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3 Feb 2010 : Column 392W—continued

Mr. Wills: The Ministry of Justice's Data Access and Compliance Unit's performance targets are incorporated into the objectives of the staff that work in and manage
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the unit, as well as into departmental targets. Regular updates on performance against these targets are provided to senior staff, members of the Ministry's Corporate Management Board, and Ministers.

Starting with the Unit's formation in late 2008, a body of work has been undertaken to improve Freedom of Information performance across the Ministry. Timeliness performance-the number of cases answered within statutory deadlines-has risen from 51 per cent. in December 2008 to 77 per cent. at the end of October 2009. We expect a further improvement when the figures for the period ending in December 2009 are available.

Data Protection: Freedom of Information

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many meetings there have been between his Department and the Information Commissioner's Office to discuss his Department's compliance with its obligations under data protection and freedom of information legislation in the last 12 months; when each such meeting occurred; and who attended in each case. [314697]

Mr. Wills: Officials in the Data Access and Compliance Unit have met officials from the Information Commissioner's Office on three occasions since the Unit was created in October 2008.

Officials in the Ministry continue to have regular contact with the Information Commissioner's Office, both to discuss its overall performance in relation to its data protection and freedom of information obligations, and in the course of the Commissioner's investigations in individual cases.

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps have been taken to ensure that outstanding freedom of information and subject access requests to his Department are answered within the statutory timescale; and which official in his Department has responsibility for advising Ministers on freedom of information. [314698]

Mr. Wills: The creation of the Data Access and Compliance Unit in October 2008 has allowed the Ministry to make significant improvements to its Freedom of Information and Data Protection performance. The Unit has taken forward a programme of wide-ranging work since its inception, including improving staff awareness of the Ministry's obligations under both pieces of legislation, and the extension of the network of staff responsible for handling requests within business areas.

Where appropriate Ministers receive advice in relation to individual cases from officials in the Ministry's Information and Legal Directorates.

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what training has been provided to (a) him, (b) the Minister of State with responsibility for freedom of information and data protection, (c) the Permanent Secretary and (d) the Director-General, Democracy, Constitution and Law on his Department's responsibilities under freedom of information and data protection legislation; and if he will publish the written material provided in relation to such training. [314699]

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Mr. Wills: Ministers and senior officials at the Ministry are fully aware of its obligations under Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation, and expect it to achieve the highest possible standards of compliance.

No bespoke Freedom of Information training has been provided to either Ministers or senior officials. However, all members of the Ministry's staff-including the permanent secretary and the director general, democracy, constitution and law-are required to complete mandatory online training on the correct handling of information and ensuring data is appropriately protected in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act. The training package exists in electronic form on a password protected website accessible only to the Ministry's staff, and to transfer it into a form appropriate for publication would incur disproportionate cost.

Ministers and senior officials are advised on a regular basis of the Ministry's performance in these areas, as well as receiving policy and legal advice in relation to individual cases where appropriate.

David Kelly Death Inquiry

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice for what reasons certain papers submitted to Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly are not to be disclosed until 70 years have elapsed. [314462]

Mr. Straw: No determination has been made that the medical reports and photographs connected to the death of Dr. David Kelly should be closed for 70 years. Rather, Lord Hutton noted in his statement on Tuesday 26 January that he had requested that the post mortem examination report relating to Dr. Kelly not be disclosed for 70 years in view of the distress that could be caused to Dr. Kelly's wife and daughters.

The Ministry of Justice is now considering carefully the most appropriate course of action.

Debt Collection

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will publish the redacted elements of magistrates courts guidance to bailiffs on procedures for breaking into properties as a last resort. [314404]

Bridget Prentice: There are currently legal proceedings between the Ministry of Justice, the Information Commissioner and another party on this subject.

Departmental Housing

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) empty and (b) occupied residential properties his Department owns; and what the (i) potential annual rental and (ii) total book value is of those (A) empty and (B) occupied residential properties. [313794]

Mr. Wills: The Ministry of Justice does not own any residential properties, however its agencies, HM Courts Service and the National Offender Management Service both own residential properties to support their operations.

HM Courts Service owns 19 residential properties, made up of:

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Residential Number Book value at 31 December 2009 (£1,000) Rent received (£1,000 pa) Potential rent (£1,000 pa)

Up for sale










Occupied and rented out





Judges lodging (freehold)










(1) Not available for rent.

