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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): In his 2002-03 quinquennial review of the Law Commission, John Halliday CB recommended that there should be more effective communication between the Law Commission,

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government departments and stakeholders. In June 2004, following the acceptance of this recommendation by the Government, the Department for Constitutional Affairs published a protocol, Working Together to Deliver the Benefits of Clear, Simple and Modern Law. The protocol was agreed between the Law Commission and government departments and set out how they should work together. It was updated in August 2006. The paper is available from the Ministry of Justice and Law Commission website and has been circulated to all government departments.

Since the protocol came into force in June 2004, the Law Commission has published 14 law reform reports. Of these, one received an interim response within six months of publication, 10 received an interim or final response within 12 months of publication and one received a response 17 months after publication. Two reports have not yet received an interim response. Ten of the reports remain under consideration; two have been accepted; one has been rejected; and the subject matter of one has been incorporated into a further review.

I have today deposited a copy of the protocol in the House of Lords Library.

Legal Aid

The Earl of Onslow asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): During the calendar year 2006, criminal proceedings were taken against 126,000 youths (source: Criminal Statistics for England and Wales, Volume 1, Proceedings in Magistrates' Courts, Table S1.1E). Each criminal proceeding recorded involved at least one hearing before a criminal court. Based on figures for the calendar year 2007, approximately 95,000 youths currently apply for legal aid, out of which only 1,600 are unsuccessful.

Her Majesty's Courts Service has estimated that the total average cost of assessing each legal aid application from a youth during the calendar year 2007 was £10.74. Removing the “interests of justice” test from the application form is estimated to save £2.27 per application.

If in removing the “interests of justice” test, only the 1,600 who currently apply and fail were to secure legal aid, this would generate total administrative savings of £216,000, although the additional representation orders would place a burden on the Legal Aid Fund of £880,000.

However, if 10 per cent of the 31,000 youths who do not currently apply for legal aid choose to do so, knowing that they would now qualify, it is estimated that the additional cost in processing these applications

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would be £26,000 and that the cost of granting the additional representation orders would be £1.7 million.

If all 31,000 youths were to apply, it is estimated that the additional cost in processing the applications would be £260,000 with an additional cost to the Legal Aid Fund in granting the applications of £17 million.

Missing Persons

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): As part of our programme of work to deliver the provisions that we set out in our Children and Young Persons Bill, along with the wider measures proposed in the Care Matters White Paper, we will be revising and rewriting all extant Children Act guidance concerning local authority responsibilities for looked-after children. This process will involve revision of our 2002 guidance Children Missing from Care and HomeA Guide to Good Practice. As part of this revision, we are planning to include more information about safeguarding vulnerable groups such as potentially trafficked children.

The Care Matters White Paper implementation plan will be published shortly and will include information about the timetable for revising the Children Act guidance. The cross-government working group for young runaways which was launched in January will also contribute to the review of the missing from home and care guidance, with a particular focus on supporting local areas to deliver effective services for young people who run away from home or care.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Adonis: Information about outcomes of individual children is not collected centrally. If a looked-after child, who may have been trafficked, goes missing from their care placement, then the local authority responsible for the child's care and the provider of the care placement must follow the arrangements agreed with the police for managing missing from care incidents.

Government take this issue very seriously. In December 2007 my department and the Home Office published practice guidance on safeguarding children from trafficking, Working Together to Safeguard ChildrenSafeguarding Children Who May Have Been Trafficked. Thisguidance document is intended to help agencies and their staff to safeguard and promote the welfare

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of children who may have been trafficked. It is supplementary to, and should be used in conjunction with, the Government's statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2006).

In January this year the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) published its plans on how it intends to improve outcomes for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) including those that are suspected to have been trafficked. The plans include safe arrangements for trafficked children who claim asylum and later go missing from local authority care. On the same day BIA published its code of practice for keeping children safe from harm. The code also emphasises the need to identify trafficked children at risk of going missing and the appropriate action to safeguard them.

