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20 Jan 2004 : Column 1158W—continued

Organised Crime

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on measures to tackle organised crime in Northern Ireland. [147837]

Jane Kennedy: The Organised Crime Task Force was established to further enhance co-operation between the law enforcement agencies in combating organised crime and to co-ordinate and focus their efforts. This has resulted in greater success and effectiveness and I pay tribute to the activity of the law enforcement agencies, which have made a significant impact against the organised criminals over the past 12 months. These have included: unprecedented successes against illegal drug importation; a 50 per cent. reduction in the number of

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attacks on cash-in-transit vehicles; and a second year of growth in the levels of legitimate deliveries of road fuel oils into Northern Ireland after five years of decline.

The Government are also fully committed to working with the Government in the Irish Republic to develop a cohesive strategy to tackle and manage the joint response to cross-border organised crime.

Private Health Care

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the sum spent in Northern Ireland on private health care in each of the last five years. [148942]

Angela Smith: The information requested is not available. However, a report published by my Department in April 2002, "Securing our Future Health: Taking a Long-term view-Northern Ireland Position", calculated that in 2000, some 6 per cent. of the Northern Ireland population was covered by private medical insurance, compared to 12.5 per cent. in Great Britain.

Racism (Chinese Community)

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action he is taking to deal with the problem of racism and racist incidents towards the Chinese community in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [148258]

Mr. Paul Murphy: The Community Safety Strategy, being implemented through the Community Safety Unit of the Northern Ireland Office, identified Key Issue 6 : Offences Motivated by Prejudice and Hatred, as a central theme in making Northern Ireland a safer place for all its citizens.

Specifically, it seeks to reduce the levels of crime motivated by sectarianism, and promote and enhance the safety of minority ethnic residents.

Currently, it is facilitating a working group of relevant voluntary and statutory organisations, which aims to establish a clear framework for the recording and monitoring of racial incidents. It is hoped to bring forward such an agreed framework by the spring 2004.

Also, within its community safety grant programme, the challenge competition, it has provided funding towards four projects that have a central theme of countering prejudice and hatred, at a total value of £273,255.

In addition to these initiatives the Government will publish shortly for consultation, draft legislation for Northern Ireland, aimed at tackling racially motivated offences. The proposed draft Order introduces provisions that will require sentencers, where offences are aggravated by such hostility, to treat racial and religious aggravation as an aggravating factor when sentencing. (The legislation will also cover offences motivated by hatred of sexual orientation.) The provisions will also increase maximum sentences available for certain specified, mainly violent, offences including where racial, religious or sexual aggravation is proven. While I recognise the unacceptable nature of

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recent attacks, these provisions will cover a broad range of racial and ethnic groups, not just the Chinese community.

The Government have frequently put on record their abhorrence of all forms of intolerance and are committed to eradicating such manifestations of hatred, whether based on racism or based on sectarianism. I reiterate the acknowledgement in the Belfast Agreement of the unique opportunity that exists here to bring about a society

River Pollution

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to prevent the discharge of harmful materials into rivers. [148831]

Angela Smith: Under the Water (NI) Order 1999, it is an offence to discharge or deposit, whether knowingly or otherwise, any poisonous, noxious or polluting matter so that it enters a waterway, the penalty for which on summary conviction is imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or a fine not exceeding £20,000, or both. The Environment and Heritage Service (EHS), an Executive Agency of the Department of the Environment (DOE), is responsible for enforcing this legislation.

To prevent pollution incidents from occurring, and to minimise the effect of any pollution on the environment, pollution prevention advice is offered by EHS to educate the public and industry, in promoting good environmental practices. If a pollution incident is reported or discovered, EHS aims to locate and stop the source of the pollution, identify the polluter and if appropriate, collect sufficient evidence to secure a prosecution.

It is also an offence to discharge effluent to waterways or groundwater without the consent of the DOE. EHS is responsible for issuing "consents to discharge" that detail specific conditions relating to the quality and quantity of effluent discharged. The conditions are formulated to ensure that the discharge can be sustained by the receiving waterway without damage to the aquatic environment and without breaching national or EC Directive standards. Failure to comply with the conditions of a consent is also an offence under the Water Order, and where consent compliance is consistently poor, or there is a pollution incident, enforcement action will be considered.

Water Service is not bound by the statutory discharge consent requirements of the Water Order, however a separate but similar regulatory system has been established to control Water Service discharges. This system has been detailed in the recently published report "Regulation of Water Service Discharges 2001", a copy of which has been placed in the Assembly library. The report is also available on the EHS website at WSD.pdf

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School Fruit

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on plans to make fruit available to school pupils. [148772]

Angela Smith: A pilot Fresh Fruit in Schools Scheme was launched in Northern Ireland in October 2002. It currently provides a free piece of fruit daily to over 4,800 Primary 1 and 2 children in 87 primary schools within Health Action Zone areas. An initial evaluation of the scheme has recently been completed and consideration is currently being given to extending the scheme to include a larger number of children.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the number of sufferers of (a) chlamydia, (b) gonorrhoea and (c) syphilis in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. [148774]

Angela Smith: Information is not available on the estimated number of sufferers of (a) chlamydia, (b) gonorrhoea and (c) syphilis in Northern Ireland. Information is, however, available on the number of cases seen each year at Genito-Urinary Medicine clinics, and is shown for the years 1998 to 2002 in the following table.

Cases seen


The figures refer to the number of cases seen at Genito-Urinary Medicine clinics each year. Some of these cases may also have been seen in previous years, therefore it is not possible to provide a cumulative total of persons with these diseases. Figures are shown in respect of uncomplicated genital chlamydia, uncomplicated gonorrhoea and primary and secondary syphilis.


Health Protection Agency


Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support and advice are being given to the interim government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in respect of (a) respect for human rights and (b) the nurture of democratic institutions. [148080]

Mr. Mullin: We are committed to promoting respect for human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through continued dialogue with the DRC authorities, the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC—who have specialist human rights staff) and human rights Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

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In collaboration with other donors we are considering ways to provide core financial support to the five Democracy Support Commissions that form part of the framework of transitional institutions in the DRC. These are the Independent Electoral Commission; the High Media Authority; the Anti-Corruption and Ethics Commission; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and the Human Rights Observatory.

We have contributed Euro1 million to the European Community/World bank Trust Fund to provide start-up logistical support to DRC transitional institutions and new Ministries created by the 2002 Global Accord. We are providing technical assistance to the Anti-Corruption Commission, for which we are the lead donor. We are also funding the NGO Panos Paris to build capacity in the media sector in close co-operation with the High Media Authority.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what monitoring of the upholding of human rights in the conflict zones of the Congo is undertaken by United Kingdom representatives; and if he will make a statement. [148300]

Mr. Mullin: We monitor closely the human rights situation throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is achieved through our Embassies in the region and through discussions with the DRC's National Human Rights Observatory, Non-Governmental Organisations, the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and other UN bodies.

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