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In 2002 Bench Training and Development Committees (BTDC), were introduced by the Justices of the Peace (Size and Chairmanship of Bench) Rules 2002 to replace the Bench Chairmanship Committee, with statutory responsibility for overseeing the training and appraisal of court chairmen plus a number of other training responsibilities.
In 2003 the Magistrates National Training Initiative was introduced. This refined the competence framework for magistrates, set a training syllabus for magistrates in all their jurisdictions, recommended a standard national practice for the mentoring and appraisal of magistrates, and provided guidance to BTDCs on their training functions.
In 2005 training became compulsory for magistrates before they were permitted to undertake certain functions, the Lord Chancellor was required to provide training material for those compulsory courses and the JSB assumed a strengthened role in magistrate training.
The 2005 Rules also created Magistrates Area Training Committees (MATC). MATCs are responsible for agreeing the annual training plan for magistrates in their area and monitoring and evaluating its implementation.
In 2005 the JSB and Her Majestys Courts Service (HMCS) agreed a Minimum Protocol for The Provision of Magistrates Training. This ensures that HMCS provides sufficient resources to allow magistrates to fulfil their minimum training requirements. That Protocol is renegotiated annually.
Before being allowed to sit in court the newly appointed magistrate undertakes an initial training session of three hours to introduce him/her to the bench and its organisation. This is followed by a minimum of three days training covering such topics as the jurisdiction of magistrates; judicial decision making; case management and preliminary decisions; summary trial; evidence and determining guilt or innocence; sentencing, and enforcement of court orders. This training input is supplemented by court observations. In addition newly appointed magistrates are required to visit penal establishments and these
visits are normally completed within the first year of sitting. The newly appointed magistrates learning and development is supported by a mentor scheme. Approximately 12 months after beginning to sit in court he/she will attend a further 12 hours consolidation training. Following this an appraisal will take place to identify if the magistrate has any outstanding training needs.
Although training provision varies across different court areas in England and Wales in response to local training needs, all sitting magistrates are required to undertake a minimum of six hours training every three years. In addition magistrates are provided with extra initial and continuation training if they hold additional responsibilities, for example if they sit in the Youth Court or Family Proceedings Court. Additional training is also provided if there is major legislative change, for example to support the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. On an annual basis Her Majestys Court Service and the Judicial Studies Board agree a national minimum training provision for all magistrates to ensure that appropriate resources are available to support magistrates training.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs for what reasons the Mental Health guide was withdrawn from the Legal Services Commissions Improving your Quality guides and if she will make a statement. 
Vera Baird: The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has withdrawn the Mental Health Improving Your Quality guide following feedback from the profession. This is an independent guide, written by the mental health peer review panel. The LSC has facilitated the development, but is not a contributor. The LSC is working with the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and peer reviewers to provide more appropriate wording. The LSC hopes to reissue an amended mental health guide in the near future.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many requests (a) her Department and (b) the Legal Services Commission has received in the last 12 months for publication of the final report of the monitoring and evaluation study of the Public Defender Service. 
Vera Baird: In the last 12 months my Department has received two requests for publication of the final report of the monitoring and evaluation study of the PDS and the Legal Services Commission has received three.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs on what date her Department plans to publish the final report of the monitoring and evaluation study of the Public Defender Service; and if she will make a statement on the reasons for the time taken to complete this work. 
Vera Baird: The final report of the monitoring and evaluation study into the PDS was published on Monday 8 January 2007. The publication of the report was delayed for various reasons including the consideration of the interim findings of Lord Carter.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much the Public Defender Service cost in each year since inception; how many (a) qualified lawyers and (b) other staff the service has employed in the same period; how many cases the Public Defender Service has handled in the same period; and what the average cost was per case. 
Vera Baird: The costs of the Public Defender Service, the number of cases handled, the number of lawyers and other staff are given in the following table. Figures on average case costs for each of the years since the inception of the PDS are not available. However, average case costs for 2001-02 to 2003-04 are available in the independent report, Evaluation of the Public Defender Services in England and Wales (Table 5.7a p216). A copy of this report is available on the commissions website at the following address:
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs when the Public Records Act 1958 Instrument of Extended Retention No. 38 was last reconsidered; and when she expects it next to be reconsidered. 