Neighbourhood Renewal Fund: Waltham Forest

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The London Borough of Waltham Forest is responsible for monitoring EduAction's compliance with contractual obligations. The council's auditors are currently investigating the outcomes and management of the Youth at Risk programme.

Following receipt of a complaint raising concerns about the use of Neighbourhood Renewal Fund to support London Borough of Waltham Forest's Youth at Risk programme, the Government Office for London contacted the director of children's services to ensure the complaint is properly investigated. Government Office for London will discuss the outcomes, including the Youth at Risk programme and schools' involvement, with the director of children's services once the inquiry is completed. We are not aware of any police investigations into this matter.



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Pancake Race

Lord Steinberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Unfortunately Ripon Cathedral did not contact HSE before deciding to cancel its pancake race. If it had done, HSE would have advised that a straightforward event needs only a straightforward risk assessment. HSE publishes guidance and example risk assessments urging that risk assessments should be fit for purpose. In this instance a record on a single piece of paper would appear to be more than adequate.

Pensions: Occupational Schemes

Lord Varley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): We expect the Pensions Regulator to issue draft regulatory guidance for consultation imminently.

Phone Tapping

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): None. Interception of communications is strictly controlled by Secretary of State authorisation as set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The Act sets out the agencies that can apply to use intercept and the purposes and circumstances in which they can use it. There is no evidence of any unauthorised interception.

Plastic Bags

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Chancellor continues to keep all taxes under review. The Government currently have no plans for a plastic bag tax.



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Police: Databases

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Figures for the number of requests received and granted were given by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Meg Hillier, in the reply to the honourable Member for Bury St Edmunds, in another place.

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the decision on whether to agree to a request from an individual to have their DNA profile, fingerprints and associated records removed from police databases rests with the chief officer of the force that took the DNA sample and fingerprint records.

It is possible to refer the chief officer’s decision to the Information Commissioner or to challenge it by way of judicial review.

Polygamy

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The information is not recorded centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Powers of Entry

Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): I refer the noble Lord to my letter to him dated 25 January 2008 in which I set out the contents of our meeting on 24 January. In that correspondence, I indicated that the Government had commissioned a programme of work to review powers of entry.

I indicated in the letter, a copy of which was placed in the Library, that phase one of the work would entail identifying all powers of entry, how they can be exercised, by whom and the level of authorisation

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required. I advised that we aim to complete that work by the end of May 2008. The information requested will not be available until then.

Prisoners: Release

Baroness Stern asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): As of 6 February, there were 98 recall cases awaiting initial referral and 424 recall cases awaiting a further referral to the Parole Board, which were beyond the target date. It is not possible to predict how many of these cases might be released from custody following their referral to the board. Steps are being taken to eradicate the backlog of referrals and progress is being closely monitored.

Prisons: Overcrowding

Lord Steinberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): There is no information available to suggest a direct correlation between prison overcrowding and the length of prison sentences passed in court.

Private Detectives

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): On 1 August 2007, the Home Office published a consultation paper, Regulations to Implement the Private Security Industry Act 2001 in respect of Private Investigation and Precognition Agents. This publication is available on the Home Office website at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/Regulation_of_Security_Indu1.pdf?version=1.

The consultation period for this paper closed on 24 October 2007. The responses are being analysed and will be published shortly. We will consider whether to regulate in this area in the light of the analysis of responses.

Southampton Docks: Container Crane

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is overseeing an investigation by Southampton Container Terminals Limited (SCTL), together with a number of independent engineers from separate companies. This investigation has not yet determined the exact cause of the incident. In the mean time, SCTL has voluntarily removed its Morris cranes from service until they can be examined by a competent person.

As findings emerge from the investigation, HSE will work with the ports industry to promulgate any lessons learned and support the industry to put in place any proportionate measures required to prevent a recurrence.


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