HC Deb 12 April 2000 vol 348 cc236-8W
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many lawyers are employed by his Department; and how many were employed in 1995. [117810]

Mr. Straw

The number of lawyers employed in the Home Office Legal Adviser's Branch on 31 March 1995 was 18. On 31 March 2000, the Branch had 31 lawyers in post (equating, when part-time staff are taken into account, to 30.5 posts) and two vacancies (which have now been filled by lawyers on loan from other Government Departments). Four of the lawyers in post on 31 March 2000 were also on loan from other Government Departments. The Branch provides legal services to the Northern Ireland Office as well as the Home Office.

In addition to its traditional responsibilities, the Home Office has, since May 1997, taken responsibility for an important part of the Government's constitutional programme, including the Human Rights Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Bill and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill. The Branch also has responsibility for Northern Ireland constitutional legislation. Home Office lawyers have 12 Bills (including Bills for the Northern Ireland Office) in the Government's programme for the current parliamentary session.