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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on progress towards the public service agreement target for reducing asylum appeals decision time. 
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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the public service agreement target for the respect of the rights of defendants and their fair treatment. 
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on progress towards the public service agreement target for reducing delay in the criminal justice system. 
Mr. Wills: The Government regard the removal of unnecessary delay from the criminal justice process to be one of its most important tasks. They have taken a number of steps, notably those contained in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, to reduce delay. In June 1997, the average time for defendants in all criminal proceedings in the magistrates courts from first listing to completion was 35 days. By March 2001 this had reduced to 30 days, an improvement of over 14 per cent.
Public expenditure settlements for the various Departments within Government were set in July 2000 for three years expiring at the end of March 2004. The Government are considering carefully what targets to set for the balance of that period.
Vernon Coaker: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment the Lord Chancellor has made of the support available to barristers who are disabled at Nottingham Crown court; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wills: In 1999 a Disability Discrimination Act accessibility audit was conducted at Nottingham Crown court, and all other Court Service courts. The audit found that the court at Nottingham is accessible to disabled court users. Court managers are willing to discuss the needs of all users in advance of them attending court.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has (a) to assess the success of the warden force within the Metropolitan police area and (b) to reproduce it in police forces (i) across the country and (ii) in Cleveland. 
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Mr. Denham [holding answer 20 November 2001]: The Government have commissioned a national evaluation of the Neighbourhood Wardens programme. This is now under way and due for completion by mid-2003. The evaluation is intended to provide an assessment of scheme impacts and to understand the processes of scheme implementation. The methodology includes in-depth investigations in eight case study schemes, comprehensive household surveys in a further seven, and surveys of wardens and scheme managers in all areas.
It is not possible to consider each and every scheme in the same detail but care is taken to ensure that all regions receive roughly equal coverage that enables a picture of national-level impact to be established.
Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received on establishing (a) a local emergency and (b) civil defence services to deal with a chemical or biological attack. 
Mr. Denham: There have been a small number of representations received from individual members of the public suggesting the establishment of civil defence services to respond to a variety of local or national threats, including chemical or biological (CB) attack.
I am not aware of any representations from civil protection professionals or organisations, either directly in response to the events of 11 September or as part of the Emergency Planning Review following the publication of the consultation document on 23 August, which have called for the establishment of civil defence services. There are comprehensive and well-developed inter- agency arrangements for dealing with emergencies in the United Kingdom whatever their cause. It has long been accepted by civil protection professionals, including the emergency services, that disaster response would not be helped by the creation of anything in the nature of a national squad and that prime responsibility for handling disasters should be at the local level where the resources and expertise are found.
There have been requests from local authorities, both directly and through the Local Government Association and the Emergency Planning Society for specific guidance about CB and other novel threats. In mid-October, guidance 'Response to the Deliberate Release of Chemicals and Biological Agents' was issued to local authorities. Separate specific guidance about anthrax was issued to general practitioners and health authorities, also in October.
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Guidance has been issued on emergency planning which promotes the principles of Integrated Emergency Management, under which all organisations likely to be involved in the response, including the emergency services and local authorities, share their plans and participate in strategic meetings, joint exercises and training.
The Cabinet Office Review into the Future of Emergency Planning in England and Wales raises the issue of monitoring local emergency planning services and has invited specific comments and suggestions about it.
Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many requests he has received to approve a warrant for the interception of a person's communications in each of the years since 1997; and how many he has refused. 
Mr. Blunkett: The figures relating to the numbers of warrants issued are published annually in the reports of the Commissioners initially appointed under the Interception of Communications Act 1985 (IOCA) and now the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) Copies are placed in the Library.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on progress towards the Public Service Agreement target (1) for the reconviction rate for offenders serving prison sentences; 
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(3) of ensuring just processes and just and effective outcomes. 
Beverley Hughes: Ensuring just processes and just and effective outcomes is one of the key objectives in the 200102 Criminal Justice Business Plan. It will be measured using the Public Service Agreement target to reduce the rate of reconvictions of all offenders punished by imprisonment or by community supervision by 5 per cent. by 2004 compared to the predicted rate.
Reducing the rate of reconvictions is one of this Government's key delivery priorities with a delivery plan in place. The delivery strands which will contribute towards the target have been selected on the principles of 'What Works' based on research evidence of effectiveness.
The Public Service Agreement target also included a commitment to reduce the rate of reconvictions of all young offenders by 5 per cent. by 2004 compared to the predicted rate. The Youth Justice Board is taking this forward using a similar approach.
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