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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 24 November 2005


Crime Victims

24. Dr. Cable: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement on his role in enhancing the position of victims of crime in the criminal justice system. [31304]

The Solicitor-General: The Government are committed to placing victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.

The prosecutors' Pledge, issued last month, sets out for the first time the level of service victims can expect to receive from prosecutors. Separately, the No Witness, No Justice" programme is being implemented and there are now some 131 witness care units providing support to victims and witnesses. The CPS has recently concluded a pilot of the use of independent advisers to help victims of domestic violence through the prosecution process, and I am looking at ways of building on its success by piloting a similar project in rape cases.

Crown Prosecution Service

25. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement on the co-location of Crown Prosecution Service offices with police stations. [31305]

The Solicitor-General: CPS staff are located in a number of police stations under the charging scheme. This enables the CPS and police to work together effectively as part of the prosecution team, to bring more offences to justice and improve public confidence.

Incitement to Religious Hatred

26. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Solicitor-General what assessment he has made of whether it will be necessary for the Law Officers to recruit additional staff to prosecute cases of incitement to religious hatred if Parliament legislates to make this an offence. [31306]

The Solicitor-General: As with the existing offences of incitement to racial hatred, we do not consider that there will be a large number of prosecutions. Prosecutions for racial hatred offences, have averaged around four a year since 1987.

Fraud Bill

27. Janet Anderson: To ask the Solicitor-General what recent discussions the Attorney-General has had with the senior judiciary on the common law offence of conspiracy to defraud and whether to include provisions to repeal it in the Fraud Bill. [31307]

The Solicitor-General: Yes. Following the committee stage of the Fraud Bill on 19 July, the right hon. Lord Justice Rose wrote to the Attorney-General expressing
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the unanimous view of the Rose Committee that conspiracy to defraud should be retained as it can be the most effective charge in a case where multiple defendants are engaged in a fraudulent course of conduct.

Community Justice

28. Mr. Allen: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to support the concept of community courts and community justice panels in Nottingham and other parts of England; and if he will make a statement. [31308]

The Solicitor-General: The CPS is committed to improving the way it engages with the communities it serves and published a Community Engagement Strategy in May 2005. The CPS has played an important role in developing the first community court projects in North Liverpool and Salford. It will, however, be necessary to carefully evaluate these projects before considering wider roll out. In Nottingham, the Chief Crown Prosecutor intends to explore options for developing community justice approaches through the local Criminal Justice Board.

Special Advisers

John Hemming: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will list the special advisers in post in the Law Officers Departments, broken down by pay band; and what the total budgeted cost to these Departments of special advisers is for 2005–06. [29419]

The Solicitor-General: None; the Law Officers Departments employ no special advisers.


Departmental Targets

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to meet her Department's 2004 public service agreement (PSA) number 4; what assessment she has made of the extent to which the indicators associated with PSA 4 relate to matters that fall within her ministerial responsibilities; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on meeting PSA 4. [30675]

Jim Knight: In relation to rural economic productivity the regional development agencies (RDAs) have been tasked as key strategic partners for the delivery of PSA 4. This is reflected in the Government's tasking framework and RDA corporate plans. To support the RDAs in their work DEFRA has increased its contribution to the RDA single pot to £72 million per annum from April 2005.

This challenging target, including the section dealing with rural access to services, also requires a wider effort ensuring that the effectiveness of the all Departments and delivery agents in delivering to all communities, including rural ones, is maximised. My responsibility is to ensure that rural proofing, now a requirement of all Departments in the development of policy and delivery
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of services, is taking place. Defra continues to work closely with partners at all levels to ensure that spending is effectively aligned and contributes to the target.

In the previous Parliament the Minister of State for Rural Affairs regularly met with cabinet colleagues to discuss their part in the developing rural agenda, and plans are in hand to hold further meetings over the coming months. PSA targets are regularly discussed in PSX cabinet committee.

Endangered Species (Northamptonshire)

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her latest assessment is of the most endangered species of (a) flora and (b) fauna in Northamptonshire; and what steps are being taken to reverse their decline. [30855]

Jim Knight: As with so many other lowland areas in England, wildlife habitats in Northamptonshire have been deteriorating in quality and becoming more fragmented. This has been due to a number of factors, such as:

As a result there has been a decline in the area and quality of wildlife habitat and their associated species, in particular traditional hay meadows and birds such as snipe and lapwing.

A number of measures are in place to address these issues:

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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her response is to the recommendations of the independent working group on snares; if she will review her Department's Code of Practice on snares; and if she will bring forward proposals to make the code legally binding. [30491]

Jim Knight: DEFRA has produced a Snares Action Plan in response to the recommendations of the Independent Snares Working Group. DEFRA's Code of Good Practice on the use of Snares in Fox and Rabbit Control was published on 19 October 2005. DEFRA will review the Code of Practice during the next three years and will also consider making the Code of Practice legally binding.

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