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Ministerial Visits

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Solicitor-General how many overseas visits she has made since 7 June 2001. [46172]

The Solicitor-General: Since 7 June 2001, I have made one visit overseas to the Pontignano conference in Italy from 21–23 September 2001.

Counsel (Ethnic Monitoring)

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Solicitor-General what ethnic monitoring she has initiated concerning use of counsel by her Department. [46170]

The Solicitor-General: As to civil work, since the introduction of a competitive appointments system in 1998 all applicants to be included in panels of junior counsel maintained by the Attorney General and as standing counsel have been asked to complete an equal opportunities monitoring form which asks them to indicate their ethnic origin. Completion of the form is voluntary. The method of selection for the panels and the operation of the panel system is being reviewed.

As to criminal work apart from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office, a panel of junior counsel conducting cases on behalf of HM Customs and Excise, the Inland Revenue, the Department of Work and Pensions/Health, the

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Department of Trade and Industry, DEFRA, the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency is being set up.

All applicants to be considered for the panel and, in the recently concluded appointments exercise for the Customs and Excise and the Department of Trade and Industry, as standing counsel, have been invited to complete an equal opportunities monitoring form, completion of which is voluntary.

As to the Crown Prosecution Service, all applicants to be considered for lists of junior counsel maintained by the CPS are invited to complete an ethnic monitoring form on a voluntary basis. The CPS maintains a national database with details of the ethnicity and gender of all counsel on its lists. Since July 2001 the CPS has been monitoring its distribution of work to counsel by ethnicity and gender. A computer program has been developed to facilitate data collection which will be made available in all CPS areas within the next few months. The information currently being gathered is shared with the Bar and the distribution of work is discussed at regular liaison meetings, which take place on all circuits.

The Serious Fraud Office is in the process of establishing a new counsel Xpool" containing the names of counsel considered suitable for SFO work, who have been referred by their Heads of Chambers. When accepted by the Director for inclusion in the SFO Xpool", counsel are invited to complete an individual ethnic monitoring form on a voluntary basis. When the new pool has been in operation for a year, the results of this monitoring will be reviewed.

The Law Officers are committed to promoting diversity and equal opportunity. Advertisements for all recruitment exercises state that members of ethnic minorities are particularly encouraged to apply.

Auld Report

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General what representations she has received concerning the Auld Report; and if she will make a statement. [46232]

The Solicitor-General: I have discussed issues raised by Sir Robin Auld's Report of his Review of the criminal courts with many individuals, including Crown Prosecutors, defence practitioners and hon. Members, and I have also taken part in three of the Ministerial Xroadshows", in Newcastle, Birmingham and Cambridge, where the Report was discussed with a wide range of interested parties.

Formal representations on the Report, of which there have been over 400, have been received on behalf of the Government by the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Customs and Excise

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made in implementing the recommendations made by his Honour John Gower QC and Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC in their report on prosecutions conducted by the Solicitor's Office of HM Customs and Excise. [46855]

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The Solicitor-General: In the Parliamentary Answer given by the then Attorney General on 12 March 2001, Official Report, column WA68, he announced that the Government had accepted all the recommendations in principle, but had opted for a phased approach to implementation.

Since that announcement, the Prosecutions Group of the Solicitor's Office has forged ahead with a rapid programme of change, to enable it to deliver legal services of a high quality in a responsive and flexible way. New managers and staff have been recruited, the organisation has been restructured, and working practices are being reformed.

The Parliamentary Answer also referred to accountability for the prosecutions function moving from the Commissioners to the Attorney General on 1 April 2002.

Final agreement has not yet been reached on the implementation of Recommendation 4 of the Gower/Hammond Recommendations, which recommended that in relation to the prosecution function the Solicitor for the Customs and Excise should not be funded by the Commissioners, but should have his own ring fenced budget and be accountable for his own expenditure.

This Recommendation is accepted in principle by the Government, but there are technical issues relating to the establishment of a separate vote which require further time to resolve. The Government is committed to the full implementation of Recommendation 4 no later than 1 April 2003, but in the meantime the Prosecutions Group budget will remain as part of the Customs and Excise vote, though it will be separately identified and managed by the Solicitor for the Customs and Excise, and financial Accounts/Reports will be produced as if that budget has been established as a separate vote.

As a consequence of these revised arrangements, the Attorney General will not assume full accountability for the prosecutions function from 1 April. Instead, from that date the following arrangements will apply:

(1) The Commissioners (and Treasury Ministers) will be responsible for, and accountable to Parliament for:

(2) The Law Officers will be responsible for, and accountable to Parliament for:

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Inspection of the Prosecutions Group by the CPS Inspectorate will commence on 1 April 2002, and the Prosecution Group will proceed with the trials referred to in the previous Parliamentary Answer.

The Government is satisfied that the arrangements that will apply from 1 April strengthen the involvement of the Attorney General with the difficult and complex criminal casework conducted by the Solicitor's Office, maintain the momentum of change that has been established and preserve an appropriate position on Parliamentary accountability.



Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to replace the application forms for foreign nationals wishing to apply for leave to remain in the United Kingdom. [46682]

Angela Eagle: The current application forms are valid for use only until 14 April 2002. Revised forms will be prescribed before then. They will be available shortly. From the time they are issued until 14 April 2002, applications may be made on either the new forms or the present versions. Only the new forms may be used for applications made on or after 15 April 2002. Copies will be placed in the Library when they are available.

Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the reasons are for the delay in forwarding immigration status letters in Case Ref. No. Z1010863/4; and if he will make a statement. [43084]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 14 March 2002]: I wrote to my hon. Friend about this case on 25 March 2002.

Police Performance Indicators

Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will announce the (a) ministerial priorities and (b) Best Value performance indicators for the police for 2002–03. [46683]

Mr. Denham: I am pleased to announce that the statutory instruments have now been laid before the House. The Ministerial Priorities, which will come into effect on 1 April 2002, are:

Subject to the approval of both Houses, the Best Value Performance Indicators will also come into effect on 1 April 2002. My right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, has honoured his undertaking to the police that he would make a significant reduction to the number of indicators to focus police effort where it is most needed. The full list will be placed in the Library in the next few days.

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The Home Secretary will, by the summer, introduce a performance indicator on tackling persistent offenders. Persistent offenders must be caught and dealt with to protect the public from their activities. An indicator to measure police success in driving up performance will be introduced as soon as data collection systems are in place.

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