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24. Mr. Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his strategy for investment in technology designed to improve police administrative procedures. 
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Mr. Denham: The Police Reform White Paper includes major strategies for using information technology to reduce bureaucratic burdens on police officers.
Major projects which will benefit from central investment include the Airwave national police communications service; the National Strategy for Police Information Systems to improve the recording and delivery of information across the police service and wider criminal justice system; the National Automated Fingerprint Identification's System and the Police National Network Two which will add new services such as internet and extranet connectivity to the original Police National Network.
25. Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what access to the Criminal Records Bureau will be available in Northern Ireland. 
Mr. Denham: Arrangements for implementing Part V of the Police Act 1997 in Northern Ireland are still under consideration. Until Part V is implemented, some organisations in Northern Ireland, in considering applicants with connections in England and Wales for relevant positions in Northern Ireland, will wish to access information on lists held by departments here of people who are unsuitable to work with children or vulnerable adults.
26. Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of rural policing in Somerset. 
Mr. Denham: The Avon and Somerset police authority has received extra funding of nearly £1 million in the past two years to improve policing in rural areas. This has predominantly been used to make it easier for rural communities to access police services and to increase the visibility and effectiveness of police patrol and operations.
The Somerset West Basic Command Unit area has been successful in attracting funding for the first national pilot Parish Warden Scheme. Four wardens were recruited in May 2001 and were operational from June 2001. They patrol on foot in local villages to reduce antisocial behaviour and the fear of crime.
29. Mr. Neil Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on community support officers' role in reducing the fear of crime. 
Mr. Denham: Community Support Officers, who will be employed by the police authority and will be under the command and control of the chief officer of police, will be deployed in the community and will have a vital role to play in support of the police in increasing public safety, contributing to the regeneration of their areas, and reducing the fear of crime. They will provide a visible, reassuring presence to the public, and will have sufficient powers to deal with minor disorder and antisocial behaviour.
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30. Ms Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had on police reform with Hertfordshire Constabulary. 
Mr. Denham: As yet, we have not been in direct discussion with Hertfordshire Constabulary on the police reform programme. We did invite comments on the police reform White Paper but there were no representations from Hertfordshire. However, we did receive responses from organisations such as the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities, both of whom represent the interests of Hertfordshire Constabulary, and from the Police Federation and the Superintendents Association who represent other ranks.
31. Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on plans for private sector involvement in bail hostels. 
Beverley Hughes: The National Probation Directorate is currently inviting tenders for a contract to provide facilities managements services, such as catering, cleaning and building maintenance for the approved probation hostels estate. The Invitation To Tender document has been issued and bids have been requested by the end of April. The contract is programmed to commence in September 2002.
32. Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce proposals for new laws to protect children from sexual abuse. 
Mr. Keith Bradley: Protecting children from abuse is of the highest priority for this Government and we will continue to build upon and strengthen the measures already in place to safeguard children.
Protecting children from sexual abuse was one of the principal reasons why we set up the Sex Offences Review in January 1999. Its terms of reference specifically included
33. Siobhain McDonagh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to reduce street robbery. 
Mr. Denham: We are determined to reduce street robbery. Five metropolitan forces have received an additional £20 million to assist their efforts in tackling this crime. We are working with those forces, as well as
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progressing an extensive robbery research programme, to enable us to identify good practice in tackling robbery which we will ensure is disseminated to all forces.
We are working with schools, communities and local authorities to reduce the opportunities for robbery and to prevent people from drifting into a life of street crime. We have been working closely with the police and the mobile phone industry to take practical steps to tackle the mobile phone theft problem. We intend to ensure that all mobile phones can be barred as soon as their theft is reported, and we welcome the recent announcements by major network providers on progress towards this target.
The new London Youth Crime Task Force will help tackle youth crime in London. It will pursue ways of improving the effectiveness of the youth justice system across the capital. We will ensure that the police and the criminal justice system give the highest priority to dealing with street robbers. We especially welcome the Metropolitan Police's Safer Streets initiative which was announced on 4 February and their Ultra Violet (UV) id initiative to mark mobile phones with ultraviolet pens.
We have also published a Robbery Toolkit which is available to all forces and those involved in crime reduction and community safety and will help them to work as effectively as possible in tackling robbery.
34. Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to focus the drugs strategy on class A drugs. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The main focus of the Government's drug strategy is on the drugs that cause the greatest harm, Class A drugs like heroin and cocaine. However, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary indicated in his evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 23 October 2001 we need to be even more effective at tackling the harm caused by Class A drugs. That is why he has sought advice from the Advisory Council on the misuse of Drugs on their assessment reclassifying cannabis from Class B to Class C; we launched an action plan to reduce drug-related deaths; we launched a campaign to raise the awareness of the risks of drugs and to encourage young people, their parents or carers to call the National Drugs Helpline on 0800 776 600; we set up an expert group to consider best practice guidance on the treatment of Crack Cocaine addiction; we are reviewing guidance on heroin prescribing; and also in conjunction with the Department of Health we are implementing a further series of measures to minimise the harm drugs cause.
We are also reviewing programmes against all Drugs Strategy Targets as part of the work for the Spending Review 2002, to ensure we still have the right balance and focus.
35. Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the recent negotiations about reform of police pay. 
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Mr. Denham: The package of reforms were agreed in principle in the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) on 27 December 2001 is now the subject of conciliation, as required by the PNB Constitution.
38. Mr. Illsley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police pay. 
Mr. Denham: It is for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to determine police pay in England and Wales, taking account of any recommendation by the Police Negotiating Board (PNB). The package of reforms agreed in principle in the PNB on 27 December 2001 is now the subject of conciliation, as required by the PNB Constitution.
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