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Tropical Rain Forests

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to reduce the rate at which tropical rain forests are being destroyed. [150727]

Clare Short: The Department for International Development's purpose is poverty elimination. Forests play a major role in providing livelihoods for poor people, and this is the starting point for our involvement in the sector. The causes of deforestation are complex and often lie outside the forest sector in such areas as property law, governance and the economic incentive framework. DFID works with developing countries to help them, and particularly their poorer forest communities, gain long-term benefit from trees through sustainable management, which secures both the existence of forests and the global environmental benefits they provide. DFID currently spends circa £30 million per annum on forest-related projects. A copy of the 2001 directory of DFID forest projects will be placed in the House of Commons Library as soon as it is available.

My Department works internationally in a variety of forums to promote sustainable forest management which supports the needs of the poor. DFID also funds the Global Environment Facility which includes forests within its support to biodiversity conservation. As stated in our recent White Paper, we will press for a 50 per cent. increase in the resources of the GEF at the next replenishment.


Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the impact of the severe weather in Mongolia this winter on the country's economy; and what steps her Department is taking to assist those adversely affected. [151315]

Clare Short: Mongolia has been hit by two consecutive winter disasters or "Dzuds" (1990-2000 and 2000-01) caused by widespread drought in the summer, unusually cold temperatures in the autumn and heavy snow fall in winter. These conditions are seriously affecting both animal and human welfare. Last year's dzud affected 450,000 herders and killed approximately 3 million livestock. This year's dzud is more serious. Over 300,000 herders are affected in 20 our of 21 provinces and 600,000 livestock have already died.

The Government of Mongolia have been active in disaster preparedness and relief assistance in dzud- affected areas. However, the two consecutive dzud have

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overstretched national capacity. The Government have therefore requested international relief assistance following a needs assessment, in which my Department was involved. An Appeal for $11.8 million has been launched by the Government through the United Nations.

The Appeal aims to target vulnerable groups on the most severely affected provinces and seeks to fulfil unmet relief needs. It focuses on building the disaster management of the Mongolian State Emergency Commission and other relevant national partners to enhance preparedness and future response.

We have provided US $1 million for the provision of emergency relief under the framework of the UN appeal to be channelled through humanitarian agencies working in Mongolia.


Ministerial Visits (Peterborough)

Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will list the Ministers in his Department who visited any of the constituencies which are in the Peterborough unitary authority area between 1 January 2000 and 14 February 2001, indicating in each case (a) the date of the visit, (b) the constituencies included in the visit and (c) if the local hon. Member met the Minister. [151029]

The Solicitor-General: Neither the Attorney-General nor I visited any of the constituencies in the Peterborough unitary authority area between 1 January 2000 and 14 February 2001.

Crown Prosecution Service (Chester)

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement on the matters discussed, and the content of and conclusions from those discussions during his visit to the Cheshire offices of the Crown Prosecution Service in Chester on Friday 16 February. [151286]

The Solicitor-General: I visited the Chester office of CPS Cheshire in order to discuss the local agencies' performance in prosecuting persistent young offenders. I also discussed with the management team their progress with the recommendations of Sir Iain Glidewell, relations with the Press, progress on diversity issues and the findings from the very recent report by Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. I was told how CPS Cheshire intends to make use of the increased funds available for the next financial year and I left the office satisfied that good progress is being made with all the matters that we discussed.

Child Sex Offenders

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Solicitor-General what guidance is issued to the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the prosecution of those involved in illegal sexual acts performed on under-age children. [151356]

The Solicitor-General: As with any alleged offence, Crown Prosecutors review each case in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. They apply both the evidential and public interest tests set out in the Code.

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If there is a realistic prospect of conviction for a sexual offence, relevant considerations as to whether a prosecution is in the public interest include the age of the defendant, the age difference between the parties, whether there was a breach of trust and whether the child willingly entered into the relationship.

It would be rare that a sexual offence against a child by an adult would not be prosecuted on public interest grounds. In respect of unlawful sexual intercourse, the public interest requires a prosecution where the child victim is under 13 years of age unless exceptional circumstances exist.

Departmental Politics (Clwyd, South)

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Clwyd, South constituency, the effects on Clwyd, South of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [150916]

The Solicitor-General: In October 1999, in line with national policy, the Wrexham office of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in liaison with the police and Wrexham Maelor magistrates court, introduced the Narey proposals. The North Wales Area, within which the Wrexham office falls, had been a Narey Pilot site since October 1998. All defendants charged with a criminal offence now make their first appearance before Wrexham Maelor magistrates court within 96 hours. This is in line with the Government's policy of speeding up and modernising the criminal justice system. Current figures indicate that around 40 per cent. of defendants now have their cases finalised at the first hearing. CPS North Wales is also piloting Statutory Time Limits in youth cases and has worked together with the other agencies locally to speed up youth justice, particularly those involving persistent young offenders. This has resulted in the target of 71 days being achieved in two of the quarters in the current year. Thereafter since May 1997, the Crown Prosecution Service has reduced the time taken to finalise prosecutions arising in the South Clwyd Area, especially cases involving young offenders. On 1 November 1999 the Wrexham Branch office altered its structure in line with the proposals contained in the Glidewell review. This enabled the CPS to place greater emphasis on more serious crime proceeding to the Crown court.

CPS North Wales is also piloting the Victim Notification arrangements and has established a Victim Information Bureau at Wrexham, which provides detailed explanations to victims when cases are dropped or charges substantially amended. Meetings are also offered to victims in certain cases and so far, since the commencement of the pilot in April 2000, seven meetings have been held.

Actions and policies of the Treasury Solicitor's Department and Serious Fraud Office affect my hon. Friend's constituency only indirectly.

Serco Contracts

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will list the contracts that exist between SERCO and the Department, its executive agencies and associated public bodies; and if he will list those which have existed in the last three years. [151347]

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The Solicitor-General: The Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, Treasury Solicitor's Department, Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service have no existing contracts with SERCO and have not had any during the past three years.

Crown Prosecution Service (Guildford)

Mr. St. Aubyn: To ask the Solicitor-General whom he met at his meeting in Guildford at the Crown Prosecution Service at 9 am on 12 February; and what the purpose and content of the meeting was. [150660]

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The Solicitor-General: On 12 February I visited Guildford to meet the staff of the Crown Prosecution Service, Surrey. The hon. Member was invited to accompany me, but unfortunately was not able to.

Prior to the visit, I chaired a ministerial meeting at 9 am, to review progress on the Youth Justice Pledge in Surrey. The meeting was hosted by the Chief Crown Prosecutor and attended by senior members of the criminal justice agencies in Surrey including Surrey Police, Surrey magistrates courts, the Court Service, Surrey Youth Offending Team, PA Consulting and CPS Surrey.

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