The empty and occupied and rented out properties are being held in connection with the construction of a new court scheme which is in the very early stages of development.

Judges lodgings provide accommodation for judges on circuit duty. For security these lodgings cannot be made available for wider rental. Where suitable alternative rental properties are available they are used and surplus lodgings have been sold.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) owns 397 residential properties, made up of:

Residential Number Book value at 31 December 2009 (£1,000)

Operational use









The operational residential properties are currently used for office space, training and other operations. The NOMS figures do not include prisons or approved premises used to house offenders.

Unoccupied properties are no longer required for NOMS operations and are currently being prepared for disposal.

Occupied premises are provided to HM Prison Service personnel to meet operational requirements and the individual prison officers pay rental depending on their job grade. As these properties are not available for rental on the open market, NOMS does not have a potential market rental value for them.

The balance sheets of NOMS and HM Courts Service contain both freehold properties and those on finance leases. For the purposes of this question we have included only freehold properties.

Driving Offences

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the average length of sentence was in England and Wales in respect of convictions for motoring offences which resulted in a fatality in each of the last three years. [314675]

Claire Ward: The requested information is shown in the following table.

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Number of offenders sentenced, result and average custodial sentence length (ACSL)( 1) f or motoring offences resulting i n death( 2) , 2006-08

2006 2007 2008

Total sentenced












Community sentence




Suspended sentence




Immediate custody




Otherwise dealt with








(1) ACSL(months) excludes life/indeterminate sentences.
(2) Offences of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers, causing death by aggravated vehicle taking.
1. These figures have been drawn from administrative data systems.
2. 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.
Justice Statistics-Analytical Services, Ministry of Justice

Driving Offences: Alcoholic Drinks

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) males and (b) females in each age group were prosecuted for speeding offences were over the drink-drive limit in each of the last two years. [314011]

Claire Ward: Centrally held information does not identify, of persons prosecuted for speed limit offences, those persons who were breath-tested at the time of the offence.

To answer the question based on the number of persons prosecuted for speed limit offences who were also convicted for offences of driving after consuming alcohol would require manual intervention. It is not possible to provide an answer without incurring a disproportionate cost.

Legal Aid Scheme

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people have had a Legal Services Commission legal aid charge postponed and attached to their property after a family proceeding in the last three years. [314402]

Bridget Prentice: After preserving or recovering property in a family case with the help of legal aid, clients can ask to defer repayment of their legal aid costs, and instead register a charge on their property. There are 8,239 cases where a charge was attached to property in the last three years and remains open (unpaid).










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Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if the Government will reduce the interest rate applied to legal aid charges to the Legal Services Commission to reflect changes in the Bank of England base rate. [314405]

Bridget Prentice: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 2 February 2010, Official Report, column 263W.

National Standards for Enforcement Agents

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he has taken to monitor the level of compliance of (a) magistrates, (b) HM Courts Service fines officers and (c) bailiff companies with the provisions on vulnerable situations of his Department's National Standards for Enforcement Agents. [314403]

Bridget Prentice: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 27 January 2009, Official Report, columns 377-78W.

I confirm that a protocol has been introduced setting out the procedure to be taken with vulnerable defaulters including the instruction not to take any action to levy distress without prior reference to the court where the individual falls into one of categories deemed as vulnerable. Complaints by members of the public about the conduct of the contractor must be reported to Her Majesty's Courts Service regional contract managers, together with details of how those complaints have been dealt with and resolved. These are reviewed as part of the contract management process.

Further reporting protocols now contained within the contracts strengthen the control and monitoring arrangements available to HMCS on contractor performance. This includes quarterly and six-month assurance reporting. Within these reports each contractor will detail its procedures and processes and the agreed authorisation methods with each HMCS region and area for the operation of the contracts.

There is also a requirement for each contractor to make an annual operation report reviewing their management of the contract. Combined, these reports form the basis for the HMCS Director of Enforcement to make an annual report covering the operation of all regional contracts.

The reports produced by the contractors at the six month and yearly stages of the contract will be reviewed and reported on to the HMCS Compliance and Enforcement and main HMCS Management boards.

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