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Mr. Raynsford: Following clearance by the Lord Chancellor, the Law Commission has today been asked to undertake a major review of the law surrounding housing tenure in both the social and private rented housing sectors. The referral is in response to a Law Commission paper ("Reform of Housing Law: A Scoping Study Paper") which the Commission has also published today. Terms of reference reflecting the ground covered by the Scoping Paper are:
(1) the forms of housing tenancy let by:
Today's referral asks the Law Commission to undertake work on the ground covered by item (1) of the terms of reference and which the Commission's Scoping Paper refers to as the "first phase" of work. This in itself represents a substantial piece of work on which the Commission has undertaken to deliver a report and draft Housing Bill by July 2003. A further referral covering items (2) and (3) of the terms of reference (referred to in the Scoping Paper as the "second phase" of work) will be considered in the light of progress on first phase work.
The Law Commission's scoping paper represents an excellent piece of work. It highlights a long overdue need for a simpler, less complex framework for housing tenure law--one that will be more transparent and better understood by landlords and tenants alike; one that will enable social landlords to make better use of their stock; and one that will facilitate greater choice and diversity in the housing sector along with tenant participation.
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Choice: A decent home for all--The Way forward for Housing") to look at a single form of tenure for the social housing sector and other tenure flexibilities. The Law Commission's continued readiness to work with DETR and other key housing interests, and to involve a wider range of landlord and tenant interests in taking forward this substantial piece of work will ensure an inclusive approach.
Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Ceredigion constituency, the effects on Ceredigion of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. 
The Solicitor-General: In 1999, in line with national policy, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in liaison with the Dyfed Powys police and the magistrates court, introduced procedures based upon the Narey proposals. All defendants charged with a criminal offence where a guilty plea is anticipated now make their first appearance before the Cardigan or Aberystwyth magistrates within three working days of charge, or eight days if charged after the cut-off point for that court for that week.
In the last eight months, over half of defendants have had their cases finalised at the first court hearing. Since October 2000, the prosecution of Persistent Youth Offenders has been subject to a fast-track procedure. Fourteen defendants in Ceredigion have been dealt with to date under this procedure. These cases have been finalised in an average of 56 days over the five months to February 2001.
In January 2001, the provisions of section 51 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 came into force. Seven defendants within Ceredigion charged with indictable- only offences have been sent directly to the Crown court in Swansea. All these changes illustrate the Government's successful policy of speeding up the criminal justice system.
In May 2001, CPS Dyfed Powys will be altering its structure in line with the proposals of the Glidewell review. This will enable the CPS to place greater emphasis on the more serious crime cases in the Crown courts in Swansea, Carmarthen, and Haverfordwest.
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Since May 1997, the CPS has successfully prosecuted a number of significant cases arising in the Ceredigion area. In 1998-99 police officers targeted heroin dealers in Aberystwyth in an operation that led to the arrest and successful prosecution of 12 heroin dealers in Aberystwyth. This had an important deterrent effect on further drug offences in Aberystwyth.
In 2000, the Dyfed Powys CPS also dealt with a murder case involving an elderly defendant who had allegedly murdered his wife. The defendant claimed that he had killed his wife as part of a suicide pact. After an extensive inquiry the prosecution accepted a guilty plea to manslaughter accepting the defendant's version of events. The case was dealt with by leading counsel and a higher court advocate from the Dyfed Powys CPS office.
Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Solicitor-General (1) if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Caernarfon constituency, the effects on Caernarfon of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997; 
(3) if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Ynys Mon constituency, the effects on Ynys Mon of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. 
The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in liaison with the police and the magistrates courts, introduced procedures based upon the Narey proposals for the Central and Western Divisions of the North Wales Police Area, which includes these constituencies. All defendants now charged with a criminal offence make their first appearance before a magistrates court within one week and, in some cases, within 96 hours of being charged. Current figures indicate that around 40 per cent. of defendants now have their cases finalised at that first hearing. On 1 July 2000, the CPS North Wales Area office, which has responsibility for prosecutions in these three constituencies, altered its structures in line with the proposals contained in the Glidewell report. This enabled the CPS to place greater emphasis on more serious crime. More recently, as a further development of a proposal in the Glidewell report, the CPS have established a co-located Criminal Justice Unit within the Divisional Police Headquarters at Caernarfon. Closer links between the CPS and police in this area will further enhance the progress of cases into and through the magistrates courts.
CPS North Wales is also piloting Statutory Time Limits in youth cases and has worked together with the other agencies locally to speed up youth justice, particularly cases involving persistent young offenders. This has resulted in cases being disposed of within 71 days in two quarters of the last year. Since May 1997, the Crown Prosecution Service has reduced the time taken to finalise prosecutions arising in the Caernarfon, Meirionnydd Nant Conwy and Ynys Mon areas, especially cases involving
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youth offenders. All these changes illustrate the Government's successful policy in speeding up the criminal justice system.
CPS North Wales are also piloting the Victim Notification arrangements. They have established a Victim Information Bureau at their headquarters at Wrexham, which provides detailed explanations to victims when cases are dropped or charges substantially amended. Meetings are also offered to victims in certain cases.
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