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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 16 October 2006

House of Commons Commission

Internet Access (Portcullis House)

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if the Commission will take steps to make wireless access to the internet available in Portcullis House and the Palace of Westminster. [92877]

Nick Harvey: An interim wireless solution has recently been installed in the atrium area of Portcullis House. This new service, which is currently being tested, will be publicised more widely in the next few weeks. The service will allow Members using centrally provided Dell laptops (running Windows XP) full access to the parliamentary network in the atrium area. We are planning a fuller solution to this requirement, which will extend wireless coverage to other suitable areas of the parliamentary estate and also provide "guest" access for users with non-centrally provided (Wintel) laptops.


Hate Crimes

Mrs. James: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service takes to ensure that the right casework decisions are made in cases of homophobic and transphobic crime. [93604]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) regards homophobic and transphobic crimes as particularly serious and is determined to prosecute all hate crime robustly and rigorously. After extensive consultation in 2002, the CPS issued a public policy statement and related guidance for crown prosecutors explaining how such cases would be handled.

Each CPS area has at least one homophobic crime co-ordinator. These co-ordinators provide guidance to crown prosecutors and agents; work closely with the local police and other agencies on casework and operational issues; ensure consistency of aims and approach; advise on victim and witness care issues; and make links with local LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities. Annual conferences for the CPS area homophobic crime co-ordinators are held and good practice promulgated. Each area's performance on prosecuting cases of homophobic crime is monitored and reviewed each quarter.

Human Trafficking

Mr. Bone: To ask the Solicitor-General what guidelines his Department has issued to the Crown Prosecution Service on treatment of the victims of human trafficking. [93593]

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The Solicitor-General: As part of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) response to Operation Pentameter, updated guidance has been issued to specialist crown prosecutors in each CPS Area. This guidance focuses on trafficking for sexual exploitation and has been informed in part by the experiences of those who have handled trafficking cases and supported trafficked victims. It has also been taken from best practice gleaned from research from other jurisdictions.

The guidance emphasises the importance of adhering to the standards set out in the CPS Public Policy Statement on the Delivery of Service to Victims, which places the needs of victims at the heart of the criminal justice system. This emphasises the importance of obtaining the best evidence from the victim. To do this crown prosecutors have been advised to view the case from a victim's perspective, and not purely from a lawyer's perspective.

Further specific guidance for trafficking cases “Dealing with the Victim” has been issued to assist crown prosecutors in understanding the varied and complex needs of trafficked victims and the support required. This guidance has been developed for the police by CENTREX (the Police Training Organisation) in partnership with REFLEX (the Government's multi-agency response to organised immigration crime).

NHS Staff (Assaults)

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Solicitor-General how many prosecutions were initiated in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years against people accused of (a) violent and (b) abusive behaviour towards NHS staff; and if he will make a statement. [93317]

The Solicitor-General: The Public Prosecution Service does not record the employment of victims of violent or abusive behaviour and so the information is not available. I am informed that the police, who continue to prosecute in those areas of Northern Ireland which are not yet covered by the PPS, do not record such information either.

The PPS takes any attack on staff carrying out public duties seriously. The Code for Prosecutors, published by the PPS, specifically draws the attention of prosecutors to any instance

as an important feature of any offence.

Witness Intimidation

Mrs. James: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service undertakes when a victim of anti-social behaviour crime decides to withdraw the case following witness intimidation; and what protocols are followed in these circumstances. [93615]

The Solicitor-General: In such circumstances, a member of the prosecution team, normally the police officer in the case, will contact the victim to assess the reasons why they wish to withdraw from the
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prosecution process. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police will then consider using a range of measures to re-engage the victim in the prosecution process, such as the police installing a panic alarm, clearing the public gallery at the trial, using screens or giving evidence via a video link.

The prosecution team works to the achieving best evidence guidance issued in 2002 which deals with the care of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. The Office for Criminal Justice Reform is currently developing new guidance on witness intimidation and the CPS has participated in the development of this guidance.


Departmental Staff

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many people are employed in the Wales Office; and how many were employed in 1997-98. [94173]

Mr. Hain: The Wales Office publishes its staff numbers in its annual departmental report, which is available in the House Library and at www.walesoffice. gov.uk.

The Wales Office did not exist in 1997-98.

Farm Subsidies

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much the Wales Office spent on consultancy fees in (a) 2003-04 and (b) 2004-05. [94157]

Mr. Hain: Nil.

International Development

Amazonian Rainforest

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had with the Governments of (a) Brazil, (b) Ecuador and (c) Peru about the conservation of the Amazonian rainforest, with particular reference to (i) tackling illegal logging, (ii) managing farming in the forest and (iii) encouraging sustainable use of the forest. [92951]

Hilary Benn: The Government are working with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and other countries to establish a policy framework for deforestation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Ways of working towards sustainable forest management in the context of expansion of agriculture and illegal logging are the subject of debate in the United Nations Forum on Forests and elsewhere. Sustainable forest management will be one of the areas of collaboration under the UK-Brazil dialogue on sustainable development.

