placed tables in the Library of the House which outline the status of all cases and the date of death in each case. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): The "Office of the Public Guardian's Annual Report and Accounts for 2008-09" has been laid before Parliament today. This document gives full details of the agency's performance and expenditure for the 12 months from 1 April 2008, and includes the Public Guardian's annual report to the Lord Chancellor about the discharge of his functions pursuant to section 60 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
A revised version of the "Public Guardian Framework Document" has also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses to reflect recent changes to the governance structure of the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). References to the OPG's responsibility for the Court of Protection's administrative functions have been removed, reflecting the move of the Court of Protection from the Office of the Public Guardian to Her Majesty's Court Service on the 1 April 2009. The document now also reflects the OPG's new clearer governance arrangements. This now consists of two boards-the statutory Public Guardian Board and the OPG's Executive Board-following the removal of the OPG Agency Board as a third board in the previous structure.
Copies of the "Office of the Public Guardian Framework Document" will also be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and from the website of the OPG: www.publicguardian.gov.uk.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): On 2 April 2009 I announced that the Middlesex Guildhall had been handed over to the Ministry of Justice. I am pleased to be able to report further significant progress on the Supreme Court Implementation Programme-the programme remains on time and within budget.
First, I have received a written assurance from the noble and learned Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers that the Law Lords are satisfied that the refurbished Middlesex Guildhall will meet the needs of the new Supreme Court. The refurbishment has been completed to the highest standards, respecting the heritage of this unique building. This is consistent with both the status of the court and the needs of the Supreme Court Justices, court users and the public for modern accessible facilities. On this basis I have now signed the commencement
order that will enable the court to come into being on 1 October 2009, as I am satisfied the court will be fully operational by that date.
Lord Phillips has made the rules that will underpin the workings of the court and these have been laid before Parliament. In making the rules, Lord Phillips has taken into account his statutory duty to ensure that the rules are both simple and simply expressed and that they have a view to ensuring the court is accessible, fair and efficient. The rules have been widely supported on consultation.
In addition the responses to public consultation on the fees payable in the court have been analysed. A summary of the responses to consultation and the Government's proposed way forward have now been published. Consultees were in general agreement with the course proposed, with the exception of fees for devolution cases. While consultees agreed that the fees for devolution cases should be brought into line with civil fees generally, they were concerned that to make this change in one step represented too steep an increase-we have therefore decided to implement this change in stages.
I previously announced that the anticipated running costs for the UK Supreme Court would be £12.3 million. At present Her Majesty's Court Service pays £1.2 million pension and national insurance contributions with respect to the Law Lords. For transparency this will be transferred to the UK Supreme Court from 1 October. This does not represent any additional cost to the public purse. For the first year we have provided an additional £300,000 to cover transitional set-up costs, this is being met from within existing resources. The costs of some aspects of the court's operation, including security, remain to be finalised and so the anticipated running costs will continue to be refined and reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland's annual report and accounts for the year ended 31 March 2009 has been laid before the House today.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark): I regret to inform the House that the answer I gave on 8 July to a parliamentary question, Official Report, column 802W, about the breakdown of staff employed at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) was incorrect.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Transport, Lord Adonis, has made the following ministerial statement.
I am announcing today the publication of "Low Carbon Transport: A Greener Future" (Cm 7682)-a carbon reduction strategy for transport. A key component of the "UK Low Carbon Transition Plan", also published later today, this document sets out the actions we are taking to deliver reductions in transport emissions in line with our obligations under the UK's carbon budgets to 2022.
It puts us on a path towards a low carbon transport system, giving people and business more low carbon choices about when, where and how to travel or to transport goods.
We have already begun-and will continue-a strong programme of activity to tackle the climate change impact of transport.
In December 2008, we agreed a demanding framework with our European partners for reducing CO2 emissions from new cars. This alone is expected to save 7 million tonnes of CO2 in the UK in 2020. In January 2009, alongside our statement on Britain's transport infrastructure, we set a pioneering target to reduce CO2 emissions from UK aviation to below 2005 levels by 2050, in so doing, posing a challenge to the aviation industry to innovate and adopt better fuel efficiency. We have also made securing international agreement to reducing CO2 emissions from aviation and shipping a key priority for the UN talks in Copenhagen at the end of this year.
In April, we made clear our intent to create a flourishing market for ultra-low emissions vehicles in the UK for both consumers and industry. This will be achieved through a combination of support for research and development, and a £250 million fund for consumer incentives and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In May we announced that up to £29 million was available for large urban areas across England to bid to become the country's first sustainable travel city.
In June and July, we announced a range of measures to promote new, greener technology on our roads. Up to 150 low emission and all-electric vans will be introduced to public sector fleets; over 340 ultra-low emissions cars are to be demonstrated around the UK through a £25 million programme delivered by the Technology Strategy Board; and we launched a £30 million scheme to encourage uptake of low emission buses. And on top of our existing commitment of £140 million to support cycling, to improve the integration of greener travel modes, we also announced plans to radically improve station cycle storage at up to 10 major railway stations nationwide.
Alongside today's document, we confirm our commitment to working with our European partners to develop an ambitious and realistic mechanism to reduce CO2 emissions from new vans. With the freight and logistics industry, we have also launched a working group to develop a consistent carbon measurement and reporting method and standard for the logistics transport supply chain.
Our efforts will not stop here. In the coming weeks we will emphasise the importance of addressing CO2 from transport in the guidance we give to our local and regional partners as
they begin to develop new local transport plans and longer-term transport solutions. Finally, we are shortly to announce our plans for further electrification of the rail network.
The measures set out in strategy will save an additional 85 million tonnes of CO2 over the third carbon budget period from 2018-22. This strategy is a signal of our determination to build a low carbon future.
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