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Magistrates' Court Service

Mr. Wray: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what budget was of the Magistrates' Court Service in each year since 1997. [54207]

Mr. Wills: The Lord Chancellor's Department provides separate grants for revenue and capital (buildings and IT) to local authorities for magistrates' courts costs. Grant is paid at 80 per cent of the costs, with the remaining 20 per cent met by local authorities. The total revenue and capital grant budget made available to the Magistrates' Courts Service since 1997, including the local authorities' 20 per cent contribution, is as follows:

£ million

Unpaid Fines

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what the level of unpaid fines is at Merseyside Magistrates Courts. [54855]

Mr. Wills: Magistrates' Courts Committees have responsibility for the collection of a range of debts imposed through the courts, including not only fines but also fees, compensation, confiscation orders, legal aid contributions and some maintenance orders. It is not possible to separate out just the fines from the total.

The total amount of money owed to the Merseyside courts at the end of December 2001 was £25,799,445. This figure includes impositions where deferred payment was allowed and where instalments were not yet due.

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans his Department has to reduce the number of unpaid fines in England and Wales. [54856]

Mr. Wills: Lead responsibility for execution of financial penalty warrants was transferred from the police to the Magistrates' Courts Committees on 1 April 2001. No targets were set for execution of these warrants during the first year of operation to enable baseline data to be collected.

On 28 February the Lord Chancellor announced challenging targets for Magistrates' Courts Committees for 2002–03 for enforcement of both financial and non-financial penalties. I refer the hon. Member to the

10 May 2002 : Column 391W

Reply which I gave on that day to my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac), Official Report, column 1554W.

Public Records

Norman Baker: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if her policy not to release into the public domain records which may embarrass living persons also applies to the impact of such releases on institutions. [54672]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Records may be closed longer than thirty years under section 5(1) of the Public Records Act 1958 (as amended in 1967) with the permission of the Lord Chancellor. If records are to remain closed, they must satisfy the criteria for extended closure set out in the Open Government White Paper (Cm2290, July 1993). This does not allow for records to be closed if they may cause embarrassment, whether to an individual or an institution.


Small and Medium Enterprises

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures the Government have taken since 1997 to reduce regulations affecting small and medium enterprises. [54192]

Nigel Griffiths: Among the actions being taken to relieve the burden of regulation on SMEs are:

Middle East

Tony Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what favourable trading terms accrue to Israel through its agreements with the European Union. [54728]

Ms Hewitt: There is reciprocal free trade under the EU/Israel Association Agreement. Subject to the terms of that Agreement, manufactured goods may be traded in each direction free of duties and quotas and there are also preferences on agricultural products.

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Tony Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what trading benefits accrue to (a) Israeli settlers in the occupied territories and (b) the Palestinian Authority through agreements with the European Union. [54729]

Ms Hewitt: The trading benefits of the EU/Israel Association Agreement apply to goods originating in the European Union and the State of Israel. The UK, along with the rest of our EU partners and the wider international community, does not consider the Occupied Territories to be covered by the EU-Israel Association Agreement. The EU has insisted in its discussions with the Israeli authorities that the territorial scope of the EU-Israel Association Agreement must be respected. In this respect, the European Commission published in November 2001 a notice to importers in the Official Journal of the European Communities alerting EU importers to the ineligibility of products originating in the Occupied Territories for the preferences provided under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Under the terms of the 1997 Interim Association Agreement between the EU and the Palestine Liberation Organisation for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority, industrial goods from the territory of the Palestinian Authority enter the EU duty and quota free. There are also preferences on agricultural products. Unlike the arrangements with Israel however there is no requirement for the Palestinian Authority to offer reciprocal market access for EU goods.

Export Credits Guarantee Department

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which United Kingdom companies the ECGD (a) is supporting or (b) has previously supported regarding (i) the Manban power plant and (ii) the transmission networks associated with the Manban power plant in the Philippines. [55057]

Ms Hewitt: ECGD has not provided any support nor has it received any applications or enquiries from any UK company in respect of the Manban power plant and/or the associated transmission networks.


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what meetings her Department has had with senior officers of engineering institutions since January 2000. [56052]

Alan Johnson: The information is not held centrally and therefore could only be collected at a disproportionate cost.

Mobile Phone Shields

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the report on mobile phone shields will be published. [56246]

Mr. Alexander: Following the Government response to the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones chaired by Sir William Stewart in May 2000, the Department commissioned independent tests on mobile phone shielding devices. A copy of the test report has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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Employment Law

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received from small businesses regarding the implementation of employment law introduced since 1997; and if she will make a statement. [55906]

Alan Johnson: Ministers regularly meet small firms and their representatives to discuss a range of issues, including employment law.



Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contingency plans have been made to rescue British passport holders who may flee over the borders of Zimbabwe in the event of a humanitarian crisis. [44935]

Mr. Bradshaw: There are approximately 26,000 British nationals registered with the British High commission in Harrare. We have a civil contingency plan for Zimbabwe, as we do for many other countries. This is kept under constant review. Any evacuation would be a last resort and by whatever means available at that time.

Data Protection Act

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library copies of each version of the internal guidance which have been drawn up by his Department since 1 January 1999 to assist staff in his Department to answer subject access requests under the Data Protection Act 1998. [53360]

Mr. MacShane: Since 1 January 1999, two versions of internal guidance have been drawn up by the FCO. A booklet, "A Guide to The Data Protection Act 1998" was issued in June 2000. This has been superseded by guidance made available to staff in December 2001. Section 3 of this guidance deals with answers to subject access requests. I have arranged for a copy of both the booklet and Section 3 of the guidance to be placed in the House Library. A revised version of the guidance will be prepared for inclusion in the FCO's Publication Scheme, which is required by the Freedom of Information Act to be in place in November 2002.

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