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John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with the government of Botswana about broadening its economic base. [92954]

Hilary Benn: The British High Commission in Gaborone leads on economic policy issues in Botswana, and has regular discussions with the Government of Botswana, including on economic growth and development strategy. These discussions have included the Government's plans for economic diversification. This was discussed during the International Development Committee's visit to Botswana in February 2006, when committee members, including the right hon. Member, met the President and other senior Government officials.

The Government of Botswana has prioritised the broadening of its economic base. In its “Vision 2016” document, launched in 1997, the Government recognised that Botswana needs to diversify its economy within the next 20 years. For this to happen, mining, agriculture, industry, manufacturing services and tourism all need to make a substantial contribution to the economy.

DFID no longer has a bilateral programme in Botswana. DFID Southern Africa's regional programmes in health, trade, and infrastructure will support the Government's plans for economic diversification.

Climate Change

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the impact of climate change and the destruction of the rainforest on sustainable development in the Amazon basin. [92959]

Mr. Thomas: Research funded by the Government at the Hadley Centre suggests that climate change could lead to a drier climate in the Amazon basin. A less disturbed forest will better adapt to these conditions, a more fragmented one will be more vulnerable to fire and therefore less resilient. Most climate models agree that complete removal of the Amazonian forest would lead to a drying of the climate, because local rainfall depends on recycling of water via the forest. Removal of the Amazonian forest could also affect local climates in neighbouring regions through changes in atmospheric circulation. The effect on agriculture could be profound and research by Brazil's national meteorological service suggests that the rainfall in the La Plata basin (where much of Brazil's hydroelectric power is generated) depends on moisture transported via the atmosphere from Amazonia. In addition to these potential impacts on agricultural production and power generation, loss of forest as a result of climate change would result in significant reduction in biodiversity and access to forest products which contribute to local livelihoods. Conflicts related to access to natural resources would be exacerbated.

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Departmental Expenditure

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much was spent by his Department on food and alcohol for its staff working out of office in each year since 2001-02. [91888]

Mr. Thomas: It is not possible to disaggregate costs for food and alcohol for staff working out of office, without incurring a disproportionate cost. We are able to provide figures for travel and subsistence costs, which reflect all domestic and overseas travel for Ministers, advisers and officials and include costs for all travel, accommodation and subsistence. The figures are shown as follows:












In 2003-04, DFID introduced new procedures to draw together administration costs, including those travel and subsistence costs which had previously been recorded on the programme budget. These changes have increased transparency and have enabled DFID to manage administration costs more effectively. Figures for 2003-04 onwards now include travel and subsistence costs that were previously funded by country programmes and as a result are not comparable with earlier years.

All travel and subsistence costs are made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in Government Accounting.

Doha Trade Talks

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact of the latest round of Doha trade talks upon sustainable development and poverty reduction. [92949]

Hilary Benn: The Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations were suspended in July by the director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and WTO General Council. This was due to a failure by the G6 countries (US, EU, Japan, Brazil, India and Australia) to reach an agreement on the core triangle of issues at the heart of the talks: market opening in the agricultural sector; cuts in subsidies paid to farmers; and increased market opening for industrial goods. While this suspension is disappointing, we will continue to press for the negotiations to be restarted at the earliest opportunity and to seek an ambitious outcome to the DDA.

We are committed to seeking to ensure that the DDA negotiations achieve the best impact for sustainable development and poverty reduction, by unlocking the development potential of trade and giving developing countries the flexibility to sequence the opening of their markets in line with their own national development plans and poverty reduction strategies. To
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help achieve this, DFID has supported a number of activities to increase understanding of the impact of the DDA on development and poverty reduction and to inform negotiations. These have included a study on the impact on developing countries of the various scenarios of non-agricultural market access being discussed in the DDA negotiations, as well as a collection of expert papers on the impacts of the DDA on trade and poverty. DFID also supports a comprehensive research programme by the World Bank that covers a range of trade issues and is aimed at supporting developing countries in the context of trade negotiations.

Our assessment is that the DDA remains the best opportunity to make progress towards the UK's long-term vision: a world trading system that is fair as well as free, with greater prosperity for developing and developed countries, resulting in reduced levels of global poverty.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department to assist with the relief effort following flooding in southern Ethiopia. [92953]

Hilary Benn: DFID responded rapidly to the needs of the flood-affected communities in South Omo, Dire Dawa and other lowland areas of Ethiopia, with an allocation of £1 million in August, even before an international appeal was launched. This money was channelled through the Humanitarian Response Fund, which is overseen by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and ensures that funds are available immediately as needed and in the event of further flooding.

According to recent reports, the area is currently receiving sufficient assistance. A recent assessment indicates that flood waters are rapidly receding, in particular in the North Gonder zone of Amhara region. We await the results of needs assessments of other affected areas, including Somali and Gambela regions, which are currently being conducted by the Government of Ethiopia and partners. We will provide further support if necessary.

Family Planning

Chris McCafferty: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what bilateral aid his Department provided to family planning programmes in 2005-06. [91564]

Mr. Thomas: DFID does not collect figures on spend on family planning programmes per se. Our support to family planning programmes is captured within the broader category of reproductive health.

Figures for spending on reproductive health during 2005-06 are not available yet. They are being finalised and will be published in this year’s “Statistics for International Development” report at the end of this month; I will write to my hon. Friend once they are available.

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