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9 Apr 2003 : Column WA37

Written Answers

Wednesday, 9th April 2003.

CAFCASS Corporate Plan

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service's corporate plan for 2003–06.[HL2482]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) has published its corporate plan for 2003 to 2006. The plan set out CAFCASS's key performance targets that I have set for CAFCASS in 2003–04. These targets are set out below:


    In public law no less than 80 per cent of cases should be allocated within 7 days.


    In private law cases at least 95 per cent of requests in the month should be allocated 10 weeks before the filing date.


    Carry out during 2003–04 a customer satisfaction survey to inform the development of a service improvement action plan.


    All new recruits to have received induction training within 16 weeks of joining.


    Sickness absence rate of no higher than 5 per cent (equivalent to 12 days per person per annum).


    Manage our funding to live within, subject to a 1 per cent tolerance limit, our resource allocation.


    During 2003–04 develop a demonstrably robust methodology for calculating unit costs and assess the baseline position, to inform specific key performance indicators from 2004–05. Copies of the corporate plan have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Further copies of the corporate plan may be obtained from CAFCASS.

European Convention on Human Rights, Protocol 7

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to give effect to Rights Brought Home: The Human Rights Bill October 1997 (Cm 3782) by introducing necessary legislation enabling them to ratify Protocol 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights and to introduce legislation incorporating into United Kingdom law the provisions of Protocol 7 regarding: (a) procedural safeguards relating to the expulsion of aliens; (b) the right of appeal in criminal matters; (c) compensation for wrongful conviction; (d) the right not to be tried or punished twice; and (e) equality between spouses.[HL2291]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The matter is under consideration as part of the Government's interdepartmental review of international human rights instruments.

Ram Doctrine

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 24 March (WA 59–60), whether they will give the main examples of circumstances during the past five years in which they decided, in accordance with the Ram doctrine, that legislation was undesirable.[HL2293]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Occasions on which the Government have chosen not to legislate in order to provide statutory authority for an action that is in any event lawful at common law are necessarily difficult to categorise. No list is maintained.

However, the Government recognise limits to the reliance that should be placed on non-statutory authority. For example, in accordance with Government Accounting, paragraph 11.3.33, departmental estimates should identify expenditure which rests on the sole authority of the appropriation Act. This is done by the use of symbols in the notes to the estimates. Departments are also required constantly to review continuing provision to ensure that it complies with the 1932 concordat (referred to in previous Written Answers) so far as possible.

It follows that scrutiny of the estimates for each year should disclose the main cases in which expenditure rested on the appropriation Act, without other statutory provision.

HM Prison Brixton

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date it is now proposed to publish the report of HM Inspector of Prisons on the most recent inspection of HM Prison Brixton.[HL2040]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons expects shortly to finalise the report of the full announced inspection of HMP Brixton which took place in September 2002.

This report has been delayed because the inspection team leader has subsequently been appointed as Governor of HMP Brixton, following informal, approaches made to him by the Prison Service before the inspection. The chief inspector was not informed of this before the inspection. The appointment of the team leader as governor of HMP Brixton was confirmed on 18 December 2002, while the report was still in draft and before it had been presented to Ministers or the Prison Service.

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To make clear the independence of the inspectorate from the service it inspects, the chief inspector was initially minded to make available only a summary of findings and order a re-inspection. Given the investment of time and resources by the whole inspection team and the establishment, and the overriding need to make public the work of the inspectorate, the chief inspector will make the whole record of the inspection publicly available. However, HMP Brixton will be re-inspected later this year and a report on that inspection published in the normal way.

Rehabilitation of Offenders

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their response to the report of the review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, Breaking the Circle.[HL2509]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The report of the review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, Breaking the Circle, was published in July 2002. The comments of consultees have now been fully considered and the Government's response is published today. Copies of response have been placed in the Library.

Immigration Detention Centres:Visiting Hours

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the visiting hours at all immigration detention centres should be the same; what changes have been made since this matter was drawn to their attention; and what further changes are planned.[HL2394]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): It is not necessarily the case that the visiting hours at all immigration removal centres need to be identical. For example, individual centres service different operational priorities and, as such, will not have identical visiting requirements.

