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Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will reply to the correspondence from the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed dated 30 August and 28 November 2001, regarding delegates to the World Methodist Conference. 
Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the United Kingdom prison population was in (a) 1990, (b) 1992, (c) 1994, (d) 1996, (e) 1998 and (f) 2000; and if he will make a statement. 
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Beverley Hughes: On 31 January 2002 there were 866 vacancies for prison officer grades in England and Wales. Recruitment is currently running in the areas of greatest need, with a programme of recruitment throughout 200203.
Mr. Keith Bradley: Information is not collected centrally on the subject and sub-topics of Home Office reports since 1972. It is likely that a large number will refer to the treatment of victims and witnesses.
Mr. Denham: The practice of undertaking thematic inspections is a relatively recent one. The 31 reports published to date on thematic inspections conducted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) (either alone or in partnership with other inspectorates) are:
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the percentage of recorded crime in the Portsmouth, South constituency that was drug-related in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Information is not available in the form requested. However, the New English and Welsh Arrestee Drug Abuse monitoring (NEW-ADAM), a national research programme, confirms the link between drugs misuse and crime. Summary data published in September 2001 based on eight sites in 19992000 found that up to 65 per cent. of arrestees tested positive for an illegal drug with up to 29 per cent. testing positive for opiates (including heroin) and/or cocaine (including crack).
We are determined to break the link between drug misuse and crime and have introduced a number of initiatives to get offenders out of crime and into treatment. These include, for example, arrest referral schemes and Drug Treatment Testing Orders in the Portsmouth courts of which 47 have been made since they became available in December 2000.
The allocation of funding to Hampshire constabulary in 200102 for arrest referral schemes in their force area, including Portsmouth, was £188,323 for arrest referral workers and £108,240 towards treatment. In addition, we have allocated £166,939 to the Portsmouth Crime and Disorder Partnership in 200102 from the Communities Against Drugs fund, to put in place targeted, locally determined measures to strengthen the community, disrupt the local drugs market and generally tackle drugs and drug related crime.
Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what additional steps are being taken to protect children and adults with learning disabilities from sexual abuse; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Keith Bradley: Tackling sexual offending is a top priority for this Government and we intend to ensure that the legislative framework enables firm action to be taken against those who abuse others.
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protect the more vulnerable members of our society, including those with learning disabilities, and a new scale of penalties. We are actively considering all of the recommendations in the consultation document on reforming the law on sex offences, 'Setting the Boundaries', in the light of over 700 responses received during the consultation period. We intend to legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into the link between the viewing of pornography and the committing of sex offences. 
Mr. Keith Bradley: In 1990 the Home Office commissioned a review of available research evidence on the effects of pornography. The report by Howitt and Cumberbatch entitled "Pornography: impacts and influences: A review of available research evidence on the effects of pornography" was published in 1990.
The review evaluated existing literature and concluded that there was no convincing evidence for a link between pornography and sex offending. It found that trends in sex offending were not clearly linked to the availability of pornography. Also, use of pornography often appeared to post-date the emergence of deviance. However, one of the difficulties of research in this area is that sex offenders are not a homogenous group, and it is therefore difficult to try and establish consistent relationships with external factors (ie in this case availability of pornography) and offending behaviour.
Under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, an article is obscene if its effect is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all the relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.
The existing test is flexible enough to be used in respect of all broadcast and published works, including material published via the internet. It also avoids potential conflict with wider principles of freedom of expression by requiring that the effects of the material on those who are exposed to it should be taken into account. Attempts to reach consensus on changes have been unsuccessful. The most recent of these was by the late Lord Halsbury in 1999 in another place, when he tried to replace the general test by a comprehensive list of proscribed material.
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