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Coastal Erosion

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the effects of sand dredging on coastal erosion. [28115]

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Ms Keeble [holding answer 17 January 2002]: Careful consideration is given to all of the environmental implications of marine minerals dredging proposals that are submitted to the Secretary of State. Each proposal is subject to environmental impact assessment that includes a coastal impact study prepared by HR Wallingford. The proposed dredging will be allowed only if the Secretary of State is satisfied that there will be no unacceptable coastal impacts.

A14

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when, upon the Highways Agency completing its preparatory work on the major A14 improvements, included in the preferred plan of the Cambridge to Huntingdon multi- modal study, the scheme will entered into the DTLR's targeted programme of improvements. [27737]

Mr. Spellar: I have asked the Highways Agency to carry out preparatory work on the major A14 improvements included in the preferred plan of the Cambridge to Huntingdon multi-modal study with a view to an early entry to the targeted programme of improvements. This work by the Highways Agency began this month with the aim of finishing it within six months, after which a decision will be made on entry to the TPI. Subsequently, public consultation on the route would be expected within 12 months.

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions whether, in the event of approval of the final plans for the proposed major A14 improvements arising from the Cambridge to Huntingdon multi-modal study, it is the Government's intention to utilise the resources, provided for implementing decisions arising from multi-modal studies in the Government's 10-year transport plan, to effect the A14 improvements. [27738]

Mr. Spellar: I can confirm that in the event of approval of the final plans for the proposed A14 improvements, the scheme will be funded from the resources made available under the 10-Year Plan for Transport.

Landscaping Industry

Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent research he has commissioned into the health and safety record of the landscaping industry; and if he will publish this research. [27884]

Mr. Raynsford: No recent research has been commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive into the health and safety record of the landscaping industry.

Construction Industry

Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what new health and safety measures are planned for the construction industry, with particular regard to those businesses working within the land-based sector. [27883]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government have established the Strategic Forum for Construction to bring about industry consensus on future strategy and policy and has asked the chairman, Sir John Egan, to tackle the industry's health

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and safety performance as a key priority for action. The Health and Safety Commission has also initiated a Construction Priority Programme to focus its resources on the industry and the Health and Safety Executive is planning to publish a discussion document in the spring to ask the industry's views on a wide range of issues that affect health and safety.

The Constructors' Liaison Group, the umbrella body for the British Association of Landscape Industries, committed itself to adopting targets for certificated competence in health and safety of the work force, encouraging members to support the Construction Skills Certification Scheme and similar schemes.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Ms Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the public register holding information on genetically modified organisms will be reopened. [29351]

Dr. Whitehead: The public register holding information on the contained use of genetically modified organisms will be reopened on or around 11 February and will contain all information except for that excluded in the interests of national security.

Under the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2000 the Competent Authority—the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in England, the Scottish Ministers and HSE in Scotland—is required to maintain a public register, and is firmly committed to a policy of openness and transparency. The register contains information on all notified premises and activities.

Following the activities of 11 September, HSE, on behalf of the Competent Authority, took the decision to temporarily withhold public access to the register because of the security risk.

Yesterday I signed the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 which will allow the Secretary of State to exclude information from the register in the interests of national security.

A meeting of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification and invited experts will consider the list of pathogens already compiled for schedule 5 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and whether any additional genetically modified pathogens should be excluded from the register.

HSE acting on behalf of, and with the agreement of, the other members of the Competent Authority, will then review and sift the entries on the register and will reopen the register on or around 11 February. In the meantime HSE has arranged to make the information available to enquirers on a case-by-case basis.

Following the reopening of the register a system of regular review will be put in place to consider those items excluded from the register, with the aim of keeping to a minimum information which has to be excluded in the interests of national security.

Commuter Traffic

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what

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assessment his Department has made of the environmental benefits of using financial incentives to encourage commuter traffic to shift from using cars to motorcycles; and if he will make a statement. [26731]

Mr. Boateng: I have been asked to reply.

