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Mr. Leigh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his plans to introduce measures to ban the sale of absinthe. [85364]

Mr. Rooker [holding answer 25 May 1999]: I have no plans to introduce such measures.

8 Jun 1999 : Column: 252

Horse Breeders

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to help the British thoroughbred horse breeders to compete internationally. [85210]

Mr. Nick Brown: The Government recognise the economic importance of the horse industry, and for that reason has welcomed the recent establishment of the British Horse Industry Confederation, an organisation set up to foster the interests of all sectors of the horse industry. In this role, the Confederation will be working constructively to promote the competitive position of the British thoroughbred horse breeding industry, as well as raising the profile of other parts of this important rural industry.

Climate Change Levy

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the effect of the proposed climate change levy on (a) the horticultural sector, (b) the poultry sector and (c) consumer food prices in these sectors. [85095]

Mr. Rooker: Lord Marshall's Report on the role of economic instruments and the business use of energy, was published in November 1998. Since the publication of that report, my department has provided further information to other Government Departments on trends in energy use in the horticulture sector. The Government will take sectoral impacts, including any potential impacts on prices and competitiveness, into account in setting the final rates of the climate change levy.

Birth Certificates

Mr. Charles Kennedy: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the purposes for which his Department and its agencies require a birth certificate to be provided by (a) employees, contractors and persons applying for employment and contracts and (b) others. [84326]

Mr. Nick Brown: A birth certificate, or similar documentary evidence, may be required for one or more of the following purposes:

Agencies, other than the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD), the Central Science Laboratory (CSL), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) will reply direct.

Letter from Johnston McNeill to Mr. Charles Kennedy, dated 8 June 1999:

8 Jun 1999 : Column: 253

    The main purpose in the MHS requiring sight of a birth certificate for directly employed staff is to verify identity and to confirm eligibility of the individual for employment under Civil Service nationality provisions.

    The MHS also makes extensive use of veterinary surgeons supplied on contract obtained following a national competitive tendering exercise. The MHS does not require sight of birth certificates for these individuals.

Letter from Sarah Nason to Mr. Charles Kennedy, dated 8 June 1999:

    FRCA requests birth certificates during recruitment for identification purposes.

Letter from John Fitzgerald to Mr. Charles Kennedy, dated 8 June 1999:

    The only such time that the VMD would ask for birth certificates to be provided would be as part of a recruitment exercise. These would be used to confirm identify and age of candidates and to verify their eligibility for employment under the Civil Service nationality rules.

Agriculture Council

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will publish the agenda for the Agriculture Council of 17 to 18 May. [84698]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 18 May 1999]: The agenda for the 17 May Agriculture Council covered the following items:

    State of the Pigmeat Market

    Progress Reports:



    (Information from the Commission)

    Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No.2377/90 laying down a Community Procedure for the establishment of maximum residue limits of veterinary medicinal products in foodstuffs of animal origin.

    (Draft Council Conclusions)

    Discussion on a Draft Council Resolution on Antibiotic Resistance.


Asylum and Immigration Cases (Costs)

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what were the agreed baseline costs for (a) asylum and (b) immigration cases agreed between the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and Siemens Business Services in November 1997; what are the current baseline costs for each type of case; and what changes in the contract have been made since November 1997. [85040]

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Mr. Mike O'Brien: In order to calculate the productivity charges payable to Siemens Business Services under the terms of the Casework Contract, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) calculated the cost of a range of types of case over the baseline period October 1995 to September 1996. For this baseline period, costs, which exclude some overheads, were calculated for individual types of immigration casework, including an asylum case and a general or settlement immigration case, and for a standard unit of IND casework. IND no longer calculates the unit cost for individual types of cases. The available unit costs of IND casework for the baseline period, November 1997, November 1998 and April 1999 are shown in the table:


Cost of asylum caseCost of a general or settlement immigration caseUnit cost of range of IND casework
Baseline (October 1995- September 1996)358.5854.0442.89
November 1997n/an/a45.69
November 1998n/an/a41.72
April 1999n/an/a43.66

Formal changes have been made to Schedule 11 (Programme Plan) to alter the project timetable, to Schedule 15 (Service Change Procedure) to include additional training, and to Schedule 26 (Programme and Contract Management) to reflect changes to the personnel of the contractor and the authority.

Asylum Seekers

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people are working on clearing the backlog of asylum applications made before 31 December 1995; how many decisions on these applications have been made in each month since July 1998; how many of these decisions have been (a) indefinite leave, (b) exceptional leave, (c) refusals and (d) other; how many applications are outstanding from (i) before July 1993 and (ii) between July 1993 and December 1995; and when he expects this backlog to be cleared. [85044]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There are a total of 51 Home Office staff of all grades working to clear the remaining unresolved asylum applications lodged before 1 January 1996. As at the end of April 1999, it is estimated that there remained 4,465 applications outstanding made before July 1993 and 16,730 made between July 1993 and December 1995.

Between 1 December 1998 and 31 April 1999 a total of 2,910 decisions on pre-1 January 1996 applications were made by the teams established to deal with the backlog. Of these, 2,130 were pre-July 1993 applications granted indefinite leave while 610 were grants of exceptional leave in July 1993 to December 1995 applications. 160 applications of the latter group were recognised as refugees and granted asylum. A total of 10 applications have been refused.

It is intended that the applications made before July 1993 be cleared by September 1999 and those lodged between July 1993 and December 1995 by April 2000.

8 Jun 1999 : Column: 255

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 19 May 1999, Official Report, column 369, on asylum seekers, when he plans to write. [85944]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: A written reply was sent on 28 May 1999.

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