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Vessels (Fire Services)

Mr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many vessels sought the assistance of fire services in (a) territorial waters and (b) international waters in each of the past five years; of those what was the proportion of (i) bulk-carriers, (ii) coastal vessels, (iii) tankers, (iv) warships, (v) fishing vessels and (vi) pleasure craft; and if he will make a statement. [23033]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The information requested can be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, we can advise that, during the last ten years, fire fighting teams have been deployed on 61 occasions in the UK Search and Rescue Region.

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Traffic Calming (Colchester)

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what sums were contributed from Government funds through (a) the Highway Authority, (b) English Heritage and (c) others towards the traffic calming measures undertaken in Colchester High Street; and what proportion of these represent the total cost of the measures. [24488]

Ms Glenda Jackson: We have awarded Essex County Council £1.2 million towards the Colchester local transport package in each of the last two years, with a further allocation of £600,000 in the 1998-99 local transport settlement announced in December last year. Resources allocated to packages for minor works are not targeted on specific projects. It is therefore for the County Council to determine the most appropriate use for their allocations within the package area. I understand from the County Council that in 1996-97 some £302,000 of the package allocation was spent on the High Street scheme. In addition, the County and Borough Councils provided £390,000 while English Heritage contributed £100,000. In 1997-98, £150,000 of the allocation is being spent on High Street works, with the Councils contributing £418,000. The total costs of the High Street works are estimated at £2.4 million.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Administration of Justice Act

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the Government plan to bring into force sections 23 to 28 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982. [22991]

Mr. Hoon: There are no plans to bring these sections into force. I understand that the present system for the deposit and safe-keeping of the wills of living persons operated by the Principal Registry of the Family Division under section 126 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 is effective, efficient and increasingly widely used.

Solicitors

Ms Perham: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to review the legislation concerning solicitors' fees; and if he will make a statement. [22987]

Mr. Hoon: I have no present plans to review the legislation concerning solicitors' fees. If the hon. Lady has any particular changes in mind perhaps she would care to write to me.

Ms Perham: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will review the regulations governing the appointment by solicitors as executors for an estate of their own firm to carry out the administration. [22986]

Mr. Hoon: This is a matter for the Law Society. The Department has no plans to review this area.

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Mr. Jonathan Aitken

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to his answer of 22 December 1997, Official Report, column 397, if he will take steps to recover from Jonathan Aitken the full costs of laying on the trial arising from the libel action he brought against The Guardian newspaper; and if he will make a statement. [23036]

Mr. Hoon: I have no powers to take steps to recover from Jonathan Aitken the full costs of laying on the trial. The appropriate court fee was paid as required under the Supreme Court Fees Order 1980 (as amended).

Judges

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proposals he has made to eliminate discrimination in the selection of judges. [23178]

Mr. Hoon: The Lord Chancellor's policy is to appoint to judicial office on merit those who appear to him to be best qualified regardless of ethnic origin, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion or (subject to the physical requirements of the office) disability.

The Lord Chancellor recognises the value of consultations with judges and the profession but has taken steps to modernise and improve procedures. He has arranged that allegations of misconduct must be made known to the individual concerned and has made clear that sexual orientation is not a relevant consideration. He has announced his intention to invite applications for appointment to the High Court Bench, and to provide for appropriate flexibility in part-time sittings arrangements where, for example, women or men have taken career breaks for family reasons. He will increase the upper age limit for appointment as an Assistant Recorder from 50 to 53. He is looking too at longer term improvements, for example an ombudsman to examine complaints from anyone who feels unfairly treated by the appointments process. In the meantime, he will himself investigate any claim of discrimination. He will be working with the judiciary to develop more effective forms of appraisal and assessment for part-time office-holders.

Officials are to develop a scheme whereby an individual can 'work shadow' a judge to find out what it would be like to sit judicially, and a mentoring scheme in which more senior members of the judiciary will advise and guide their more junior colleagues. The Lord Chancellor regards discrimination as wholly unacceptable and supports the joint working group on equal opportunities (on which there are officials from LCD, Bar and Law Society and groups representing women and ethnic minority lawyers) and awaits their proposals with interest.

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what data the Lord Chancellor has collated about judges who are Freemasons; what assessment he has made of the influence of Freemasonry on the appointment of new judges; and if he will make a statement. [23177]

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Mr. Hoon: Information from the United Grand Lodge about the number (but not names) of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, Judges of the Supreme Court and Circuit Judges on the North-Eastern and Midland and Oxford Circuits belonging to the Freemasons was supplied by the then Lord Chancellor to the Home Affairs Select Committee in February 1997 for its inquiry on Freemasonry in the Police and the Judiciary and published in the Committee's report. No other information on this subject has been collated. The Lord Chancellor has no grounds for believing that Freemasonry has had any influence on the appointment of new judges. Judicial appointments are made strictly on merit and are in no way affected by membership or non-membership of the Freemasons.

Coroners Service

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what are the Lord Chancellor's functions in relation to the Coroner's Service. [23105]

Mr. Hoon: The Lord Chancellor's functions in relation to the Coroners Service are set out in sections 3, 11 and 32 of the Coroners Act 1988. Section 3(4) provides that the Lord Chancellor may, if he thinks fit, remove any coroner from office for inability or misbehaviour in the discharge of his duty. Section 11(5)(c) provides that an inquisition leading to the removal of a coroner shall be in such a form as the Lord Chancellor may by rules made by statutory instrument from time to time prescribe. Section 32(1) provides that the Lord Chancellor may, with the concurrence of the Home Secretary, make rules for regulating the practice and procedure at or in connection with inquests and post-mortem examinations. The Lord Chancellor has no function regarding the appointment of Coroners, which is a matter solely for the Home Secretary.

Lord Chancellor's Speech

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will place in the Library a copy of the Lord Chancellor's speech of November 1997 to the Minority Lawyers' Conference; and if the speech represents Government policy. [23179]

Mr. Hoon: A copy of the speech will be placed in the Library. The speech represents Government policy.

IT Equipment

Mr. Barnes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is his Department's policy regarding the recycling of information technology equipment within his Department and relevant agencies and to other Government departments or agencies; and what arrangements have been made in this respect. [23242]

Mr. Hoon: Information technology equipment used in Lord Chancellor's Department Headquarters and the Court Service is now owned and maintained by the private sector suppliers of IT services, procured under Private Finance Initiative contracts. It is their responsibility to recycle and dispose of their own equipment. For other organisations reporting to the Lord Chancellor, a variety of methods are used, such as the re-use of some

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equipment for other purposes, public auction, disposal of very old equipment to authorised dealers and the recycling of reusable components such as printer cartridges.


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