The Government believe there are some environmental benefits associated with commuting by motorcycle rather than car. These are outlined in the interim report published by the Advisory Group on Motorcycling in April last year. A copy is available in the House Library.

The Government are also currently undertaking a consultation exercise asking for views on how VED for motorcycles can better reflect environmental impacts. The closing date for responses is 8 February.

SOLICITOR-GENERAL

Crown Prosecution Service

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General what assessment she has made of HM CPS inspectorate's report on inspection of the CPS in North Yorkshire; and if she will make a statement. [27682]

The Solicitor-General: The HMCPSI report on North Yorkshire was published on 4 December 2001. The Attorney-General and I have considered the report and are pleased to note the positive picture that it presents.

The report identifies clear improvements since the last inspection of North Yorkshire in 1998. Inspectors found that the area had a very good sense of corporate identity supported by good communication, with an experienced, stable and committed staff and strong leadership. Good systems are in placed for monitoring and reporting on casework performance. The quality of the lawyers' decision-making is sound and cases are progressed well with on-going reviews. Some aspects of casework still require improvement but work is in hand to bring about the necessary improvements. The report commented positively on the quality of management of the area, standards of advocacy, relationships with other criminal justice agencies and the involvement of staff in community and specialist groups across the county.

Plans have already been agreed to tackle those areas highlighted in the report where further improvements are necessary and action will be taken to ensure even better performance in the future.

Bob Spink: To ask the Solicitor-General what action she takes to prevent the use of inappropriate lesser charges by the Crown Prosecution Service. [28415]

The Solicitor-General: When considering any allegation, Crown Prosecutors are guided by statutory provisions and the Code for Crown Prosecutors. It is the duty of Crown Prosecutors to make sure that the right person is prosecuted for the right offence. In doing so, they must always act in the interests of justice and not solely for the purpose of obtaining a conviction.

The code further advises that Crown Prosecutors should select charges which reflect the seriousness of the offending, give the court adequate sentencing powers and enable the case to be presented in a clear and simple way.

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This means that Crown Prosecutors may not always continue with the most serious charge where there is a choice.

There are two stages in the decision to prosecute. The first stage is the evidential test. If the case does not pass the evidential test, it must not go ahead. If the case does meet the evidential test, Crown Prosecutors must decide if a prosecution is needed in the public interest.

In addition to statutory provisions and the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the Crown Prosecution Service, Crown Prosecutors are guided by charging standards, nationally agreed with the police for a range of offences, including offences of violence. The charging standards for assaults were designed to ensure consistency in the charging and prosecuting of offences involving violence.

CPS Essex has moved to a Criminal Justice Unit and Trial Unit structure. This move, together with the Narey reforms have meant that prosecutors are involved at a far earlier stage of the process and are able to provide advice.

Bob Spink: To ask the Solicitor-General how many cases, by category of offence, have been discontinued in the Essex Crown Prosecution Service in the last year for which records are available. [28420]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service does not record offences discontinued or dropped by offence category. However, in the year October 2000 to September 2001, CPS Essex finalised 27,942 defendant cases, in the magistrates and Crown courts, out of which cases against 3,163 defendants were discontinued. This represents 11.3 per cent. of the total casework, against a national average for discontinue of 13.1 per cent.

Bob Spink: To ask the Solicitor-General what the target staffing level is of the Crown Prosecution Service in Essex; and what the actual level is. [28421]

The Solicitor-General: The staffing level for the Essex area of the Crown Prosecution Service on 1 April last year was 106.2 posts, comprising 37.6 prosecutor posts, and 68.6 administrative posts. The Government have made substantial extra resources available to the Crown Prosecution Service, a 23 per cent. increase in real terms, which has enabled it to recruit significant numbers of extra staff.

Currently the Essex area has 115 staff in post, comprising 42 prosecutors and 73 administrative staff. This level of staffing meets the area's current needs.


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