Vera Baird: This instrument, which covers a wide range of records, was issued in 1996. It is not normal practice for whole instruments to be reviewed. The instrument itself gives the dates when retentions of particular records are due to be reviewed.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how soon after the transfer of the 1911 census records for England and Wales to the National Archives the Keeper of Public Records will have a duty to make arrangements for the release of that census under section 5(3) of the Public Records Act 1958. 
Vera Baird: The transfer of the 1911 census records to the Public Record Office took place in 1966. Access to specific information in this census was subject to an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Information Commissioners decision was published on 12 December 2006. The chief executive of the National Archives is making arrangements to provide access to non-personally sensitive information.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of firms of solicitors closing over the last three years; and if she will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: I understand from the Law Society that 5,657 firms of solicitors have closed in the last three years. No information is available on the reasons for closure. The type of practices that have closed in the period include: partnerships; sole practitioners; multi national practices; incorporated limited liability partnerships; and foreign law practices.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether special advisers in her Department have made use of an official car in the last 12 months, excluding travel when accompanying a Minister. 
Ms Harman: Plans for the renovation of the Middlesex Guildhall on Parliament Square have been developed by renowned conservation architects Feilden and Mawson in consultation with the existing Law Lords, Westminster city council and English Heritage. The city and planning committee of Westminster city council unanimously agreed to grant planning and listed building consent, which was granted in full on 21 November 2006. We are in final negotiations with Kier Group Plc, our preferred bidder to carry out the renovations.
Substantial progress is also being made on the creation of the court as a new and independent organisation such as streamlining business processes, developing a finance structure and supporting the Law Lords consultation on the supreme court rules.
Bridget Prentice: My Department has not provided any funding to individual trade unions in the last three years. We do however, in line with statutory rights and along with other civil service Departments, provide reasonable time off for carrying out trade union duties.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of British citizens living abroad who are no longer entitled to vote in UK parliamentary elections. 
Bridget Prentice: I have not made such an estimate. I understand that the Electoral Commission has undertaken work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help raise awareness among British citizens living abroad of their voting rights in the UK and how to maintain them.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what criteria are used to assess the levels of communication support provided for deaf employees under the access to work scheme; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. McGuire: Access to work advisers are required to look at each case individually and identify the most suitable and cost effective solution in agreement with the customer and their employer. Advisers use a number of standard questions to determine both the number of British sign language interpreters required and what their minimum qualification level should be.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what provisions there are under the access to work scheme for deaf clients, using British Sign Language as a preferred language, who require more than one interpreter for appointments for longer than two hours. 
Mrs. McGuire [holding answer 18 December 2006]: For appointments lasting between two and three hours, advisers are asked to look at the structure and length of the meeting, including any breaks, to decide whether the provision of one or two interpreters is most appropriate. Policy guidance has recently been strengthened and it is now standard practice to provide two interpreters for meetings over three hours in length.
Mrs. McGuire [holding answer 18 December 2006]: There are no formal qualification requirements for access to work advisers. Any adviser posts are filled through a competency based system in line with any other Department for Work and Pensions vacancies.
New access to work advisers are required to undertake a training programme consisting of a four-day course specifically about access to work and a two-day module covering general disability awareness and how to work with customers with specific disabilities and health conditions.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to table five on page 153 of his Department's departmental report 2006, what the Department's administration costs for (a) children, (b) working age, (c) pensioners and (d) disabled people were in each year since 1996-97. 
Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001 from the Department of Social Security and parts of the former Department for Education and Employment including the Employment Service. The first departmental report produced for the Department was in 2002 (Cm 5424). The earliest year included was 1998-99. Therefore data are not available in the format requested for all years from 1996-97.
|Table 1 Administration costs 2000-01 to 2007-08|
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