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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Government do not routinely collect information about the cost of retail crime but do take crime against the retail sector very seriously and are taking a wide range of actions to combat this. The British Retail Consortium conducts an annual retail crime survey and the most recent, published in June 2003, estimated the total cost of retail crime in the United Kingdom in 2002 at £2.25 billion. This includes the cost of crime prevention.
The Government have provided £15 million over the past three years to improve the security of small retail businesses in deprived areas. Around 12,500 individual businesses have benefited from the scheme. As part of this scheme we also commissioned and funded a nation-wide series of security training seminars for small retailers.
We have also agreed to provide £899,000 to the British Retail Consortium for the formation of the Action against Business Crime (AABC) group. The AABC group will provide support to existing retail/business crime partnerships and will set up 100 new business crime reduction partnerships in priority locations over the next two years.
Local businesses are encouraged to become a member of their Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP). The CDRP aims to work together to do what it can reasonably to prevent and reduce crime within its local authority area. This could also be a way to reduce fear of crime within the local community, especially if local businesses can help the community to find solutions to its local problems.
Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) can also be used to protect shopworkers. ASBOs can prohibit persons entering specified areas such as shopping centres; they can also prohibit persons engaging in specified anti-social acts, for example shoplifting, verbally abusing shopworkers, writing graffiti on a shop, and can also prohibit persons approaching specified persons.
Drug-related crime is of concern to many retailers and so we are piloting two schemes, in Brighton and Northampton, to help reduce drug-related retail crime by ensuring that persistent shop thieves with drug problems have access to treatment.
In January of this year we set up a forum of small business representatives, many of which are retail organisations, to provide them with an opportunity to voice concerns and make suggestions direct to the Government. As a result of the concerns raised in the forum three working groups have been developed. These groups are business led and will examine the police response to business crime, possible options for incentivising business to take crime reduction measures and help to develop a strategy to provide crime reduction information and advice to business.
We believe that it is important to work with the retail sector in crime reduction, and representatives of the Home Office, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Small Business Service have played an active role in the crime sub-group of the industry-led Retail Strategy Group. The group will produce a report shortly and we will take account of its recommendations when considering further action to combat retail crime.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Yes. The Government believe in integration with diversity. This means both breaking down the barriers to and positively promoting integration, including working with communities to face down racism and other forms of extremism. It agrees with the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) that multiculturalism is no longer a helpful word to the extent that it has come to mean cultural separateness.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 Part 4 powers enable the Home Secretary to certify and detain foreign nationals who are suspected of involvement in international terrorism. These individuals have a right of appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).
SIAC has adopted the common law approach to evidence which may have been obtained elsewhere through the use of torturesave for the evidence that is obtained from a party (usually the defendant in a criminal trial), all evidence is admissible, however unlawfully obtained. However, where that evidence may have been obtained by torture, this will bear on the proper weight to be given to the information. The means by which information is obtained therefore goes to its reliability and weight and not to its admissibility.
SIAC, in its open determination (29 October 2003), specifically considered Article 15 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which relates to statements which are established to have been made as a result of torture and concluded that their determination was compliant with this article.
But we must take seriously our obligation to protect national security and the well-being of the citizens of the United Kingdom and we would be deficient in this duty if we did not properly assess all information involved in the war on terror.
How many United Kingdom passports are at present in issue; and how many of these are electronically readable.[HL2430]
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The United Kingdom Passport Service (UKPS) does not routinely collate information relating to the age of passport holders and there are no systems in place to extract this information from the UKPS database. Figures for the current number of passport holders aged over 100 years are therefore not available.
In the last 10 years (1 April 1994 to 31 March 2004), 47.5 million British passports have been issued by UKPS and a further 4.1 million by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). All of the passports issued by UKPS are machine readable, as are 85 per cent of those issued by the FCO (approximately 3.5 million passports). Since January 2004, all FCO issued passports have been machine readable.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Home Secretary draws advice from a range of those with experience, knowledge and interest in the areas listed. This includes his special advisers, including Matt Cavanagh, as well as outside expertise. Cross-cutting equality issues are, of course, informed by advice and support across a number of departments, including the developments of the proposed single equality body.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave on 10 July 2003 (Official Report, col. WA 51). In 1972, when decisions needed to be adopted by the Council, they were generally taken by unanimity of consensus. The Treaties of Rome (the original having been amended by the Merger Treaty, a Budget Treaty and the Accession Treaty) did, however, provide for exceptions, and I have placed a list of these in the Library of the House.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Maastricht Treaty enabled the European Council to use qualified majority voting in adopting recommendations in the health field on the prevention of diseases: in particular the major health scourges, including drug dependence.
In the field of education, the treaty enabled the Council to use qualified majority voting to adopt recommendations which contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging co-operation between member states and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action.
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