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Mr. Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will reply to letters to the Asylum Directorate from Powell and Co., dated 17 May, 17 June, 8 July, 17 September and 19 October, concerning a constituent (Home Office reference D282723) of the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead; and if he will make a statement. [99771]

Mrs. Roche [pursuant to her reply, 25 November 1999, c. 179W]: I now understand that, owing to a regrettable oversight, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate did not send a reply to the letter of 17 May from Powell and Co. There is no trace of any further letters from the solicitors. On 30 November, a final reply was sent to Powell and Co., and I wrote to my hon. Friend on 22 December.

Car Parks

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made toward the improvement of car parks under the secured car parks scheme. [104266]

Mr. Charles Clarke: As at 31 December 1999, 544 car parks in England and Wales had achieved awards under the secured car parks scheme. Car parks with award status have shown substantial reductions in crime, with a sample showing average reductions of 70 per cent.

Additional Government funding of £150 million over three years for closed circuit television has been made available. Improving car park security was a priority for the first round and 31 bids with a car park element (and a capital value of £3 million) were approved under fast-track procedures. In addition, an award of £1.95 million has been made to London Underground to upgrade 58 car parks to award status.

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Escaped Prisoners

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) men and (b) women prisoners (i) have escaped from custody during their sentence in each of the last five years and (ii) have not been recaptured. [104048]

Mr. Boateng: The information requested is set out in the tables. The numbers of escapes exclude recaptures within 15 minutes where no further offence has been committed. Figures are for financial years and the escape figures for 1999-2000 show the position to the end of December 1999. The recapture data are as accurate as possible, but some escapers may be recaptured or be arrested for other offences and re-enter the system without a link to the previous incident being made or reported.

Escapes from prisons Number of escapers not recaptured at 31 December 1999

Escapes from escorts Number of escapers not recaptured at 31 December 1999

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what support he has offered to local authorities accepting asylum seekers. [104258]

Mrs. Roche: The Government have made special grants available to local authorities to help meet unavoidable additional costs incurred in accommodating and supporting asylum seekers under the Children Act 1989 and the National Assistance Act 1948 who are not otherwise entitled to social benefit. On a weekly basis, these grants are currently up to £150 for a single adult and £220 for a family. The responsibility for the payment of these grants--except those for unaccompanied asylum seeking children--passed to the Home Office in April 1999. Home Office officials have also provided direct support over the past year to the Local Government Association (LGA) and local authorities to devise and operate arrangements to disperse asylum seekers away from those areas under most pressure.

With effect from 1 April 2000, the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 provides for destitute asylum seekers and their dependants to be supported and accommodated by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). Through regional consortia, local authorities will still have a key role to play in co-ordinating the provision of

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accommodation and support services to destitute asylum seekers in their area. To help achieve what is known as the enabling role, Regional Consortia will be eligible to receive up to £40,000 this year and up to £100,000 annually thereafter in grant.

Puppy Farmers

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action his Department is taking in respect of unscrupulous puppy farmers. [104393]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Commercial dog breeding establishments have to be licensed by local authorities under the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973, as amended by the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999. It is an offence to be in breach of any of the licence conditions aimed at ensuring satisfactory welfare standards for the dogs involved. There are inspection powers for suspected unlicensed premises under the Breeding of Dogs Act 1991.

The Home Office has recently issued guidance to local authorities about administration and enforcement of this legislation.

Metropolitan Police (Disciplinary Hearings)

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if it is the policy of the Metropolitan Police henceforth to allow officers facing a discipline hearing the assistance, if requested, of a representative of the Black Police Association in addition to the Police Federation. [103917]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Metropolitan Police Commissioner informs me that it is Metropolitan Police policy to comply with the Police Regulations, and Home Office guidance, on disciplinary hearings.

The Police (Discipline) Regulations 1985, which cover incidents occurring before 1 April 1999, provide that a member of a police force may assist the legal representative at the hearing. The Police (Conduct) Regulations 1999, for incidents after 1 April 1999, provide that in addition to having his or her case conducted by a legal representative, the officer may be accompanied at the hearing by a member of a police force or a friend. The role of the friend is to assist the officer in defending the case.

If the officer asks to have more than one friend present at a misconduct hearing, the presiding officer will base any decision on representations from the officer concerned. If the request is agreed, the second friend will be acting as an observer and not a second advocate to question witnesses on behalf of the officer concerned.

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department from what date all members of the Metropolitan Police discipline tribunals involving accusations of racism will have had anti-racism training. [103918]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Metropolitan Police Commissioner informs me that all of his officers who are eligible to sit on police discipline tribunals as assessors under the Police Act 1996 have received training in the relevant Home Office guidance and regulations, including dealing with racially discriminatory behaviour.

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DERA (PPP Proposals)

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent meetings Ministers in his Department have had with members and officials of the United States Department of Defense to discuss the public private partnership proposals for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency; on what date; at which locations; which UK Ministers attended each of these meetings; which members of the United States Government attended these meetings; and for which section of the United States Department of Defense the officials who attended each meeting were working. [103182]

Mr. Kilfoyle: Since 24 August 1999, the Minister for Defence Procurement, Baroness Symons, has met with the following US representatives to discuss the DERA public private partnership proposals:

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when and where British officials and military personnel met US Government officials to discuss the future of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency; and if he will list the names and job descriptions of the British participants. [103407]

Mr. Kilfoyle [holding answer 21 December 1999]: Throughout the DERA PPP process there has been substantial and widespread discussion with US Government officials, by a considerable number of British officials and military officers, at meetings in the UK, the US and in other countries during, or in the margins of, multilateral meetings.

A full list of all meetings which may have included discussions on the future of DERA between US Government officials and British participants is not held centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost. However the key meetings held specifically to discuss DERA PPP are summarised as follows:

    (b) Mr. C Balmer, the MOD Principal Finance Officer accompanied by Mr. Jordan, Sir John Chisholm, the Chief Executive of DERA and Mr. Jagger visited the US to brief a similar audience at the start of the consultation process, from the 3-7 May 1999.

    (c) Mr. Jagger, accompanied by members of MOD's International Research Collaboration division visited the US on 24-28 May 1999.

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    (e) Mr. Balmer and Mr. Jagger visited Washington during September to hold further discussions with the DoD.

    (f) The DoD's nominated focal point for DERA PPP visited the UK during 15-24 November and held discussions with Mr. Balmer, Mr. Jordan, Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability), Mr. J. Howe, Deputy Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency, Mr. Jagger, Sir John Chisholm and members of their staffs.

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