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Private Medical Insurance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 11 February 2002, Official Report, column 57W, on private medical insurance, what plans (a) Norfolk, (b) Thames Valley, (c) Hertfordshire and (d) Bedfordshire police authorities have to make private medical insurance available to their staff; what assessment his Department has made of the potential effects on police officer availability of such plans; and if he will make a statement. [37190]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 28 February 2002]: None of these police forces make private medical insurance available to police officers and support staff.

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We are currently developing an occupational health strategy for the police service which will encourage measures which will help to reduce sickness absence rates and increase police officer availability.

Best Value

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what police forces are the subject of best value assessments. [39235]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 28 February 2002]: All police authorities in England and Wales are defined as best value authorities under the Local Government Act 1999. This requires them to secure continuous improvement in the way their functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

Police Community Consultative Groups

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what guidelines he has issued on the appointment of chairmen of police community consultative groups; [39234]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 28 February 2002]: Section 96 of the Police Act 1996 places a duty on police authorities to make arrangements for obtaining views of people in the force area about matters concerning the policing of the area.

The Act does not specify that this duty should be fulfilled through the establishment of police/community consultative groups which have no formal status set out in statute, and whose constitution and membership is not governed by any binding directives or guidance. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Mr. Blunkett) has issued no specific guidelines on the way in which the chairs of any such groups should be appointed. Information about them is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

In its report published in December 2001, the Community Cohesion Review Team, chaired by Ted Cantle and set up following the disturbances in the north of England last summer, recommended that a good practice guide to community consultation should be developed, and that work is being taken forward.

Sexual Abuse Investigations

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the definition is of trawling, in relation to sex abuse cases; and what research has been done by the HMIC to ascertain the effectiveness of the trawling process. [35957]

Mr. Denham: I refer to a letter sent by my predecessor (Mr. Clarke) in February of last year which addressed this subject.

The term "trawling" has been used by critics of the police to describe the process by which police investigations into serious allegations of historical sexual abuse in children's homes and other institutions trace

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potential witnesses. As such, it is not for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to provide a definition of a term he considers unhelpful and pejorative and is not normally used by the police.

The process referred to by the term is an investigative method which involves sampling from an often long list of potential witnesses who may have information that can be used to corroborate or rebut an allegation of sexual abuse which may have taken place a considerable time beforehand. Due to the very complex nature of these investigations, witness evidence is often paramount due to the lack of forensic and other evidence after the passage of time since the alleged offences.

The Code of Practice issued under Part II of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 sets out general responsibilities for officers conducting investigations into allegations that a crime has been committed. Under the code, police officers conducting an investigation should pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry, whether these point towards or away from the suspect. The practice referred to is established practice as the best use of police resources in eliciting information to assist an investigation.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) undertook a thematic inspection into child protection in 1999 and is currently taking a major part in an inspection of safeguards for children's welfare led by the Social Services Inspectorate. HMIC also routinely conduct detailed force inspections, which include arrangements for child abuse and major crime investigations. None of these has, thus far, thrown doubt over the quality of investigation into institutional child abuse allegations; nor has any evidence to support concerns into the sampling of historic institutional child abuse allegations been brought to the attention of HMIC or the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many court cases have been determined without a jury since the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 came into force. [41367]

Mr. Keith Bradley [holding answer 11 March 2002]: Information relating to the outcome of cases under the Act began to be collated centrally from 1 January 2002. Information about cases completed in 2002 will not be published until the autumn of next year.

Domestic Violence

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what advice is available to probation areas on changing their domestic violence services from established perpetrator programmes with central partner support services in favour of the Duluth Pathfinder. [42662]

Beverley Hughes: Until a nationally accredited programme is available we will not be advising areas to change to a centrally determined programme.

Crime Statistics

Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many crimes were recorded by each police authority in England and Wales in each category of crime for each year since 1997. [37903]

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Mr. Denham: The requested data have been published in table 2.5 in the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 editions of "Criminal Statistics England and Wales", which are available in the Library. It should be noted that there was a change in counting rules for recorded crime on 1 April 1998, which expanded the offences covered, and placed a greater emphasis on counting crimes in terms of numbers of victims. Numbers of recorded crimes after this date are therefore not directly comparable with previous years.

Road Traffic Accidents

Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of emergency police call-outs in the last 12 months for which figures are available were to road traffic accidents, broken down by police authority; and what estimate he has made of the saving to police authorities which a (a) 5 per cent., (b) 10 per cent. and (c) 20 per cent. reduction in road traffic accidents represents. [37462]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 26 February 2002]: In 2000–01 there were 668,549 calls to the police in England and Wales that related to road traffic crashes. These accounted for 3.8 per cent. of the total number of nearly 17.5 millions calls. Data are not available by police force area, and there is no central record of the number of traffic incidents attended by the police as the result of calls or of how many police attended on any occasion.

The latest information on the value of road accident prevention is given in "Highways Economics Note No 1", published by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, in October 2001. This estimates that the total reduction in police costs if all road traffic accidents in 2000 could have been prevented would have been approximately £30 million.



Press Office

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what this year's budget is for his Department's (a) press office and (b) Directorate of Communication; [41997]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 11 March 2002]: Resource allocations for 2001–2002 are as follows:

£ million
(a)Press Office2,487
(b)Directorate of Communication5.842

Within these resource allocations, the press office has an indicative establishment provision for 35 posts. Since June 2001, the press office has averaged 4.5 vacant posts per month.

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I also refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 19 March 2002, Official Report, column 220W.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list the vacancies in his Department's press office. [40107]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 4 March 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given above to questions 41997, 41989, and 41990.

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