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Greenock Semi-conductor Plant

16. Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she discussed the Health and Safety Executive's study of employees' health at the national semi-conductor plant in Greenock when she last met members of the Scottish Executive. [155186]

Mr. Foulkes: We have regular discussions with the Scottish Ministers on a wide range of issues. On the Health and Safety Executive's study, the HSE send the Scottish Executive monthly progress reports. The HSE's approach to the study has the support of an independent panel of Scottish experts.

Block Grant

17. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will discuss with Treasury Ministers plans for a further needs assessment in relation to the Scottish block grant. [155187]

Mrs. Liddell: The Government have no plans to modify the current basis for determining the Scottish Expenditure Block. The Barnett Formula provides a fair deal for Scotland and has led to stable settlements under successive Governments for over 20 years.

State Pension

18. John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many pensioners in Scotland are benefiting from the recent increases in the basic state pension. [155188]

Mr. Foulkes: Around 900,000 pensioners in Scotland benefit.

National Minimum Wage

20. Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people in Scotland will benefit from the uprating of the national minimum wage. [155190]

Mr. Foulkes: The increase in the adult national minimum wage to £4.10 per hour from October 2001 will benefit at least 120,000 people across Scotland, many of them women and people who work part-time.

Climate Change Levy

21. Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on the impact of the climate change levy on manufacturing industry in Scotland. [155191]

Mr. Foulkes: The climate change levy will raise an estimated £1 billion in its first year, all of which will be recycled back to business via a 0.3 per cent cut in employers' National Insurance contributions and £150 million of spending on energy efficiency.

3 Apr 2001 : Column: 172W

The Government expect the levy to be broadly neutral between services and manufacturing. Its impact on the manufacturing industry in Scotland will depend on a number of factors including the extent to which industry adopts more efficient energy management practices.

Oil and Gas Industry

22. Miss Begg: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on the future of oil and gas industry businesses in Scotland. [155192]

Mrs. Liddell: Last week we had a very positive debate at the Scottish Grand Committee on the future of the oil and gas industry in Scotland. I congratulate my hon. Friend on her valuable contribution to that debate. This Government remain determined to work with the industry so that it can maintain and build upon its international reputation and success.


Gender Imbalance

32. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what research she has carried out into gender imbalances in the judiciary and their implications for the conduct of cases of (a) rape and (b) other sexual offences. [155202]

Jane Kennedy: No research has been carried out in the terms mentioned. The Lord Chancellor has confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and therefore does not consider the gender of a judge to be relevant when judges are allocated to preside over particular types of cases, such as rape or other sexual offences.

Community Legal Service (South-west)

33. Mrs. Gilroy: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the progress of the Community Legal Service in the south-west. [155203]

Mr. Lock: The Community Legal Service is making good progress in the south-west. There are now CLS Partnerships in Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth, north Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Bristol, Swindon, and Gloucestershire. The CLS Partnerships cover 76 per cent. of the population of the south-west, and I am confident this figure will continue to grow.

Rural Courthouses

34. Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the Lord Chancellor's policy towards two-courtroomed courthouses in rural areas. [155204]

Jane Kennedy: The Government's policy is that magistrates courts are best managed locally by magistrates courts committees, under the provisions of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997. We encourage magistrates courts committees to liaise with the Court Service and other agencies considering sharing arrangements and ensure better utilisation of court buildings.

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Magistrates (Social Background)

35. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress in widening the social background of magistrates. [155206]

Jane Kennedy: As the Government announced in "Criminal Justice: The Way Ahead" (CM5074), my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has asked for a national strategy for the recruitment of lay magistrates to be developed. A lot of good work is done by the local advisory committees who do encourage people from all walks of life to consider applying.

The Magistrates in the Community project run by the Magistrates Association and funded by my Department also does valuable work in raising the profile of justices of the peace. We need however to see whether there is more we should be doing from the centre to get the message across that we want benches to be representative of the community they serve.

Legal Profession

36. Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proposals he has for changes in the workings of the legal profession. [155207]

Mr. Lock: On 7 March 2001, the Director General of Fair Trading published his report on competition in the market for professional services. The Government are keen to remove restrictive practices that are not in the public interest and which reduce incentives on lawyers to provide innovative and affordable services to the public. We will consult on the report, and consider responses on the Director General's analysis before taking further action.

Witnesses (Learning Disabilities)

37. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the training that judges receive on conducting cases in which witnesses have learning disabilities; and if he will make a statement. [155208]

Mr. Lock: Judicial training is the responsibility of the Judicial Studies Board, an independent body, chaired by Lord Justice Waller. Training seminars for judges include dedicated sessions or case studies (sometimes both) on disability issues, of which learning disabilities form a part. In addition, all judges are issued with written guidance on all aspects of fair treatment, called the "Equal Treatment Bench Book." A new section of the Bench Book, entitled "Disability" was published in January 2001. This section includes material on learning disabilities and a chapter on the provisions of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 relating to witnesses with learning disabilities.

The Judicial Studies Board keeps the training it provides under continuous review.

Court Security

38. Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on protection of court officials and the prevention of escape by defendants. [155209]

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Jane Kennedy: The Lord Chancellor's Department takes security in courtrooms and threats to the public, judges, magistrates and staff very seriously.

Both the Court Service and magistrates courts committees carry out regular risk assessments of the adequacy of physical security measures in court buildings and there are ongoing programmes of security improvements across the court estate. In addition, more secure docks are being installed in certain Crown and magistrates courts so as to provide higher levels of courtroom security for the more serious cases being heard.

The Lord Chancellor has asked officials to report to him on the adequacy of existing security arrangements across the court estate (particularly following the reduction of routine uniformed police presence in Crown Courts), on the options for their improvement and on the feasibility of more fundamental proposals.

The adequacy of prisoner security measures during court hearings is the responsibility of the Prison Service and the Prison Escort and Custody Services (PECS).

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