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Diesel Storage

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement about the health and safety implications of the storage of diesel on domestic premises. [8339]

Dr. Whitehead: I have been asked to reply.

Diesel is not a significant fire risk in its own right but would add fuel to any fire which started in other combustible material.

The storage of diesel on domestic premises is not currently covered by specific health and safety legislation. However, some restrictions are placed on fuel storage spaces in the Building Regulations and (in Scotland) in the Building Standards.

The Health and Safety Executive is currently reviewing the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928, which controls storage of petrol. It expects to carry out the third and final phase of this review next year, to look at domestic storage of petrol and consider whether in future other vehicle fuels, such as diesel should be covered by safety controls for domestic premises.

Flood Damage

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what specific measures she plans to take to contribute to the completion of repairs to north Yorkshire's road network following flood damage incurred in autumn 2000. [8144]

Mr. Jamieson: I have been asked to reply

The Government have decided to give extra assistance to those authorities where the cost of dealing with flood damage to their highways and bridges incurred during the autumn of 2000 would absorb a high proportion of their available resources for highway and bridge maintenance. £23 million was made available nationally from the Government's emergency reserves, from which north Yorkshire county council received £1.258 million.

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This was also in addition to a previous additional allocation of £0.7 million towards the repairs to Mercury Bridge in Richmond, which was seriously damaged during flooding in June 2000.


CPS (Child Abuse)

35. Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the policy of the CPS in connection with allegations of child sex abuse in children's homes. [6724]

The Solicitor-General: The CPS applies the code for Crown Prosecutors in all cases referred to it by the police so that it can make fair and consistent decisions about prosecutions. Every case is reviewed to make sure that it meets the evidential and public interest tests set out in the code.

The more serious the offence the more likely it is that it will be prosecuted. Cases of child sexual abuse committed in children's homes are always regarded as serious and often involve one or more of the public interest factors listed in the code that generally tend in favour of prosecution. These factors include: where the defendant is in a position of trust; where the victim is vulnerable; where there are marked differences in age; or where there is an element of corruption. In such cases, a prosecution will usually take place unless there are strong public interest factors tending against prosecution which clearly outweigh those tending in favour.

Criminal Prosecutions

36. Vera Baird: To ask the Solicitor-General what criteria apply in deciding whether to prosecute (a) serious fraud and (b) other criminal offences. [6725]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, and as such it takes over and prosecutes the complete spectrum of criminal cases instituted by the police. This includes serious offences of fraud, although these cases can also be prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

CPS decisions on whether or not to prosecute an offence, of any kind, are taken in accordance with the principles set out in the code for Crown Prosecutors, issued by the Director of Public Prosecution under section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.

The code acknowledges that each case is unique and must be considered on its own facts and merits. However, fairness and consistency in assessing these elements are promoted by applying a common framework of key principles, irrespective of the type of offence under consideration.

CPS Reform

37. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on her plans to reform the CPS. [6726]

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The Solicitor-General: Reforms recommended by the Glidewell Review to deliver better justice are presently being implemented in the CPS.

The CPS is restructuring its front line operations to secure benefits from close working with the police, and enabling lawyers to concentrate on more serious cases. A modern IT infrastructure is being rolled-out and a new electronic case management application is planned for 2003. The recruitment of more lawyers, caseworkers and administrative staff has begun, from resources provided by the last spending review, and an enhanced level of service is being delivered to victims and witnesses.

CPS (Denman Report)

38. Mr. Dismore: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on progress with the report of Mrs. Sylvia Denman on racism within the CPS. [6727]

The Solicitor-General: The Denman report into racism in the Crown Prosecution Service was published on 26 July 2001. The report was welcomed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and all 10 recommendations were accepted. The Crown Prosecution Service has started work on implementing the 10 recommendations. These have already been implemented, a further six are in the process of being implemented and the last recommendation will be implemented in spring 2002.

The Attorney-General has formed a group called the Attorney-General Race Advisory Group, which will assist the Law Officers in overseeing the service's implementation of these recommendations. Members of the group include Sylvia Denman herself and Gurbux Singh the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality.

CPS (Prosecution Rate)

39. Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Solicitor-General what proportion of cases passed by the police to the CPS for prosecution are subsequently dropped. [6728]

The Solicitor-General: During the year ending June 2001, 13 per cent. of completed cases were discontinued by the CPS in magistrates courts, and 12.8 per cent. of completed cases were dropped in the Crown court. The magistrates court figures include those cases dropped at court before prosecution evidence was heard as well as those formally discontinued in advance of the hearing. The Crown court figures represent all cases dropped by the CPS before a jury was sworn, including those discontinued under section 51 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 implemented in January 2001.

Human Rights Act

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Solicitor-General what assessment has been made of the impact on prosecutions of the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998. [6723]

The Solicitor-General: High quality CPS training and guidance has ensured that prosecuting lawyers are well equipped to advise on and argue their cases, fully respecting human rights. A fast tracking procedure for appeals involving human rights points has proved an effective mechanism for obtaining authoritative judgments from the higher courts, keeping uncertainty and

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delay to a minimum while important points are clarified. Judgments in these cases have contributed to the emerging domestic human rights jurisprudence.



Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures he is taking to restrain the costs of official bodies classified as regulators. [9926]

Mr. Andrew Smith: This February the Treasury published an "External Efficiency Review of Utility Regulators". The purpose of this review was to give the Treasury, the utility regulators concerned (Ofgem, Ofwat, Oftel and ORR) and their stakeholders reassurance that each regulator is efficiently run, to identify any shortcomings and to encourage the spread of good practice.

The report concluded that the UK regulators are professionally run organisations. The regulators' positive response to this report will lead to further improvements in UK regulatory standards. My officials have discussed the implementation of the report with Ofgem, Oftel, Ofwat and ORR and will continue to monitor progress. Implementation of the report will increase transparency in budget setting, lead to better assessment of the costs and benefits of major projects, spread best practice, and help the regulators recruit and retain quality staff.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the (a) individual and (b) total costs to HM Government of official bodies classified as regulators for each year since May 1997, including predictions for 2002. [9930]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The utility regulators are funded by fees paid by the licence holders in their industries. With one exception for part of Oftel's expenditure, the regulators are therefore not funded through general taxation, although they are all subject to control of gross spending and the use of receipts through Estimates presented to Parliament.

The best single source of cost information in relation to the utility regulators Ofgem (energy), Ofwat (water), ORR (rail) and Oftel (telecommunications) is contained in the "External Efficiency Review of Utility Regulators" which was published this February. The full report can be found on the Treasury website pdf/2001/regulators 1902.pdf. (see "Cost Efficiency" section 4—Table 4.1).

Detailed cost information is published in each of the organisations' annual reports.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total staff costs in real terms; and how many staff were employed, by all official bodies described as regulators in each year since May 1997. [9927]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The best single source of staff cost information in relation to the utility regulators Ofgem (energy), Ofwat (water), ORR (rail) and Oftel (telecommunications) is contained in the WS Atkins report, "External Efficiency Review of Utility Regulators", which

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was published this February. The full report can be found on the Treasury website 2001 regulators 1902.pdf.

Detailed cost information and staff numbers are published in each of the organisations' annual reports.

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