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6. David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the number of republican and loyalist terrorist organisations (a) involved in and (b) benefiting financially from illegal drug dealing in Northern Ireland. 
Jane Kennedy: From his adjournment debate in December the member for South Antrim will be aware that those involved in both paramilitary activity and dealing directly in drugs are predominantly loyalists, but it is not their exclusive preserve. Organised crime gangs with no paramilitary links are also involved. We are responding firmly and robustly to the drugs problem through the organised crime task force. The hon. Gentleman will wish to join me in congratulating PSNI for their recent successes.
Dr. John Reid: Enormous progress has been made. We have fully functioning institutions; a fundamental reform of policing is under way; we have rights protection arrangements that are second to none; and the normalisation of life continues as the conflict is put behind us, a transformation symbolised by the significant act of decommissioning last year. All those involved need to maintain their efforts in order to complete implementation of the Agreement, in a way that engages the commitment of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.
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Jane Kennedy: Over 200 new recruits, appointed on a 50 per cent. Catholic, 50 per cent. non-Catholic basis, have now taken up training posts with the police service of Northern Ireland, and appointments are continuing. The first tranche of recruits will be attested as constables on 5 April 2002.
The task force provides a multi-agency approach to tackling the range of organised criminal activity that exists in Northern Ireland and to optimise our approach members are drawn from HM Customs and Excise, PSNI and N10, as well as others.
Specifically to highlight and bring to the forefront of the Northern Ireland public's attention the major wrong of supporting those who trade illegally, Sir Reg Empey (Minister for Enterprise in the Northern Ireland Executive) and I paid a visit to shops and businesses in Belfast city centre before Christmas to visibly encourage the support of legitimate trade. We sought to highlight further the wrongdoing of supporting those who trade in counterfeit goods through articles by Sir Reg and myself in the task force's news-sheet entitled "Response", which receives a wide distribution within Northern Ireland.
I would pay particular tribute to the work of the police and other agencies who have recorded a number of successes in recent months against those trading in counterfeit goods. One such example relates to police operations at Nutts Corner market where in October 2001 £80,000 was seized and on 23 December 2001 £18,000 worth of counterfeit CDs and Playstation games were seized. Other recent successful seizures include £40,000 worth of counterfeit clothing at Kilkeel market and £60,000 worth of counterfeit CDs etc. following a house search in Jonesborough.
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At the end of January I co-hosted with Sir Reg Empey an event at Hillsborough Castle which brought together leading Northern Ireland business leaders representing such organisations as the CBI, Institute of Directors, small businesses, the construction industry and banking, to name but some. The event was part of our on-going attempts to engage with the business community and enlist their support in the fight against organised criminal activity in its many forms. I will be continuing with this process of engagement in the months ahead.
Jane Kennedy: The Organised Crime Task Force, which I chair, is continuing to tackle head on organised criminal activity in all its forms. In last year's threat assessment, published in March 2001, the Organised Crime Task Force identified 78 organised crime groups, involving around 400 individuals. About half of the groups have links to paramilitary groups.
However, the lines between terrorism and organised crime are blurred. Approaching terrorism as just terrorism, or organised crime as just organised crime, will inevitably overlook the common ground between the two. Both depend on a group of individuals operating together in secrecy with the same need to launder proceeds from racketeering, drugs, armed robberies etc. regardless of whether this is for personal gain or paramilitary purposes.
15. Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assistance is being provided from the United States to assist in combating organised crime and gangsterism in Northern Ireland. 
29. Mr. Tony Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assistance is being provided from the United States to assist in combating organised crime and gangsterism in Northern Ireland. 
21. David Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the links between paramilitary organisations and organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: The Organised Crime Task Force published a threat assessment in March 2001, which identified 78 organised crime groups in Northern Ireland involving some 400 individuals. About half of the groups have links to the paramilitaries.
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Mr. Browne: The Victims Liaison Unit, established in 1998 to implement the recommendations of the Bloomfield Report is responsible for: the provision of core funding to victims support groups; management and provision of grant aid to the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund; prioritisation and allocation of central Government funding for victims; and ensuring that all victims' issues which fall within the excepted and reserved fields in Northern Ireland are addressed.
16. Mr. Michael Jabez Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to use national insurance numbers as a means of combating electoral fraud in Northern Ireland. 
22. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland on measures to combat electoral fraud. 
A person applying to the electoral register in respect of an address in Northern Ireland will be required to give their national insurance number (or to make a statement that they do not have one). A person's name will be removed from the register in respect of any address if they return an application for registration in respect of that address without their national insurance number (or without a statement that they do not have one). Any person who provides false information on registration shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months; or a fine not exceeding level five on the standard scale, or to both.
An application for an absent vote will be granted only if it states the applicant's national insurance number (or states that the applicant does not have one) and if the Chief Electoral Officer is satisfied that the national insurance number or statement on the application corresponds with the number or statement which the applicant gave on their application for registration.
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The Chief Electoral Officer will be able to check the information given to him concerning an elector's national insurance number with the authority responsible for them (currently the Department for Work and Pensions).
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