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23 Oct 2002 : Column 366Wcontinued
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, if he will make a statement on the investigation into the break-in at Castlereagh Police Station on 17 March and the interim report from Sir John Chilcot. 
Desmond Browne: The introduction of the Human Rights Act plays a major role in safeguarding human rights throughout the UK as a whole, including Northern Ireland. The Human Rights Act puts human rights at the heart of policy making and operations for all public authorities and means that all public authorities, including courts and the police, must act compatibly with the Convention rights. It gives further effect throughout the UK to the rights and freedoms set out in the ECHR and provides the basis for a new culture of rights and responsibilities.
The Northern Ireland Act 1998 restricts the Northern Ireland Assembly's powers to ensure it can only pass legislation that is compatible with Convention Rights and requires all NI Ministers and Departments to act compatibly. The Act also created the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission whose remit includes making sure laws and practices conform to the European Convention, promoting awareness of human rights and offering advice and guidance to individuals. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is currently considering the scope for a Bill of Rights to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland.
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The Criminal Justice Review Group recommended that human rights be made central to the justice system. In formulating their recommendations, the Review Group looked not only at the European Convention on Human Rights, but also at fifteen other international human rights standards and instruments. The entire Review was drafted with these principles in mind.
Desmond Browne: The introduction of the Human Rights Act plays a major role in safeguarding human rights throughout the UK as a whole, including all parts of the community in Northern Ireland. The Human Rights Act puts human rights at the heart of policy making and operations for all public authorities and means that all public authorities, including courts and the police, must act compatibly with the Convention rights. It gives further effect throughout the UK to the rights and freedoms set out in the ECHR and provides the basis for a new culture of rights and responsibilities.
The Northern Ireland Act 1998 created the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission whose remit includes making sure laws and practices conform to the European Convention, promoting awareness of human rights and offering advice and guidance to individuals. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is currently considering the scope for a Bill of Rights to reflect the particular circumstances of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland. All sides are being encouraged to take part in the consultation process.
Jane Kennedy: Ceasefires, however defined, are not by themselves enough to sustain confidence in the process. The transition from violence to democracy must be completed. There is no authority, legitimacy or political basis for anyone to have recourse to violence or paramilitary activity. All paramilitary groups must now decide whether they are committed to exclusively democratic and non-violent means.
Jane Kennedy: The new recruitment arrangements have now been operating successfully for almost a year and to date almost 500 police trainees have been appointed on a 50 per cent. Catholic, 50 per cent. non-Catholic basis. Whilst firm figures are not yet available, it is understood that the response to the fourth competition, which has recently closed, has again been encouraging.
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Jane Kennedy: We have all been appalled and shocked at the nightly scenes of violence we have witnessed during the summer at interface areas in North and East Belfast. The Government has been proactive in attempting to bring calm and restore order to these areas. During September, my colleague the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State held a series of meetings with elected and community representatives.
A number of security fences have been heightened and the police have introduced a matrix of CCTV cameras in North Belfast which has resulted in a number of arrests. A similar project is underway for the Cluan Place/Clandeboye interface in the east of the city. Recently the police and army established a high profile presence on both sides of the community in East Belfast. All of these measures have contributed to a degree of peace that now exists at these interfaces.
Jane Kennedy: Copies of the first annual report of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, which covers the discharge of the functions of the Police Ombudsman's office during the first 17 months since its establishment in November 2000, were laid in the Libraries of the House on 23 July.
One of the main objectives of the Task Force is to raise public awareness concerning the dangers of counterfeit goods. I am keen to highlight the menace of organised crime to the public, which is why I am undertaking to host regional awareness evenings, on the threat from organised crime and the dangers from counterfeit goods. The next awareness evening will take place on the 28 of October.
On 23 September the OCTF launched its web-site, which provides a further two way communication between it and the public. This is an important development, which will open a ''shop window'' for the task force. In addition it is a dynamic medium that will
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permit the Task Force to communicate its message and should both educate people and enhance information gathering.
PSNI and Customs & Excise are doing excellent work, every week to tackle the trade in counterfeit goods. There have been some tremendous operational successes this year. On 28 June police found counterfeit clothing worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in Belfast. This is reported to be the biggest seizure ever found in Northern Ireland. Also at the Aul Lammas Fair in August 300k of counterfeit goods were confiscated following a request from the public to the Police Service of Northern Ireland for action.
Jane Kennedy: On 23 May, the Secretary of State launched the second annual Organised Crime Task Force threat assessment and strategy. The OCTF threat assessment provided an overview of the scale and scope of organised crime in Northern Ireland and highlighted trends and developments in the preceding year.
The threat assessment tells us that oils fraud continues to be a problem although there is evidence that the position has stabilised and slightly improved. The latest figures show that deliveries of legal product to Northern Ireland have risen for the first time in five years.
The Government believe however that oils related fraud remains unacceptably high. On 4 July as chair of the OCTF, and on behalf of the Financial Secretary to the treasury too, I opened an Oils Fraud Expert Group Seminar. This drew together a wide range of agencies with an aim to develop a multi-agency strategy for tackling oil frauds in Northern Ireland. This group will meet again on 30 October.
There have been some tremendous operations this year in this field. In June Customs & Excise detected a fuel laundering plant, seized 137 vehicles, including taxis, commercial and private vehicles and three filling stations all using illegal fuel.
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