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7 Jan 2008 : Column 59W—continued

Christmas

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether it is his Department’s policy to use (a) incandescent light bulbs and (b) LED lights for festive decorations on departmental premises. [173496]

Mr. Woodward: A limited amount of Christmas decorations are put up each year by staff in departmental buildings. Where these decorations include festive lights these will generally have been bought in previous years and are re-used for the sake of economy. The Department does not have a policy on the type of light bulbs used in festive decorations.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what his Department’s policy is on the selection of (a) real and (b) artificial Christmas trees for his Department’s festive decorations; and how real trees are disposed of. [173522]


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Mr. Woodward: A limited amount of Christmas decorations, including trees, are put up each year by staff in departmental buildings. For reasons of economy the trees are generally artificial and can be reused over a number of years. In two departmental buildings where real trees are used, the trees are sourced from sustainable tree farms, and are recycled after use.

Civil Disorder: Belfast

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many persons were (a) arrested for and (b) charged with riotous behaviour arising from civil disturbances in Belfast city centre on the evening of 20 November. [170485]

Paul Goggins: PSNI has advised that no persons were arrested or charged with riotous behaviour during the disorder in Belfast City Centre on 20 November 2007. However, three persons were arrested for other public order related offences arising from this incident. One person was released without charge and the two others were released pending report to the Public Prosecution Service.

The incident involved crowds of youths, aged on average between 12 and 16 years, both male and female. The number of youths and children attending the event was significantly larger than in any previous year. This may have contributed to the cause of this incident, which was dealt with quickly and effectively by the police.

Departmental Manpower

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many and what proportion of posts in his Department have been recategorised from back office to frontline posts as classified by the Gershon efficiency review in each year since 2004. [172259]

Mr. Woodward: The Northern Ireland Office is committed to achieving work force reductions of 1,446 posts by the end of 2007-08. This is a net target and no posts will be reallocated to the frontline as part of it.

Departmental Procurement

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether the standard terms and conditions of purchase used by his Department in the procurement of goods and services from the private sector prohibit the assignment of debt. [172431]

Mr. Woodward: NIO Procurement Unit standard terms and conditions do not contain an express provision prohibiting the assignment of debt. However, there is a provision which states that the contractor shall not transfer or assign the contract or part thereof and shall not sub-contract any part of the provision of the services without the prior written consent of the Department.


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Motor Vehicles: Theft

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many vehicles were stolen in Northern Ireland in each of the last 10 years; how many persons were (a) charged with and (b) convicted of vehicle theft in each year; and what steps he is taking to reduce the incidence of car theft. [170495]

Paul Goggins: The Policing Board and the PSNI have made tackling vehicle crime a key priority, and have achieved a 65 per cent. reduction in the number of recorded incidents in the period covered by the following table.

In 1998-99 the Home Office introduced revised counting rules for recording crime. As crime figures produced from 1998-99 onwards should be regarded as a new statistical series, figures for 1997-98 are not comparable and have therefore not been provided.

Vehicle crime control strategies focus on the main areas of prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance. This results in a variety of tactical responses including targeted high visibility patrolling, enforcement of bail conditions for known offenders, development of community watch programmes, pro-active operations and media awareness campaigns. This list is not exhaustive as strategies are applied in line with the needs and priorities of the local policing area.

Number of recorded incidents of theft or unauthorised taking of motor vehicles Number cleared by means of charge or summons

1998-99

9,715

976

1999-2000

10,196

993

2000-01

10,806

907

2001-02

11,635

757

2002-03(1)

8,410

711

2003-04

5,369

638

2004-05

4,456

618

2005-06

3,721

560

2006-07

3,418

595

(1) From 1 April 2002 most attempted thefts/ unauthorised taking of motor vehicles are recorded as vehicle interference due to a change in the Home Office Counting Rules.

The following table displays the number of convictions for theft of a vehicle by offence during the calendar years 1996-2005. 2005 is the last year for which data are available(1).


