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Correspondence

Mr. Baldry: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Banbury dated 23 December concerning Mr. C. Lane of Village Farm, Bletchingdon. [112654]

Ms Quin: I replied to the letter from the hon. Member for Banbury on 2 March 2000.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Christopher Snelling

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds he authorised the early release of Christopher Snelling, the murderer of Police Sergeant Robertson; and if he will make a statement. [111786]

Mr. Boateng: Christopher Snelling was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for conspiracy to rob and the manslaughter of Police Sergeant Robertson. No decision as to his release has yet been taken.

His application for release on parole is currently being considered by the Parole Board, pursuant to the authority delegated to it under the Parole Board (Transfer of Functions) Order 1998. I have asked the Chairman of the Parole Board to write to the hon. Member directly once the Board has concluded its deliberations, setting out its decision.

When considering a case such as Mr. Snelling's, the Parole Board takes into account Directions as to the release of determinate sentence prisoners given by the Secretary of State, under section 32(6) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. These focus primarily on the risk to the public of a further offence being committed at a time when the offender would otherwise be in prison. This is balanced against the benefit, both to the public and the offender, of early release back into the community under a degree of supervision which might help rehabilitation and so lessen the risk of reoffending in the future.

European Public Prosecutor

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which EU member states currently support the establishment of a European public prosecutor; and what is the position of the Commission on this matter. [112339]

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Mr. Charles Clarke: In its Opinion for this year's Intergovernmental Conference, the Commission proposes the creation of a European Public Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute before national courts cases of fraud against the European Community's budget. I have made clear that I am not persuaded of the case for a European prosecutor and see a number of significant difficulties in such a proposal. To date, I am not aware that other member states have publicly declared positions.

Europol

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the cost in the next financial year of the increase in remuneration, pensions and other financial entitlements to Europol employees of December 1999. [112509]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Total personnel costs, including salaries, pensions and other staff allowances, in the Europol budget for 2000 is 17,261,000 euro in respect of 185 posts. These figures compare with a personnel budget for 1999 of 11,130,500 euro for 139 staff. A copy of Europol's draft budget for 2000 (reference 2210-87r6) giving a detailed breakdown of costs was deposited with the Parliamentary scrutiny committees on 20 September 1999.

Asylum Seekers

Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers his Department (a) has and (b) will have after 1 April compulsorily to acquire local government properties used to house asylum seekers, (i) if it needs further such accommodation for such purposes and (ii) if it needs such accommodation on a longer basis than the local authority plans to use it for such purposes. [112477]

Mrs. Roche: Section 101 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (which comes into force on 3 April) provides that the Secretary of State may by order designate areas in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland as reception zones. The Secretary of State may direct a local authority of the Northern Ireland Executive to make available any suitable housing accommodation within such a zone for the purpose of providing support to asylum seekers under section 95 of the 1999 Act. The period for which such accommodation is to be made available cannot exceed five years.

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In relation to Scotland, the Secretary of State may not direct a local authority to provide accommodation unless Scottish ministers have confirmed that the criteria specified in a designation order are in their opinion met in relation to that authority.

Housing accommodation will be suitable for the purposes of the provisions of section 101 if it is unoccupied, likely to remain unoccupied for the foreseeable future if not made available, and appropriate for the accommodation of asylum seekers.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will list those local authorities which are currently supporting asylum seekers who are unaccompanied minors, indicating how many such people are being supported by each such local authority; [113318]

Mrs. Roche: Information on local authority-supported asylum seekers is available only for the Greater London local authorities. I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Coleman) on 9 February 2000, Official Report, columns 166-67W, which gives the available information, as at 7 January 2000, on asylum seekers supported by each London borough, split between families, singles and unaccompanied minors.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what changes he has made since 2 May 1997 to the list of countries where, in terms of section 1 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, there is in general no serious risk of persecution; [113322]

Mrs. Roche: The countries designated as ones where there is in general no serious risk of persecution are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Poland and Romania. No changes have been made to this list since 2 May 1997.

When Part IV and Schedule 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 are brought into force later this year, the list of designated countries will cease to operate. Cases from these countries will then be dealt with, where appropriate, using the fairer and more effective case-specific procedures in the 1999 Act for dealing quickly with unfounded claims.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason payments to Scottish local authorities for supporting asylum seekers differ from such payments to English and Welsh local authorities. [113319]

Mrs. Roche: In England and Wales, local authorities may recover costs associated with supporting asylum seekers subject to unit cost limits of £140 a week for single adults and £240 a week for families. These unit costs have been agreed with the Local Government Association and the Association of London Government.

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In Scotland, asylum seeking adults are supported under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and families and children under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The Home Office and the Scotland Office agreed with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, for the 1999-2000 financial year, to continue previous arrangements under which a flat rate grant of £165 per person is paid for support of asylum seeking adults and families. In future, there will be United Kingdom arrangements for asylum support under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about his Department's investigation into allegations of the misuse of public money to house asylum seekers in Northamptonshire. [113355]

Mrs. Roche: I understand that Northamptonshire County Council is currently conducting an investigation into these allegations to determine whether there are matters that should be referred to the police for possible criminal investigation. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the organisations which have agreed with his Department to provide first contact support for asylum seekers on or after 1 April. [113314]

Mrs. Roche: The following organisations have agreed to provide staff to act as reception assistants to help deal with persons seeking support under the national asylum support scheme. Refugee Arrivals Project; Migrant helpline; Refugee Council; Scottish Refugee Council; Welsh Refugee Council; and Refugee Action.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to apply the new support scheme under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to all asylum seekers whose applications are made on or after 1 April; and if he will make a statement. [113320]

Mrs. Roche: I propose to bring in the new support arrangements on Monday 3 April 2000 for asylum seekers who make their applications at a port of entry from that date. The entitlement of new port applicants to cash, social security and housing benefits will thereupon cease; in-country applicants do not have this entitlement.

Those who apply for asylum from that date and who are then detained at Oakington reception centre, whether their application is port or in-country, will go on to the new support arrangements.

I shall also make arrangements for asylum seekers who claim asylum and support from 3 April in Scotland or Northern Ireland and who are eligible for support to come on to the new support arrangements.

It is my intention to bring the new support arrangements on stream as soon as possible for other asylum seekers who make in-country applications for asylum in England and Wales and for those in England and Wales who claim asylum at their port of entry prior to 3 April 2000 who receive a negative decision and who then go on to appeal. Until then, responsibility for providing support will continue under the terms of Schedule 9 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy in publishing asylum statistics to differentiate between claimants from different parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; and if he will make a statement. [113317]

Mrs. Roche: Asylum statistics are recorded on a nationality basis and Serbs, Kosovans and Montenegrins are nationals of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. To attempt to provide statistics on a regional basis would incur a great deal of effort and disproportionate cost.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the organisations which have agreed with his Department to provide accommodation for asylum seekers on or after 1 April under the provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, indicating how many asylum seekers each contractor has agreed to accommodate. [113315]

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Mrs. Roche: All information about the organisations that have tendered to provide accommodation for asylum seekers under the national asylum support scheme and about the details of their bids is commercially confidential. I am, therefore, unable to provide the information requested.


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