Previous Section Index Home Page



28. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Advocate-General what devolution issues she has considered in respect of the Land Reform Bill and the European convention on human rights. [51315]

The Advocate-General for Scotland: The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill completed stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament on 20 March. This means that the general principles of the Bill were approved. I examine all Bills of the Scottish Parliament as they progress and when a Bill is passed I decide whether to refer it to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. My consideration of this Bill will cover a variety of matters, including its human rights aspects.


27. Mr. Joyce: To ask the Advocate-General which Scottish Parliament Bills she has assessed since June 2001. [51314]

The Advocate-General for Scotland: My powers under the Scotland Act allow me to refer a Bill, or a provision of it, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a decision as to the Bill's competence. Since June 2001 I have assessed 19 Bills passed by the Scottish

30 Apr 2002 : Column 688W

Parliament. Those Bills have included important legislation concerning community care and health; housing; the International Criminal Court and the water industry. I have arranged for a complete list to be placed in the Library.


Members' Cars

45. Mr. Tyler: To ask the President of the Council what proposals he has to discourage hon. Members from bringing their private vehicles into central London. [51338]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Traffic in London is the responsibility of the Mayor of London. I agree that we should all do our best to reduce vehicle usage in central London. Members have travel warrants and bicycle allowances to encourage us to leave our cars at home. I am sure my right hon. Friend would be interested in any suggestions the hon. Member has.


Public Information

47. Julie Morgan: To ask the President of the Council what proposals he plans to put before the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons for improving the system of public information relating to proceedings in the House. [51341]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Much is already happening. Work is in hand on a redesign of the parliamentary website, and an experiment in web casting proceedings in the House and its Committees is underway. The new visitor cafeteria and interpretation centre is scheduled to open on Tuesday 14 May.

My right hon. Friend will keep this work under review, and make further proposals as necessary.

Select Committees

48. Andrew Bennett: To ask the President of the Council what steps he is taking to take forward reform of Select Committees; and if he will make a statement. [51342]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given earlier by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Welsh Bills

49. Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the President of the Council what plans he has to bring forward proposals to provide more opportunities and mechanisms for the debate of Bills relating exclusively to Wales. [51343]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Standing Orders already provide a variety of mechanisms for debating Bills relating exclusively to Wales, and this Government will continue to bring forward such Bills.

30 Apr 2002 : Column 689W

People's Peers

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council when the House of Lords Appointments Commission is to take its roadshow around the country to solicit applications from aspiring people's peers. [51340]

Mr. Robin Cook: I understand that the Commission has yet to finalise plans for its forthcoming programme of regional visits.


Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the President of the Council if he will make a statement on his proposals for reform of the sitting times of the House and the parliamentary calendar. [51332]

Mr. Robin Cook: The Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons is currently considering the proposals contained in my memorandum of December 2001. (HC 440).

I would like to see changes to our sitting patterns which would fit in better with the needs of modern life, and increase the House's ability to hold the Government to account.

Carry-over Bills

51. Mr. Bryant: To ask the President of the Council if he will make a statement on his proposals for carrying over Bills from one Session to another. [51345]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: My right hon. Friend's proposals are contained in his memorandum to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons published in December 2001 as HC440.


Child Care Facilities

50. Caroline Flint: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the progress being made to improve child care facilities on the parliamentary estate. [51344]

Mr. Kirkwood: The House of Commons Commission is committed to family-friendly employment policies, and provides child care vouchers for staff with young children and a subsidised summer holiday play scheme. The Director of Finance and Administration has recently commissioned a consultancy study of options for child care in the parliamentary estate and in the Westminster area. I understand that the results of the study are expected in May.


Guardians Ad Litem

34. Mr. Bryant: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what evaluation her Department has made of the effectiveness of the recent reforms of the guardians ad litem. [51324]

30 Apr 2002 : Column 690W

Ms Rosie Winterton: The functions of the guardians ad litem and reporting officers, the Family Court Welfare Service and the Children's Divisions of the Official Solicitor were combined to form the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in April 2001.

CAFCASS is subject to independent inspection by HM Magistrates Court Service Inspectorate (MCSI). Its first report was published on 19 March and a copy has been placed in the Library.


35. Helen Jones: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what steps the Department is taking to involve magistrates in promoting citizenship initiatives for young people. [51327]

Mr. Wills: The Department, over many years, has funded the outreach work of the Magistrates Association, which grew out of its schools project. Last year we provided just over £50,000 for this work. In addition my Department contributes £20,000 towards the cost of the annual Magistrates Court Mock Trial Competition, which is organised by the Citizenship Foundation in conjunction with the Magistrates Association.

Judges' Lodgings

36. Mr. Dismore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement about the current cost of judges' lodgings. [51328]

Mr. Wills: The hon. Member will be aware that the Lord Chancellor has decided that any changes to the means of accommodating High Court Judges while on circuit will only take place in the context of relevant recommendations of Lord Justice Auld's report. Consultation on the report has closed and Ministers are currently considering the comments received prior to publication of a White Paper.

In the meantime, administrative improvements in the existing lodgings' network are being implemented.

Family Support Services

37. Julie Morgan: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans she has for CAFCASS to provide a bilingual service in Wales. [51329]

Ms Rosie Winterton: CAFCASS plan to appoint a Welsh language officer in Wales this year, to provide translation services and support implementation of CAFCASS's diversity strategy in Wales and their Welsh Language Scheme.

Police Time

38. Dr. Cable: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the results of co-operation between the courts and the police to ensure efficient use of police time during court hearings. [51330]

Mr. Wills: Co-operation on this aspect of inter-agency work takes place in a number of ways. HM Magistrates Courts Service Inspectorate, jointly with the Inspectorates for the police and Crown Prosecution Service, are

30 Apr 2002 : Column 691W

undertaking a joint thematic inspection of listing. Fieldwork has commenced and their report is expected in the autumn.

Sir David O'Dowd is chairing the Reducing Bureaucracy Task Force that has been set up to identify and reduce bureaucratic burdens in the criminal justice system and in particular on police officers. This includes work on the role of the courts. Fieldwork through this task force has commenced and a final report is due in July. There is close co-operation between the Inspectorates and the work being done by the O'Dowd task force.

In 2001, the national Trials Issues Group issued guidance to all criminal justice areas, pointing out the huge cost implications of calling officers to court on their rest days, or at the end of a late turn of duty, etc. The advice raised awareness of the cost and manpower implications of court listings and it is hoped that the good practice advice contained therein has led to further improvements. At a local level, there is on-going consideration in relation to the efficient use of all court users' time through local Trials Issues Group meetings and the Area Criminal Justice Strategy Committees.

The Crown court are currently running the Xhibit pilot project in Chelmsford which is look to use IT better to inform parties to a case on how the case is progressing. This includes sending electronic messages from the courtroom to pagers and mobile phones and means that witnesses do not have to wait in the court building to give evidence but can be contacted as and when needed. Although not specifically targeted at police officers, it allows the officers to remain in their station (if it is relatively close to the court building) and carry on with other duties while they are waiting.

In relation to "cracked and ineffective" trials in the Crown court, a study commenced in Manchester on 16 April in conjunction with other agencies and is looking at the best ways to avoid unnecessary attendance at court by the parties and their witnesses. In the magistrates courts, a new data collection exercise commenced in April 2002, which will consider the reasons for "cracked and ineffective" trials and this will also impact upon police officers' role in court.

Next Section Index Home Page