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24 Sept 2002 : Column 454W—continued

Fines (Enforcement)

Simon Hughes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to improve the enforcement of fines imposed by the courts. [73228]

Yvette Cooper: The Government are committed to improving the enforcement of financial penalties. Following the transfer of lead responsibility of warrant execution from the police to Magistrates' Courts Committees in April 2001, my Department has been taking forward a programme of work aimed at improving enforcement. Magistrates' Courts Committees have also been given nearly £10 million extra from April 2002, ring-fenced for enforcement purposes.

The White Paper, "Justice for All", published in July, heralded new legislative proposals aimed at improving enforcement rates. The proposals could include giving court staff a range of discretionary powers to manage the collection of fines on behalf of the court. While those facing genuine difficulties should have access to support and advice, defaulters who refuse to co-operate with the court would face greater sanctions, including for example increasing the fine if the offender fails to pay on time.

Meetings

Keith Vaz: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he next plans to meet Mr. Duncan Webster and Mr. David Wilkinson. [73050]

Yvette Cooper: I met Mr. Duncan Webster and Mr. David Wilkinson on 4 September 2002. I have no current plans to meet them again, but I would be happy to do so.