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Jane Kennedy: As chair of the Organised Crime Task Force, I pay tribute to the operational agencies for their many successes in the fight against organised crime. Let me quote just a few recent examples:
In recent weeks, customs has seized 42,500 litres of illicit fuel in two operationsa fuel laundering plant in south Armagh and an illegal fuel storage bunker in County Tyrone.
In the past two months alone, 12 people have been arrested for money-laundering or tax evasion offences and two for armed robberies; on 22 January two men were jailed for extortion offences.
Jane Kennedy: In Northern Ireland we are seeking to tackle and confront extortion and trade in counterfeit goods through the co-ordinated efforts of the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) which I chair.
The OCTF provides a multi-agency approach to tackling the range of organised criminal activity that exists in Northern Ireland, and to optimise our approach members are drawn from HM Customs and Excise, PSNI and NIO, as well as others.
Jane Kennedy: The Organised Crime Task Force has identified high levels of cross border smuggling. The details can be found in the task force's threat assessment for 200102. Good co-operation between the PSNI, the Garda and other agencies has resulted in a number of successes against smugglers. These successes include the seizure of 80 million cigarettes in Dundalk, and the seizure of 42,500 litres of fuel from a fuel laundering plant in South Armagh.
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Mr. Browne: More than £1.5 billion has been spent in compensation for criminal injuries and damage since 196869. It is not possible to break these figures down into terrorist-related and other crime. We anticipate that this year the bills for criminal injuries and damage compensation to victims of crime in Northern Ireland will be £55 million and £9 million respectively.
Mr. Browne: Over £18.25 million has been allocated to support victims of the troubles in Northern Ireland: major elements include funding for the Northern Ireland memorial fund; funding for victims groups in Northern Ireland; support for the development of the Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation; support for victims of the troubles living in Great Britain and a contribution towards the devolved Administration's strategy implementation fund.
8. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the impact of the removal of army watch towers on the security situation since July 2001. 
Jane Kennedy: After the act of decommissioning by PIRA, the reduced level of threat in October allowed the chief constable to make a number of further normalisation moves including the demolition of two towers in the south Armagh area. Intelligence-led policing and good cross border co-operation has resulted in a number of successes against the activities of dissident republicans. As a result of a continued lowering of the threat the chief constable announced on 22 January a further tranche of normalisation measures.
Jane Kennedy: Over 150 new recruits, appointed on a 50 per cent. Catholic, 50 per cent. non-Catholic basis, have now taken up training posts with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and appointments are continuing. The first tranche of recruits will finish training in April 2002. It is encouraging to note that the most recent recruitment competition has attracted over 4,500 applicants, of whom an unprecedented proportion of 38 per cent. are Catholic.
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Mr. Browne: The next scheduled election in Northern Ireland is the Assembly election on 1 May 2003. It is our intention that all the measures proposed by the Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Bill, which will provide the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland with additional functions to address the problem of electoral fraud there, will be in force for that election.
11. Mr. Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to ensure that the graves of Ulster soldiers who died in the first world war are not affected by plans to extend Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. 
Dr. John Reid: I met a senior representative from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on 11 December to express my concern that the building of a proposed third airport for Paris could affect a number of Somme war graves.
The French authorities have not yet defined the final boundaries of the airfield for this airport, but have assured the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that all war graves in the area will be treated with the greatest respect.
Jane Kennedy: During the period 1 April 2001 to 31 December 2001, 20,626 violent crimes were recorded in Northern Ireland, compared with 19,034 recorded in the same period the previous year. This represents an increase of 8.4 per cent. During the same period, the clearance rate for violent crime dropped from 56.2 per cent. to 40.9 per cent., a decrease of 15.3 per cent.
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14. Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assistance is being provided by the United States Government and their agencies to assist the Police Service of Northern Ireland in combating crime. 
Dr. John Reid: Both the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and I have on-going contact with a range of authorities on policing matters. My recent visit to the US gave me a particular opportunity to do this.
I was especially interested to hear of the American approach to organised criminals and the mafia culture. Through the Organised Crime Task Force, we were already adopting the New York approach of establishing multi-agency groups to tackle specific crime problems or particular criminal gangs. The idea is simple but effectiveidentify the problem and put together the agencies who can tackle it.
I am also delighted that joint FBI/PSNI training was restored in December by President Bush and I am convinced that this type of co-operation and training with US law enforcement agencies will contribute to our commitment of ensuring an effective and efficient police service in Northern Ireland.
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