There has recently been an extension of the visiting hours at Lindholme Immigration Removal Centre and we have undertaken to review the visiting hours there and at Haslar Immigration Removal Centre. My honourable friend the Minister of State for Immigration, Citizenship and Community Cohesion will write to the noble Lord when this review is complete.

Registration as a British Citizen

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to regularise the position of persons who, after 30 April, are enabled to be registered as British citizens under Section 13 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 but who had been previously registered as British citizens as a result of administrative error.[HL2395]

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Lord Filkin: There is no need to regularise the position of people who have been registered as British citizens as a result of administrative error. Subject to voluntary renunciation or, where there are grounds for this, deprivation of citizenship, such people will continue to be British citizens.

A person who is not a British citizen but who is issued, in error, with a passport describing him as such does not thereby become a British citizen. From 30 April anybody in this position who meets the requirements for registration under Section 4C of the British Nationality Act 1981, as inserted by Section 13 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, will be entitled to registration as a British citizen.

Military Service: Compensation Arrangements

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the review by the Ministry of Defence of Armed Forces compensation arrangements, whether the standard of proof required to gain compensation for a medical condition caused or aggravated by military service is to change from reasonable doubt to balance of probabilities; and[HL2216]

    What percentage of currently successful claims for compensation for a medical condition caused or aggravated by military service would fail if the standard of proof required were changed from reasonable doubt to balance of probabilities; and[HL2217]

    What representations they have received from the ex-service community expressing concern about the proposal to change the standard of proof for compensation for a medical condition caused or aggravated by military service from reasonable doubt to balance of probabilities; and[HL2218]

    What arrangements are in place to ensure that claims for compensation for medical conditions caused or aggravated by military service which are accepted by the Veterans Agency for war pensions are also accepted by the Ministry of Defence; and whether such agreement between the two bodies is desirable; and[HL2220]

    Whether the disability awards given to ex-servicemen and women are commensurate with the levels of service given by those people in the course of their service careers.[HL2221]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Ministry of Defence currently provides compensation for death and disablement caused or aggravated by service under two schemes, the War Pension Scheme (WPS) and the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS). Each scheme operates under separate legislation and the standard of proof applied to claims under the two schemes is different.

The War Pension Scheme was introduced in 1917 and its generous standard of proof reflects in particular the limits of medical understanding of the

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time. Claims may be made at any time after service release. Specifically, where a claim is made for a war pension within seven years of termination of service, the onus is wholly on the Secretary of State to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the disablement was not due to service. Where a claim is made more than seven years after termination, the onus rests on the claimant to raise a reasonable doubt by reliable evidence that the disablement is in fact due to service, the claimant receiving the benefit of any reasonable doubt.

The attributable benefits elements of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme introduced attributable pensions in 1973. This applies to disablements leading to medical discharge; it considers claims against the balance of probabilities standard of proof in line with most other such schemes and the practice of civil courts. It places the onus of proof on the individual. We recognise that the use of different standards of proof for determining attributability under the two schemes is not well understood by claimants but it has not been considered appropriate so far to change these arrangements. This is an issue that has been considered within the current review of Armed Forces compensation arrangements. In March 2001, we published proposals for a new scheme based entirely on the balance of probabilities standard of proof. A number of respondents have expressed their concern that this would not be appropriate to the special status of the Armed Forces and the demands placed on them. This view has been particularly strongly represented by ex-service organisations. We have been in close consultation with these and other interested groups and will continue to work with the ex-service community in finalising the details of the new scheme. We expect to make a final decision on the broad design of a new scheme shortly.

We do not hold information on how many WPS awards would be unsuccessful under the balance of probabilities standard of proof and this could be provided only at disproportionate effort and cost.

Benefits awarded to medically discharged service personnel depend on whether the disablement is found attributable to service. The AFPS provides normal occupational pension scheme ill-health pensions (known as service invaliding pensions). Levels of these are based on rank and the length of service. Where a disablement is found attributable to service, both the WPS and AFPS provide attributable benefits related to rank and the medically assessed degree of disablement; in the case of the AFPS this usually results in enhanced pension benefits. These arrangements are also being considered in the light of wider good practice as part of our reviews of Armed Forces pension and compensation arrangements.


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