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VAT

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for changes to the eligibility criteria for the VAT annual accounting scheme. [9739]

Mr. Boateng: Customs are currently analysing responses to the recent consultation exercise and will be making recommendations to Ministers in due course.

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HOME DEPARTMENT

Police Numbers (Northamptonshire)

18. Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with the chief constable on police numbers in Northamptonshire. [5159]

Mr. Denham: I have not had any discussions with the chief constable about police numbers in Northamptonshire.

On 1 October Northamptonshire police had 1,209 officers, 52 more than in March 2001. This is a record number of officers. The force also had 724 civilian staff, 30 more than in March 2001.

Under the crime fighting fund (CFF) recruitment initiative, Northamptonshire police has been allocated a total of 90 additional recruits, over and above its previous recruitment plans for the three years to March 2003.

In 2000–01 Northamptonshire police recruited all 32 of its CFF allocation for that year and had approval to accelerate 31 of its 2001–02 allocation into 2000–01. There will therefore be one CFF recruit in 2001–02 and a further 26 CFF recruits in 2002–03.

Police Complaints

20. Ms Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to improve the police complaints system. [5161]

Mr. Denham: We will bring forward legislation in this Session, which will include provisions to establish a new police complaints system to replace the current system. The new system will mean a new body, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, will replace the Police Complaints Authority. The Government published their plans for a new system in a framework document on 18 December last year, copies of which can be found in the Library.

Police (Reassurance Work)

21. Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the reassurance work of the police. [5162]

Mr. Denham: The police reform process is looking at the ways in which the visibility and accessibility of the police can be increased. We have been working closely with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to identify how these approaches could be used to increase levels of public reassurance. We are also looking at how to make best use of those who work with the police as partners in delivering community safety.

Police (North Yorkshire)

22. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with the chief constable on increasing the number of police officers in North Yorkshire. [5163]

Mr. Denham: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not discussed police numbers with the chief

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constable. He has arranged to visit the North Yorkshire police in the near future. A range of issues will be discussed including the resources available to the force.

I am told by the chief constable that the force had 1,388 police officers on 21 September which is 83 more than on 31 March 2001. 1 understand that the force is on target to have 1,420 officers by 31 March 2002. The force also had 682 civilian support staff—91 more than in March.

28. Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to visit Scarborough and Whitby to inspect the North Yorkshire police force and the rural mobile police station initiative. [5169]

Mr. Denham: I am keen to visit as many police forces as I can to hear the views of the police service and to see the work being done to reduce crime and provide public reassurance. I will be visiting North Yorkshire police on 1 November and will be interested to hear of innovative ways of making police officers more visible and accessible to the communities they serve.

Drug Education Programmes

23. Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will visit the DARE drug education programme and make it a model for a nationwide scheme for all 10-year-olds. [5164]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I am unable to visit the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Programme at present.

I am aware of the contribution made by DARE Programme to drug education schemes in a number of areas, particularly the strong support it has in the Nottinghamshire area. However, it is for local education authorities to decide on the most appropriate approach to drug education in their schools, taking account of the specific needs and circumstances of pupils in that area.

The Department for Education and Skills (DFES) has issued guidance encouraging schools to deliver drug, alcohol and tobacco education as part of a broader personal, social and health education (PSHE) curriculum. This framework has been in place since September 2000 for pupils aged five to 16 and gives PSHE an assured place in the national curriculum.

Drug education in schools is part of a wide range of services for young people jointly planned and commissioned through Drug Action Teams (DATs), and monitored through Young Persons Substance Misuse Plans. The plans aim to ensure that, by 2004, in every DAT area there will be substance misuse education and information for all young people and their families; advice and support targeted at vulnerable groups; early identification of need; and tailored support to all who need it.

Police Suspensions (Wales)

24. Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers in the (a) Dyfed Powys area and (b) Aberystwyth division were

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suspended from work on full, part or sick pay for (i) six months, (ii) one year and (iii) two years or more during the last year. [5165]

Mr. Denham: The Professional Standards Department of Dyfed-Powys police has informed me that there are currently four officers suspended, two of whom are based in the Aberystwyth division. These two officers have been suspended since September and December 1999. The other two officers are from the Brecon division and have been suspended since October 2000.

In addition, one officer from Aberystwyth division was suspended on 27 June 2000 and reinstated on 27 July 2001 (a period of some 13 months). Another officer from the same division was suspended on 10 October 2000 and reinstated on 31 November 2000 (a period of one month).

During the year 2000–01 the following officers have also now been reinstated, or have resigned, following a period of suspension. They are given in chronological date order. One officer from a headquarters department was suspended on 13 August 1999 and resigned from the service on 15 March 2000 (a period of some seven months). One officer from Carmarthen division was suspended on 3 September 1999 and reinstated on 7 April 2000 (a period of some seven months). One officer from Brecon division was suspended on 6 December 1999 and reinstated on 15 May 2000 (a period of some five months). One officer from Pembrokeshire division was suspended on 6 June 2000 and reinstated on 6 September 2001 (a period of some 15 months). One officer from Pembrokeshire division was suspended on 19 February 2001 and reinstated on 6 September 2001 (a period of some seven months). The Dyfed-Powys police have confirmed that all the officers concerned were, or are, suspended on full pay.

Police Personnel Management

25. Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the management of personnel within police forces. [5166]

Mr. Denham: The Government are committed to ensuring that the police service as a whole has modern and effective personnel policies. Such policies are vital to improving the fitness, the readiness and the availability of all forces to tackle crime. We want the police service to have the very best modern management practices. A key part of our strategy is the development of an occupational health service to be co-ordinated nationally and delivered locally.

Female Police Officers

27. Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to improve retention of female officers in the police force. [5168]

Mr. Denham: The police reform process should deliver working conditions and practices which will support all officers and in particular female officers. We have already taken action to support more flexible working practices; we have recently laid the Police (Amendment) Regulations

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2001 which will, from 1 November, extend part-time working to chief inspector rank. This, and a report which the Home Office is about to publish on flexible working in the police service, should greatly assist chief officers to adopt a more strategic approach to improve recruitment, retention, efficiency and effectiveness.

Police Numbers (Sussex)

29. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police numbers in Sussex. [5170]

Mr. Denham: I understand from the acting chief constable that on 1 October 2001 Sussex police had 2,963 police officers, 108 more than in March 2001. The force also had 1,573 civilian support staff, 119 more than in March 2001.

Under the crime fighting fund (CFF) we have allocated Sussex police 206 CFF recruits over three years to March 2003; 47 were recruited in 2000–01. Latest information from the force indicates that it expects to recruit 83 of its CFF allocation in 2001–02 and a further 76 in 2002–03.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about police numbers in Sussex. [5148]

Mr. Denham: I am told by the acting chief constable of Sussex that on 1 October 2001 Sussex police had 2,963 police officers, 108 more than in March 2001. The force also had 1,573 civilian support staff, 119 more than in March 2001.

The crime fighting fund is delivering more police officers to Sussex police. Information supplied by the force shows that Sussex expects to take on a total of 224 new recruits this year.


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