Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether he has made an assessment of the effect on the financial markets of the election counts taking place the day after polling at the next general election. 
Mr. Wills: No such assessment has been made.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will make it his policy to bring forward proposals to ensure that general election counts take place on the evening of polling day. 
Mr. Wills: Rule 44(1) of the Parliamentary Election Rules in schedule 1 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 provides that the returning officer shall make arrangements for counting the votes in the presence of the counting agents as soon as practicable after the close of the poll.
However, the Government recognise the obvious strength of feeling on this issue and we hope that it would be taken into account by returning officers, alongside other relevant factors, when coming to a final decision on the timing of the count.
Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps are being taken to encourage voter registration in the run-up to the next general election. 
Mr. Wills: The Government implemented a range of measures in the Electoral Administration Act 2006 (EAA 2006), to encourage voter registration. These include:
placing electoral registration officers (EROs) under a duty to take all necessary steps to maintain the electoral register, including sending the canvass form more than once, inspecting records that the ERO is allowed to inspect, and making house to house inquiries;
establishing a funding mechanism to support novel and innovative projects and activities which EROs and returning officers take in line with their duty under section 69 of the EA Act to encourage electoral participation. The projects have used a variety of innovative methods aimed at encouraging people to register to vote;
providing for the Electoral Commission to introduce a performance standards framework for EROs. The standards provide a framework within which the performance of EROs can be assessed, and targeted work undertaken to drive up performance where necessary. The first assessments against these standards were published on 21 April 2009 and are available on the Commission’s website.
I understand that the Electoral Commission is currently planning to run a voter registration campaign from 1 April-19 April (1-13 April in Northern Ireland). If the general election is held on the same date as English local government elections on 6 May, the campaign will coincide with the final few weeks to register to vote (registration deadline would be 20 April). If the election is held after 6 May, the Commission will run a second burst of advertising in the days leading up to the registration deadline.
The campaigns will be weighted to target under-registered groups including:
Young people aged 16-24
Recent home movers
People living in privately rented accommodation
Certain black and minority ethnic groups,
If the election is called earlier, the Commission will launch the campaign earlier, and has plans in place for this.
The Electoral Commission has also made available a range of materials for local authorities to use in their own public awareness work in the run-up to the general election. These include advertisement templates and press release templates. The Electoral Commission’s Do Politics site, which is used by local authorities in planning their public awareness work, has case studies of work that EROs have undertaken to encourage under-registered groups to participate in the democratic process.
The Government are also keen to find ways to enhance registration rates among service personnel to support their participation in the general election. On 26 January 2010, a statutory instrument was laid in Parliament which extends the service voter declaration period from three to five years. This is intended to facilitate higher levels of registration among service personnel. In addition, since 2005, the Electoral Commission has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Defence on annual campaigns to provide information to armed forces personnel and their families about registration, voting and elections.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people have been convicted of a firearms offence for which a mandatory minimum sentence was applicable in each year since 1998. 
Claire Ward: The available information is shown in the table.
Information on the number of persons convicted and sentenced from 1998 to 2008 for firearms offences liable for a mandatory minimum custodial sentence prescribed by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 is shown in the table. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 prescribed mandatory minimum custodial sentences for the offences of: possessing or distributing prohibited firearms or ammunition and possessing or distributing firearms disguised as other objects, where the offences were committed on or after 26 January 2004. The data held by the Ministry of Justice do not indicate the date the offence took place
or the age of the offender at that time, so it is not possible to determine the number of these cases where the minimum mandatory sentence was applicable. The number of offenders sentenced has been supplied in lieu of the number convicted.
This table is an extension of the information shown in table 2.9 of Sentencing Statistics 2008 available at the following link:
|Persons sentenced for firearms offences liable for mandatory minimum custodial sentence as prescribed by the Criminal Justice Act 2003(1), 1998-2008—England and Wales|
|Number of persons|
|Age of offender||1998||1999||2000||2001||2002||2003(2)||2004(2)||2005||2006||2007||2008|
|(1) Offences under Firearms Act 1968 of: Possessing or distributing prohibited weapons or ammunition, or Possessing or distributing firearm disguised as other object.|
(2) The mandatory is only applicable for offences that occurred on or after 26 January 2004.
(3) Mandatory minimum for persons aged 16 or 17 at time of offence and for offences taking place after 26 January 2004 is three years. Not all of those in this age bracket would have been eligible for the mandatory minimum as they may have been under 16 at the time of the offence; it is the age at the point of sentence that is recorded on courts proceedings database.
Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) prosecutions, (b) convictions and (c) cautions there were in 2008 for offences under the Hunting Act 2004. 
Claire Ward: The number of offenders cautioned, and the number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts in England and Wales for offences under the Hunting Act 2004, in 2008 can be viewed in the following table.
|The number of offenders cautioned(1,2) and the number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates' courts and found guilty at all courts for offences under the Hunting Act 2004(3), England and Wales, 2008(4,5)|
|(1) The cautions statistics relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been cautioned for two or more offences at the same time the principal offence is the more serious offence.|
(2) From 1 June 2000 the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 came into force nationally and removed the use of cautions for persons under 18 and replaced them with reprimands and final warnings. These figures have been included in the totals.
(3) Came into force on 18 February 2005.
(4) The court proceedings statistics relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences the principal offence is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.
(5) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.
Justice Statistics Analytical Services - Ministry of Justice.
Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many interpleader actions were commenced in the High Court in each of the last five years; 
(2) when his Department plans to publish its new scale of fees for interpleader proceedings; 
(3) how many fee assessment hearings relating to interpleader proceedings have been held in each of the last five years. 
Bridget Prentice: There are no figures held centrally relating to the number of interpleading actions that were commenced in the High Court. There are also no counts of fee assessment hearings relating to interpleader proceedings in the county courts and High Court. These could be obtained through the examination of individual case files only at disproportionate cost.
There are no plans to publish any new court fees in relation to interpleader proceedings. The current fees can be found in the Civil Proceedings Fees Order 2008 and the Civil Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2009.
Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether Mr. Bernard Pennington of HM Prison Kingston received legal aid funding in respect of his claim against the Chair of the Prisons Independent Monitoring Board. 
Bridget Prentice: The Legal Services Commission has no record of funding this individual in this case.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people convicted of an offence of (a) knife possession and (b) firearms possession have received the maximum sentence applicable in each year since 1998. 
Claire Ward: The requested information is currently being collated and I will write to the hon. Member shortly with this information.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people convicted of a criminal offence in England and Wales in each year since 1998 had never previously been convicted. 
Claire Ward: Figures for offenders sentenced for indictable offences in England and Wales between 2000 and 2008 with no previous convictions or cautions are presented in the following table. These figures cover both adult and juvenile offenders.
|Offenders sentenced for indictable offences with no previous convictions or cautions, 2000-2008, England and Wales|
|Number and percentage|
|All sentenced offenders(1)||First time offenders(2)||Percentage of first time offenders|
|(1) Counts of person sentenced during the year. An offender may be counted more than once if he or she has been sentenced more than once during the year.|
(2) Offenders who have never been cautioned or convicted previously.
These figures are taken from Table 6.4 of ‘Sentencing Statistics 2008’ which was published on 28 January 2010 and can be found at:
Figures prior to 2000 are not available.
The figures have been drawn from the police's administrative IT system, the police national computer, which, as with any large scale recording system, is subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. The figures are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded by the police.