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4 Dec 2003 : Column 154W—continued

Basic Command Unit Strength

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the Home Office sets as a minimum acceptable number of detectives, on a monthly basis, for an individual police Basic Command Unit. [140581]

Ms Blears [holding answer 1 December 2003]: The Secretary of State sets no targets for the number of detectives. The number of detectives for any given Basic Command Unit or specialist unit is ultimately a matter for chief officers of police and will depend on factors such as local crime patterns and the strategy to address them.

BB Guns

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to ban the sale of BB guns. [140683]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 1 December 2003]: We have no such plans. However, under the provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2004, which we intend to bring into effect early next year, it will be an offence to have an imitation firearms in a public place without reasonable excuse. We shall be looking closely at the whole question of controlling imitation firearms as part of a comprehensive review of the firearms legislation, starting with the publication of a consultation paper in January.

Knives

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions his Department has had with retailers on the guidelines they operate on the sale of knives. [141364]

Caroline Flint: None. Both the Offensive Weapons Act 1996 and the Knives Act 1997 deal with the sale of knives. Section 6 of the Offensive Weapons Act 1996 makes it an offence to sell knives to persons under 16 and section 1 of the Knives Act 1997 makes it an offence to market a knife in a way which indicates, or suggests, that it is suitable for combat or is otherwise likely to stimulate or encourage violent behaviour involving the use of a knife as a weapon.

Police (Wales)

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) police officers and (b) special constables there were in Wales in each year since 1997. [141166]

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Ms Blears: The information requested is set out in the table. At the end of August the four Welsh forces had record strength totalling 7,354, which is 762 (plus 12 per cent. more than it was in March 1997.

At the end of March 2003 police (support) staff strength in Wales was 3,178. This is 723 more than in March 1997 when there was 2,455 police staff. In addition Gwent had 30 Community Support Officers (CSOs) approved under Round 1 in 2002–03 and on patrol at 31 August 2003. All of the Welsh forces are recruiting CSOs under the Round 2 allocations in 2003–04 and the four Welsh forces should have a total of 113 CSOs by 31 March 2004.

We are working to ensure that forces make best use of Specials' skills, time and links to the community to increase the effective delivery of local policing and at how the use and recruitment of Specials might be widened.

Total police and special constable strength for Welsh forces for 1992 to 2003

Year(26)Police officers(27)Special constables(28)
19976,5921,142
19986,6171,097
19996,6461,088
20006,632835
20016,837789
20027,194701
20037,268588
2003(29)7,354(30)

(26) As at 31 March.

(27) Police officer strength is for full-time equivalents (fte).

(28) Special Constable strength is an actual headcount (fte figures are not collected).

(29) 31 August.

(30) Not available.


Shop Security

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions his Department has had with the Treasury on measures to aid retailers' investment in specified security equipment for stores under 3,000 square feet. [140862]

Ms Blears [holding answer 3 December 2003]: My officials have consulted Treasury colleagues on the possible use of tax incentives to encourage the installation of physical security measures by businesses. However, we are not convinced that a tax incentive scheme is the best way to help small retailers facing crime problems. In particular, it could be perceived as unfair in that it would offer no assistance to businesses (arguably those in most need of help) that do not make enough profit to pay corporation tax. We also understand that the administration and compliance costs of such a system (to both businesses and the Government) would be high.

However, the Home Office has received £15 million funding from the Treasury's Capital Modernisation Fund for the Small Retailers in Deprived Areas initiative. By the end of this year, this scheme will have provided security measures and environmental improvements to over 12,500 small retailers and businesses in some of our most deprived areas. Part of the evaluation of this scheme will assess the effect this funding will have had in promoting the benefits of crime reduction and encouraging the recipients and others to take forward further crime reduction activity.

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Speeding

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what revenue from fines as a result of prosecutions arising from speed camera evidence was generated in (a) 2000, (b) 2001 and (c) 2002. [140827]

Ms Blears: Information on the revenue raised from speeding fines is not available.

However, the table shows the total number of prosecutions and the average fine for speed offences detected by camera within England and Wales for 2000 and 2001. As the majority of such offences are dealt with by the issue of a fixed penalty, the table also shows the total amount of fixed penalties ordered to be paid.

Not all fines and fixed penalties will have been paid.

Information for 2002 will be available early in 2004.

Court Proceedings and fixed penalty data for Speed Offences detected by cameras(31) in England and Wales 2000 and 2001

20002001
Court proceedings
Number of prosecutions109,200137,100
Average fine (£)(32)107111
Fixed penalties
Number of tickets(33)599,200877,500
Estimated revenue (£000)(34)25,96552,650

(31) Offences under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and Motor Vehicle (Speed Limits on Motorways) Regulations 1973.

(32) Based on forces providing reliable figures

(33) Paid i.e. no further action.

(34) Estimate based on £40 fixed penalty charge January to October 2000. From November 2000 the penalty was raised to £60.


TRANSPORT

Air Transport

Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether external agencies have been contracted to analyse the responses to the consultation into the Future Development of Air Transport in the UK; and if he will provide details of his Department's processes for analysing the responses. [141654]

Mr. McNulty: The vast majority of responses have been analysed by officials. Analysis of more detailed and technical responses has been carried out by a team of consultants with expertise across a range of subject areas. Responses to the NOP consultation questionnaires have been analysed by NOP. Departmental officials have been responsible for supervising all parts of the analysis process and for the preparation of advice to Ministers on its conclusions.

The results of the analysis will be published alongside the air transport White Paper before Christmas.

Alternative Fuels

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assistance his Department has afforded to non-public sector corporations to develop vehicles powered by other means than petrol. [141628]

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Mr. Jamieson: My Department's PowerShift programme provides grants to motorists and companies to encourage the purchase of LPG, natural gas, electric and other clean low-carbon vehicles. The CleanUp programme provides grants for the conversion of existing vehicles, and the New Vehicle Technology Fund programme provides grants for the development and demonstration of innovative low carbon vehicle technologies. The Governments' overall strategy for leading the global shift to clean, low carbon fuels and vehicles is set out in "Powering Future Vehicles—The Government Strategy", published in July 2002, and the First Annual Report on implementation of the Strategy was published in October. Copies of both documents have been placed in the Library.

Car Parks

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport under what legislation private operators of (a) local authority car parks and (b) privately owned car parks may pursue (i) civil action and (ii) criminal action for unpaid fines levied on late and non-payers of car park charges; and when guidance on these matters was last issued by the Department. [141876]

Mr. Jamieson: On entering a local authority owned car park or a private car park a user is effectively agreeing to abide by the terms and conditions of its use, which should be displayed clearly. Paragraphs 14–16 of Local Authority Circular 1/90 dated 14 May 1990 covered information at car parks and drew attention to the need for local authorities to provide adequate information to users of their car parks, particularly about such matters as charges.

Section 32 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 empowers local authorities to provide off street car parks and section 35 enables them to impose conditions on their use, including charges. Failure to comply with such conditions is an offence under section 35 A of the Act.

A local authority may pursue non-payment of any charges incurred in connection with use of one of their car parks through a magistrates court. Alternatively, if they have obtained decriminalised parking enforcement powers, a penalty charge for non-compliance with the conditions of use may be issued by the authority under section 76 of the Road Traffic Act 1991. Under Schedule 6 to that Act an authority may take steps to enforce payment of a penalty charge through the Traffic Enforcement Centre at Northampton County Court.

Privately owned car parks are private property and charges and conditions for their use are a contractual matter between the owner and users. This is not a matter that is the subject of public legislation and it would be for the owner to pursue any unpaid charges as a civil rather than criminal matter.


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