Previous Section Index Home Page

Disabled Access

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what adjustments have been made to her Department's premises following the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and what the cost of these adjustments was as a proportion of the Department's budget. [53030]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 29 April 2002]: My Department is committed to ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. My Department has used the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation to provide specialist advice on how its premises and facilities can be enhanced for people with disabilities. Whenever new works or refurbishment projects are undertaken in premises controlled by the Department the requirements of people with disabilities using the premises are taken into account. Where the Department is a minor occupier of premises we work with the premises landlord to ensure compliance where practicable. Examples include induction loop systems in reception areas; tactile marking, handrails and ramps; low level embossed call buttons and voice announcements in lifts; counters designed to aid wheelchair users; automatically opening doors.

My Department also has an accommodation focus group for staff with disabilities to discuss their concerns and requirements. For example staff have been supplied with specialist furniture, specialist display screen equipment for those with visual impairments; voice activated personal computers; and teledata fire alarm paging systems.

My Department does not keep a separate record of all such adjustments or their cost. To produce such information could be done only at disproportionate cost.

2 May 2002 : Column 925W

Telephone Systems

(Hampshire and Isle of Wight)

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if she will instigate an inquiry into the service level of the telephone system in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on 25 April and its impact on emergency services; [54026]

Mr. Alexander: I understand that at 18.30 on Thursday 25 April a fault occurred in the equipment at the Southampton Bargate BT telephone exchange. As a result a large number of customers across a wide area in Hampshire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight were affected involving the loss of their telephone service including access to the 999 emergency services. BT worked to restore service as quickly as possible and to mitigate the impact on the emergency services including the police. Services were restored to some 80 per cent. of customers by midnight and all others by 03:55 am the following morning.

Oftel is urgently investigating the causes of this failure and considering what measures should be put in place to avoid it happening again. I have asked the Director General to write to the hon. Member as soon as possible, and to keep me informed.

Aerospace Industry

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has made to the Treasury on the review of the Export Credits Guarantee Department on the impact of changes to the ECGD on the competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry. [53242]

Ms Hewitt: DTI and Treasury Ministers meet regularly to consider progress on the programme of work being carried out to strengthen ECGD's risk management systems and evaluate its contribution to the competitiveness of the UK economy. ECGD plays an important role in supporting the UK's aerospace industry and is currently seeking views from customers, including those in the aerospace sector, on the economic benefits it generates.

Older Women

32. Mrs. Humble: To ask the Minister what assessment she has made of the contribution that women aged over 50 years make to UK prosperity. [52036]

Ms Hewitt: Almost 2.4 million women in their 50s are in work. They make up 20 per cent. of the female working population and 9 per cent. of total working population. The New Deal 50 plus has helped over 19,000 women off benefits and back into work since its launch in April 2000.

Returning to Work

34. Mr. Bacon: To ask the Minister if she will make a statement on the steps she is taking to help mothers return to work. [52039]

2 May 2002 : Column 926W

Ms Hewitt: We are taking a number of steps. These include introducing, as part of the Employment Bill which is currently before Parliament, a new duty for employers to seriously consider requests for flexible working from parents of young children and improvements to maternity leave and pay. We are also taking forward a range of other measures such as investment in child care, working families tax credit, the New Deal for Lone Parents, the New Deal for Partners, and increased access to adult education.


Press Office

Mr. Burns: To ask the Solicitor-General what the total cost of running the Department's press office was in (a) 1996–97 and (b) the latest year for which figures are available. [46800]

The Solicitor-General [holding answer 9 April 2002] The single press officer who acts for both my own Department, the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, and the Treasury Solicitor's Department also acts as Private Secretary to the Attorney-General. Costs incurred in relation to the press office aspect of the post cannot be separately calculated.

No figures are available for the total cost of running the Crown Prosecution Service's press office in 1996–97. The total cost in 2000–01 (the latest year for which figures are available) was £205,269.

The cost of running the press office of the Serious Fraud Office in 1996–97 was £170,439. The figure for 2001–02, which is provisional, is £201,003.

User Consultation

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Solicitor-General what new steps her Department took in 2001–02 to consult the users of its services about their wishes and expectations; and if he will publish the findings. [47312]

The Solicitor-General [holding answer 10 April 2002]: The Treasury Solicitor's Department has carried out an extensive consultation exercise with clients in the course of the Quinquennial Review of the Department. The findings were reported and published by the Attorney-General on 3 May 2001. In addition, the Treasury Solicitor's Department carried out annual client satisfaction surveys which seek client Departments' views on the legal service it provides and whether those services meet their expectations. These surveys figure among the SDA targets for the Treasury Solicitor's Department, progress on which will be published in the Department's 2002 departmental report.

The Treasury Solicitor's Department has also recently adopted a client care policy at the core of which is regular contact and discussion with recipients of the legal services they provide.

The concept of user service satisfaction is not easily applicable to the duties of my own Department, the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, the primary function of which is to give legal advice to Government, or to the prosecuting authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office. However, in relation to the

2 May 2002 : Column 927W

CPS, following the recommendation made at the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry that the CPS should communicate information about its casework decisions direct to victims rather than the police, the CPS launched its Direct Communication with Victims (DCV) scheme in October 2000. Under this scheme the CPS provides reasons to victims whenever it either drops or alters a charge substantially and, in certain cases, it offers to meet face to face to give a fuller explanation if required. In this way the CPS is able to take into account the wishes and expectations of its users.

UK Crown Prosecutions

Harry Cohen: To ask the Solicitor-General what criteria the CPS uses in determining whether to seek to prosecute in the UK courts, UK nationals accused of committing serious offences abroad; and if she will make a statement. [51796]

The Solicitor-General [holding answer 25 April 2002]: In most cases foreign states would normally prosecute offences committed within their own jurisdiction.

The general rule is that the English courts do not accept jurisdiction where UK nationals commit offences outside England and Wales in the absence of express provisions to the contrary. Some of these statutory exceptions are:

All such cases are reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The Crown Prosecutor must first be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide

However, there is often the need to recognise the fact that the foreign state in which the offence was committed may either want or intend to prosecute the UK national for the same offence. This can necessitate discussion between the judicial authorities in the UK and abroad. Such factors as where the victims and witnesses reside and the views of the victim are also taken into account.

2 May 2002 : Column 928W

Next Section Index Home Page