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Domestic Violence

Ms Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the measures which he has taken to tackle domestic violence since May 1997. [159418]

Mr. Boateng: The most significant aspect of violence against women is domestic violence. It is a serious and abhorrent crime which the Government are determined to tackle effectively, and we have made it one of our key priorities. We have emphasised that the domestic context in which it occurs is an aggravating not a mitigating factor and that it is an issue which we expect the local crime reduction partnerships set up under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to cover in their audits of local problems and strategies for addressing them.

Since coming to office, we have undertaken a broad range of measures to reduce the level of domestic violence and strengthen support for victims.

I have mentioned the Crime and Disorder Act; other early measures were implementation of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and of Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996. We followed this with the successful "Break the Chain" publicity and awareness campaign for domestic violence survivors and those who might be able to help them.

Within the last year we have: issued multi-agency guidance to agencies dealing with domestic violence and specific guidance to Health Service professionals; issued a new Home Office circular to the police; included domestic violence within police Best Value performance indicators; provided £120 million additional capital funding for a new Safer Communities Supported Housing Fund for specified vulnerable groups, including the survivors of domestic violence; and, increased funding for Victim Support.

Last summer we provided £7 million under the Crime Reduction programme for a violence against women initiative addressing domestic violence and rape and sexual assault by known assailants. That money is currently funding for development and evaluation until March 2002, 34 projects that will help us identify what interventions in what circumstances are the most effective

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and cost-effective in reducing crime. We have since announced, on 26 March, that we will be providing up to an extra £3.7 million to fund until March 2003 a further 24 projects addressing violence against women.

Other current initiatives include work with the Association of Chief Police Officers on a circular on effective use of provisions in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997; the evaluation of probation service domestic violence perpetrator programmes; the development of a domestic violence toolkit on the Home Office's crime reduction website; research on possible future publicity work and, the inclusion in the British Crime Survey 2001 of a special module on domestic violence.

Ministerial Group on the Family

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the Ministerial Group on the Family last met; and if he will make a statement on its current programme of work. [159009]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 26 April 2001]: The Ministerial Group on the Family, as with other Ministerial Groups, meets as needed.

The Government have a robust framework of family policies in place. We have made excellent headway in tackling child poverty by helping parents back into work and ensuring that hard working families are rewarded through increases to the Working Families Tax Credit, and through the new Children's Tax Credit. All families with children have benefited from increases to Child Benefit. On 26 April, we outlined proposals to break the long-term cycle of disadvantage by setting up the new Child Trust Fund, starting at birth, with further investments at five, 11 and 16, to give young people a savings base with which to start their adult lives.

We have simplified and increased significantly maternity leave and pay, and announced the introduction of paternity pay ensuring that parents can spend time together as a family after the birth of a new baby. Parental leave provisions enable parents to take unpaid leave during the first few years of the children's lives. The National Childcare Strategy and free early education places for all four and many three-year-olds are providing an increasing number of high quality places for children, to enable parents to work. The Worklife Balance Campaign encourages employers to adopt flexible working practices which will enable employees to achieve a better work-life balance.

The Family Support Grant provides funding to over 60 voluntary organisations working with parents to improve their parenting skills. These include Parentline Plus which runs a national freephone helpline providing a listening ear for parents, and the National Family and Parenting Institute which is raising the profile and importance of parenting. We provide core and project funding to a range of marriage and relationship support organisations including Relate--the largest provider of marriage, family and relationship support in the country.

Locally-based initiatives such as Early Excellence Centres, Sure Start and the Children's Fund provide a range of support services to children and their families in

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our most deprived areas. The new adoption framework and "Quality Protects" programme will help some of the most disadvantaged children and their families.

Criminal Justice System

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what targets he (a) has set and (b) plans to set and what data he has identified to enable his Department to meet its PSA target to ensure just processes and just and effective outcomes in the criminal justice system. [159027]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 26 April 2001]: Targets have been set to reduce the rate of reconvictions of all offenders by 5 per cent. by 2004 compared to the predicted rate, and of all young offenders by 5 per cent. by 2004 compared to the predicted rate.

These calculations are based on evidence of "What Works" in reducing reconvictions. A range of interim targets have been set for effective completions of accredited Offender Behaviour Programmes including education and training for offenders in custody and those completing community sentences.

Predicted two-year reconviction rates used in the measurement of Public Service Agreement targets are not statistical forecasts, but are adjustments made once actual reconviction rates are known which make allowances for variations in the age, sex, offence and previous criminal history profile of persons commencing community sentences. These factors are known to be associated with the risk of re-offending. The purpose of the "predicted" rate is to ensure that comparisons between the reconviction rate when an improvement target was set and the reconviction rate when improvement is measured are meaningful.

Firearms Certificates

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many applications for the renewal of firearm and shotgun certificates were (a) received and (b) processed by West Mercia Constabulary in (i) 1 January 2000 to 30 June 2000, (ii) 1 July 2000 to 31 December 2000 and (iii) 1 January to 31 March; [159186]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The information available from West Mercia Constabulary on the points raised is set out.

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Between 1 October 2000 and 31 March 2001 West Mercia Constabulary issued the following:

West Mercia Constabulary also issued 369 replacement certificates during the same period of time.

During the past six months, West Mercia Constabulary have issued 49 Firearm Temporary Permits and 59 Shotgun Temporary Permits.

Between the following dates, West Mercia Constabulary received and processed firearm and shotgun certificate applications for renewal as follows:

1 January 2000 to 30 June 2000:
Renewal (actual)475Renewal4,521
1 July 2000 to 31 December 2000:
Renewal (estimated)485Renewal3,700
1 January 2001 to 31 March 2001:
Processed 160Processed1,694

(10) Not known

These figures do not include cancellations, transfers out to other forces or applications for replacement certificates, which totalled 2,704.

Information on the number of certificates falling due for renewal in each individual months is not collected centrally and could only be done so at disproportionate cost. It is estimated, based on the total number of certificates registered in the force area, that an average of 972 renewal applications would fall due each month.

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