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Mr. Singh: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department in what way the Narey reforms continue to create additional duty solicitor costs; and what reasons have been identified for this. 
Mr. Lock: Additional costs have arisen as a result of the arrangements introduced to allow a defendant appearing at a Narey hearing to consult a solicitor of his or her own choice on the same basis as a court duty solicitor. These costs arose because of the way the scheme was structured; because higher rates were payable for some categories of work; and because solicitors have provided help in a wider range of cases than expected. The introduction of the general criminal contract on 2 April will provide greater control over payments for this work.
Mr. Singh: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of incentives to encourage firms to provide legal services to dispersed asylum seekers. 
Mr. Lock: Following the introduction of incentives to encourage solicitors firms to provide legal services to asylum seekers, the number of firms with contracts to undertake immigration and asylum work has risen substantially from 400 in July 2000 to 479 in January 2001.
The Lord Chancellor has recently announced a further 10 per cent. increase in the advice rates for immigration work. The expansion packages for dispersal areas have also been received very positively. The increase in the supply of good-quality legal services is therefore expected to continue.
Mr. Singh: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what further progress the Lord Chancellor has made in implementing the recommendations of the report by Sir Leonard Peach on procedures for appointments to judicial office; what progress has been made in setting up the pilot assessment centre; and when it will be operational. 
Mr. Lock: The Lord Chancellor has made significant progress in implementing the 26 recommendations made in the report by Sir Leonard Peach. For example, changes have been made to the consultation process and application forms. Two major recommendations were for the creation of a Commission for Judicial Appointments and the development of a pilot assessment centre. It is anticipated that an announcement about the appointment of the First Commissioner for Judicial Appointments will be made in March. Following the appointment of the First Commissioner, work can begin to appoint Deputy Commissioners. Preparatory work for the pilot assessment centre has begun and will continue this year with a view to running the pilot next year.
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Mr. Singh: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the take up among solicitors' firms of the new general criminal contracts being issued for criminal legal work by the Legal Services Commission. 
Mr. Lock: Solicitors firms will be invited by the Legal Services Commission to sign contracts in the second half of February 2001. The Lord Chancellor has just announced an overall increase in payments of 7.25 per cent. available to criminal practitioners in private practice who sign the criminal defence service contract, which will be introduced on 2 April 2001. There are some 3,300 solicitors offices which currently hold a crime franchise and provide criminal legal aid services throughout England and Wales which will be invited to sign contracts with the Commission.
Mr. Singh: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what research is being undertaken on the impact of civil court fees on access to justice; what effect the reduction in the number of cases has had on the financing of the Court Service; and if further fee increases are planned for the current year. 
Mr. Lock: It is impossible to assess the impact of civil court fees on access to justice without also looking at the effect and intention of the civil justice reforms, and other factors and trends that may influence behaviour. Two independent surveys on the impact of the reforms have already noted changes in litigation behaviour, with less litigation and faster case settlement. Our plans for evaluating the civil justice reforms will look at the effect of the reforms on access to justice. It would be difficult to scope a study that concentrated on fees alone.
Any litigant in person who is in financial hardship can apply to the court for exemption or remission of a fee. Exemption will be automatic if someone is in receipt of a means-tested benefit. In other cases, a court officer will consider remitting all or part of a fee if financial hardship is proven.
A public consultation paper on fee increases, issued in January 2000, explained that the fall in numbers of proceedings issued following implementation of the civil justice reforms had been partly responsible for a fee income shortfall against cost of £18 million (approximately 5 per cent.). The main reason for the shortfall was that costs could not decrease in line with the reduction in workload due to the new tasks undertaken by the courts in processing cases.
County court fees are currently recovering their associated costs but fees charged in the Supreme Court are not because the civil justice reforms increased the jurisdiction of county courts, leading to a fall of over 60 per cent. in proceedings issued in the Supreme Court.
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of the accuracy of the Department's estimate of the legal aid costs of the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998, based on the first three months. 
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will provide a monthly breakdown of the number of (a) oral and (b) paper-only family visit appeals received by the Immigration Appellate Authority since 2 October 2000. 
|Oral hearings||Paper appeals|
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many family visit appeals the Immigration Appellate Authority plans to deal with (a) at an oral hearing and (b) on the papers only in the financial year 2001-02. 
Jane Kennedy: The Immigration Appellate Authority expects to receive and process approximately 10,000 family visit visa appeals in 2001-02. Of this number, 6,000 cases are expected to be for an oral hearing and 4,000 for determination on the papers alone.
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many (a) oral and (b) paper-only family visit appeals have been received by the Immigration Appellate Authority since 2 October 2000 in which the Immigration Advisory Service has been identified as representing the appellant. 
Jane Kennedy: The Immigration Appellate Authority has identified 10 cases between 2 October 2000 and 31 January 2001 in which the Immigration Advisory Service represented the appellant. Of this number seven were for an oral hearing and three for paper alone.
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will provide a monthly breakdown of the number of family visit appeals (a) determined, (b) allowed and (c) dismissed by the Immigration Appellate Authority (i) at an oral hearing and (ii) on the papers only since 2 October 2000. 
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Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many certificates confirming the grant of controlled legal representation have been lodged with the Immigration Appellate Authority since (a) 1 April and (b) October 2000; and how many certificates lodged since 2 October 2000 relate to a family visit appeal. 
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