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Mr. Steen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will reply to the questions tabled by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) transferred to her Department by the Department of Trade and Industry, refs., 67261 and 67262, before 24 July. 
Mr. Lepper: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, when the Legal Services Commission's Land Charges Department will complete its project to cleanse the data held on its computer system. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Commission's project to produce accurate statutory charge statements has depended upon its Land Charges Department carrying out a number of data cleansing exercises. Those exercises, and the first stage of the project, are expected to be completed by the end of August 2002. The Commission will then carry out checks to ensure that no further data cleanse is required.
Mr. Lepper: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what training has been given to staff of the Legal Services Commission Land Charges Department to improve the accuracy of data inputting in relation to clients. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Steps have been taken to improve the knowledge and understanding of all staff within the Commission who deal with the statutory charge. A programme of two days' training for 160 staff including those within the land charge department has taken place. The training covered the nature of the charge; the circumstances in which it arises; how its value is determined; the conditions on which the Commission can postpone its enforcement; the technicalities of how the charge is secured by registration on land; and the rules on payment of interest where enforcement is postponed by registration on the client's home.
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computer system to produce statements of amounts owed by each client with a charge secured by registration on their home. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Legal Services Commission is in the final stages of testing the system for the production of statutory charge statements. If the testing proves successful the Commission intends to issue an initial 1,500 statements by the end of August 2002. The Commission will then review the impact before finalising a timetable for sending a statement to all the clients affected.
Mr. Lepper: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the Legal Services Commission's computer system will be able to provide an on-screen explanation of the change to the statutory charge for use by the Commission's caseworkers. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Subject to satisfactory completion of the final stages of testing, which are currently under way, the Commission will be able to provide an on-screen explanation of the changes to the statutory charge for use by its caseworkers by the end of August 2002, in parallel with the timetable for issuing the initial 1,500 statutory charge statements as detailed in my earlier answer today (question 71701).
Mr. Lepper: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the Legal Services Commission's computer system will produce statements on a rolling basis, annually from the date of first registration or when required. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Legal Services Commission intends that all clients will receive a statutory charge statement by the end of August 2003. Statements will then be issued annually on a rolling basis on the anniversary of first registration of each charge and on request. Statements are issued manually on request at present.
Andrew Bennett: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will list the total fines imposed in each of the last three years for each magistrates court area in Greater Manchester; what percentage of fines was collected in each area in each year; what percentage of fines was written off in each year in each area; and what progress is being made in improving the enforcement ratio. 
Yvette Cooper: Magistrates courts committees have a responsibility for the collection of a range of debts imposed by 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.
The Government are committed to improving the enforcement of financial penalties. Variations in performance across the country are too wide. We transferred lead responsibility for warrant execution from the police to magistrates courts committees (MCCs) on 1 April 2001, giving MCCs control over the whole enforcement process.
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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
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200203 and magistrates courts committees have 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.
|Imposed (£)||Percentage paid||Percentage amount written off|
|April 1999-March 2000|
|North and West Manchester (includes Rochdale, Wigan, Leigh and Bury)||10,727,563||60||23|
|April 2000-March 2001|
|North and West Manchester (includes Rochdale, Wigan, Leigh and Bury)||9,921,380||63||30|
|April 2001-March 2002|
|Wigan (includes Bury, Leigh and Rochdale)||6,329,356||54||21|
(55) Date not available
Please note that information regarding debt is calculated over a rolling year and that the percentages paid and written off in each area could also include amounts that were imposed in previous years. This is why the amount recorded as paid in any one year can exceed the amount imposed.
Dr. Iddon: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the draft guidance to doctors "Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Treatments: Good Practice in Decision Making", in particular the recommendation that a junior doctor be removed from the care of a patient should they have a conscientious objection to ending a patient's life by withholding fluids. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: It is not appropriate for me to make a statement on the draft guidance "Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Treatments: Good Practice in Decision-Making" which has been recently issued by the General Medical Council. My officials are currently considering this guidance and in the meantime, I would welcome the comments of the General Medical Council on the Government's current consultation paper "Making Decisions: Helping People who have Difficulty in Deciding for Themselves".
Mr. Drew: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department with reference to consultation on "Making decisions: helping people who have difficulty in deciding for themselves", what legal advice is available to patients faced by a doctor's decision to withhold food or fluid. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The current legal position, and the advice available, is set out in the consultation paper referred to by my hon. Friend. Usually agreement can be reached between health care professionals, the patient and people close to the patient about the best treatment and whether treatment should be continued. Artificial hydration and nutrition can only be withdrawn if that is clearly in the patient's wishes or, in circumstances where the patient is unable to give consent, if receiving it is no longer in his or her best interests. Where the patient is in a persistent vegetative state, authorisation must also be sought from the court. If there is doubt in a particular case, the court may be asked to decide what is in the patient's best interests. In such cases, where the patient lacks capacity to be able to instruct his or her own solicitors, the Official Solicitor will be appointed to act on the patient's behalf.
Dr. Iddon: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department whether it has been assumed that ending the life of a patient on grounds of poor quality is standard practice in her consultation on "Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Treatments: Good
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Practice in Decision Making"; and for what reason those consulted have not been asked for their opinions on this. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: "Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Treatments: Good Practice in Decision Making" has recently been produced by the General Medical Council, not by my Department. My Department is however consulting on guidance explaining mental incapacity issues in "Making Decisions: Helping People who have Difficulty Deciding for Themselves". This consultation paper reflects our view that decision-making relating to withdrawal of medical treatment which may lead to the death of a patient is a most sensitive area of medical practice and must be carried out according to strict guidelines and procedures. The draft guidance contained in my Department's consultation paper refers readers to guidance produced by the British Medical Association and by the General Medical Council which assist in promoting high-quality decision-making in this difficult area. The Government welcome responses on all issues addressed in the consultation paper and these will be thoroughly considered and will inform the guidance leaflets when they are published later this year.
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