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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 12 July 2002

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Nepal

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to her answer of 8 July 2002, Official Report, column 702W, on Nepal, if she will make a statement on the failure of the Nepalese Government to allow journalists and aid agencies access to the western districts of Nepal. [69513]

Clare Short: UK funded development assistance, and that of other donor agencies too, continues throughout Nepal, including in many of the Mid- and Far-Western districts of the country where the conflict situation is worse. However, development staff based in Kathmandu do not, for security reasons, visit areas of active conflict. There are no Government restrictions per se.

There has been some press coverage recently of visits made by journalists to districts in the west of the country. However, the current State of Emergency is deterring many journalists from visiting parts of the country.

World Bank

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) of 8 July 2002, Official Report, column 613W, on World Bank loans, how much the UK Government contributed to the 12th Replenishment of the International Development Association IDA-12; and how much it contributed to IDA-13. [69515]

Clare Short: The British Government contributed £511m to the 12th Replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA-12), equating to a 7.3 per cent. share. This made the UK the joint fourth largest donor to IDA.

The UK's contribution to the 13th Replenishment of IDA (IDA-13) has not yet been finalised. An announcement will be made shortly.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) of 8 July 2002, Official Report, column 613W, on World Bank loans, what provisions are in place to ensure that the level of overall IDA resources does not decrease in future as a result of the conversion of some loans to grants; and if she will make a statement. [69514]

Clare Short: Around 40 per cent of the International Development Association's (IDA's) resources currently come from re-flows from previous loans being repaid. During negotiations for the 13th Replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA-13), the British Government argued consistently that if some loans were to be converted to grants under IDA-13, IDA donors

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should ensure that a scheme was agreed to compensate IDA for the resulting future loss in re-flows. Such a scheme would require donors to start putting aside a small amount of resources now and during future replenishments.

Very regrettably, IDA donors have not yet managed to agree such a scheme, despite strong UK pressure to do so. Donors have, however, accepted the principle that extra resources do need to be put aside in advance of future shortfalls. They have agreed to make a final decision on what sort of scheme should be used during the Mid-Term Review of IDA-13, which is scheduled to begin in around six months' time. The British Government will continue to press hard to ensure a satisfactory outcome which will protect IDA's long-term financial sustainability.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Court Service

Harry Cohen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of the collection of fines by the Court Service; [62600] (2) what the level of arrears of fines was, and what percentage of fines had not been collected within the due time (a) in the last 12 months and (b) in the 12 month period before the change in the collection system; and if he will make a statement. [62601]

Yvette Cooper: Fines are imposed by both Magistrates' Courts and the Crown Court. The Crown Court is part of the Court Service, which is an executive agency of the Lord Chancellor's Department. The Court Service does not collect fines. Fines are collected by Magistrates' Courts and their staff, which constitute an independent local service with statutory powers for the enforcement and collection of financial penalties.

The Government are committed to improving the enforcement of financial penalties. Variations in performance across the country are too wide. We have transferred lead responsibility for warrant execution from the police to Magistrates' Courts Committees, on 1 April 2001.

We have established an information sharing scheme, which enables Magistrates' Courts to obtain basic information on defaulters from the Department for Work and Pensions. We have set performance targets for 2002–03 and Magistrates' Courts Committees have also been given nearly £10 million extra from April 2002, ring-fenced for enforcement purposes. We will monitor the position carefully to check that performance improves.

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.

Arrears is described as the total of missed lump sums or missed instalments on impositions where deferred payment was allowed. The latest available figures for the level of arrears of all debt are:

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(c) £246 million as at 31 March 2002; and

(d) £226 million as at 31 March 2001.

Data are only collected on the financial value of the debt, not the number of fines. Fines are normally payable from the moment of imposition unless time to pay is granted.

Since the transfer, the write-off rate has reduced from 19 per cent of total debt imposed in 2000–01 to 15 per cent. of total debt imposed in 2001–02, which was equivalent to £19.5 million.

Judiciary (Sexual Offences and

Domestic Violence Cases)

Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will amend the rules of the Supreme Court to ensure that a woman judge is a member of appeal courts hearing a case concerning (a) rape, (b) other sexual offences and (c) domestic violence. [65211]

Yvette Cooper: The Government have no proposals to amend the Rules of the Supreme Court on the composition of courts hearing appeals.

Rape

Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what steps he is taking to ensure that judges receive equivalent training about rape offences to that recommended for police and prosecutors by the HMIC/CPSI thematic inquiry into rape. [65213]

Yvette Cooper: Judicial Training is the responsibility of the Judicial Studies Board (JSB) which is an independent non-departmental public body. It is chaired by Lord Justice Waller.

The Board provides specialist training to those judges authorised to hear cases of rape through its regular Serious Sexual Offences Seminars.

The Criminal Committee of the JSB will be considering the comments made in the Joint Inspectors' Report over the coming months.

Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what steps he will take to ensure that the recommendations of the Sentencing Advisory Panel on rape are implemented by the judiciary. [65210]

Yvette Cooper: The decision on whether or not to issue guidelines based on the Sentencing Advisory Panel's advice to the Court of Appeal is for that Court.

Fines

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proportion of fine-defaulters were in receipt of income support and income-related jobseekers allowance in each year since 1990. [65119]

Yvette Cooper: It is not possible to provide proportions of fine defaulters who were in receipt of Income Support (IS) or Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA IB). The table below shows numbers of IS/JSA (IB) claimants at a point in time each year since

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1994, with a deduction in force on their benefit for fines recovery. It is not possible to provide historical figures back to 1990 as fines recovery data was not collected.

Year IS Claimants (1000s) JSA (IB) Claimants (1000s)
May 19947
May 19959
May 199616
May 1997148
May 1998137
May 1999136
May 2000125
May 2001134
Feb 2002144

Notes:

1. Based on 5 per cent. sample, therefore subject to sampling variation.

2. IS figures from May 1994 to May 1997 include unemployed claimants claiming Income Support.

3. JSA (IB) replaced IS for the unemployed in October 1996.

4. Some Income-based JSA claimants may also have entitlement to benefit via the contributory route.


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proportion of fines imposed by Sussex magistrates were (a) paid, (b) written off, (c) cancelled and (d) in arrears in each year since 1990. [65120]

Yvette Cooper: 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 fines from the total.

Sussex Magistrates' Courts Committee IT system includes cancellations in the write off figures. The figures available for Sussex Magistrates' Courts Committee are as follows:

2001–02—Imposed: £7,990,163 (a) £4,106,942 (b) £2,462,123 (d) £3,441,695;

2000–01—Imposed: £9,066,983 (a) £4,648,440 (b) £3,475,773 (d) £2,728,719;

1999–2000—Imposed: £8,094,313 (a) £5,611,954 (b) £ 3,406,299 (d) £7,404,347.

Prior to 1999, the Magistrates' Courts Committees were not asked as part of their data collection to provide full-information on the amounts imposed, paid or cancelled. The national data for the period 1996 – 1998 for amounts "written off" were only collected for the last quarter of each calendar year; while the "amounts in arrears" show the position as at 31 December for each year.

1998—(b) £572,651 (d) £4,544,567;

1997—(b) £451,266 (d) £4,461,302;

1996—(b) £712,100 (d) £4,807,596.

For the period 1993 – 1995 only figures for the total arrears at the year's end are available:

1995—(d) £4,062,847;

1994—(d) £4,859,747;

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1993—(d) £2,086,118. (Data only provided by East Sussex.)

Prior to 1993 data were not collected centrally.


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