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Theft of vehicle Takin g a motor vehicle without owner’ s consent Aggravated vehicle taking( 1) Total

1996

11

416

0

427

1997

9

453

0

462

1998

18

401

0

419

1999

2

294

0

296

2000

8

328

0

336

2001

9

348

0

357

2002

3

300

0

303

2003

3

351

0

354

2004

5

354

0

359

2005

3

303

4

310

(1) Data include the offences of ‘aggravated vehicle taking causing injury’, ‘aggravated vehicle taking in which vehicle is driven dangerously’ and ‘aggravated vehicle taking causing damage to the vehicle’.

Rape

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) reports, (b) charges and (c) convictions for rape there were in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. [170460]

Paul Goggins: The following table shows the number of rape offences (including attempted rape) reported and cleared by the police by means of charge or summons from 2001-02 to 2006-07.

Reported Number cleared by means of a charge or summons

2002-03

357

46

2003-04

395

82

2004-05

380

67

2005-06

391

64

2006-07

457

54


The following table shows the number of people convicted of rape in the calendar years 2001-05, the last year for which data are available.

Number of persons convicted of rape

2001

12

2002

8

2003

8

2004

15

2005

4


The Government are committed to improving the rates of successful prosecution in rape cases. Specialist police units, staffed by highly skilled personnel, are dedicated to enhancing the service to victims of rape and sexual assault. Both PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service are seeking to develop models of best investigative practice so that more cases can achieve the evidential threshold for prosecution. Government are also currently consulting on draft legislation which would provide enhanced levels of public protection, including the introduction of robust new sentences for dealing with dangerous sexual and violent offenders.

The Northern Ireland Office and the Department of Health and Social and Personal Services have also jointly developed, and consulted on, a draft regional strategy for addressing sexual violence in Northern Ireland which will specifically examine the factors which contribute to the attrition rate in relation to sexual offences. The strategy is scheduled to be published in early 2008. As part of that process we have already made significant progress, in partnership with the medical profession and voluntary sector, in developing proposals for a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) in Northern Ireland.


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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture: Wastes

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the effect on farmers in Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency of the costs associated with meeting the slurry storage requirements under the proposals for nitrate vulnerable zones. [176735]

Mr. Woolas: The regulatory impact assessment (RIA)(1), which was circulated with the consultation document on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive in England, provides details of my Department’s assessment of the potential cost to farmers of the proposed measures under the revised Action Programme options. The RIA includes an assessment of costs associated with meeting the slurry storage requirements.

I am currently considering the consultation responses received.

Biodiversity

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of his Department's ability to meet its target under the EU commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010; and if he will make a statement. [170430]

Joan Ruddock: It is important to stress that this commitment is not for my Department to achieve alone. DEFRA continues to work in partnership with the devolved administrations, other Government Departments, country agencies and non-Government agencies to meet this important target.

It is too early to say whether the target will be met, but some very significant progress has been made. For example, 77 per cent. of England's Sites of Special Scientific Interest are in favourable or recovering condition compared with 50 per cent. in 2000. In June this year, assessments against a suite of 18 indicators were published on behalf of the UK Biodiversity Partnership. The publication ‘Biodiversity Indicators in Your Pocket’ showed that in all 12 areas where data were available, the situation was either stable or improving.

We have been active in shaping the European and global frameworks for assessing the 2010 targets, and have developed our own reporting framework to fit with these.

Birds: Conservation

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many convictions there were for offences involving illegal theft of protected bird species from the wild in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [168924]

Joan Ruddock: The number of convictions for offences relating to the protection of bird species in each year since 1997 are shown in the following table:


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Number of defendants found guilty of part of section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, England and Wales, 1997 to 2006( 1,2)
Number

1997

28

1998

20

1999

20

2000

15

2001

17

2002

11

2003

20

2004

52

2005

24

2006

87

(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.
(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

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