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Harmondsworth Detention Centre

Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what disciplinary action has been taken against staff at Harmondsworth Detention Centre as a result of incidents involving injuries to detainees over the period 1 March 1999 and 29 February 2000. [114432]

Mrs. Roche: No disciplinary action has been taken against staff at Harmondsworth Detention Centre between 1 March 1999 and 29 February 2000, as a result of any incidents involving injuries to detainees.

Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish the staffing structure of the Harmondsworth Detention Centre, including the ratio of staff on duty to detainees. [114433]

Mrs. Roche: The staffing structure and ratio of staff to detainees employed by the contractor at Harmondsworth is commercially sensitive information and it would not be appropriate to publish it.

The contractor was appointed after a competitive tendering exercise and one of the factors taken into account during the evaluation was the proposal for staff coverage.

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City Status

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the criteria, including those related to population, for a town to be eligible to receive city status; and if he will make a statement. [114711]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: City status is an honour conferred by the Sovereign by Letters Patent. Population size is among the matters taken into account in submitting advice to Her Majesty, there are no specific eligibility criteria.


Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how long the journey time was on each occasion wild-caught baboons were imported into the UK in (a) 1998 and (b) 1999; and if he will make a statement; [114106]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 14 March]: All but a small number of primates used in scientific procedures in the United Kingdom are captive-bred and not taken from the wild. Under measures introduced in 1996, authority to use wild-caught primates will be given only if the applicant can establish exceptional and specific justification. Such cases are very rare. We must also be satisfied that the applicant has made (and continues to make) appropriate efforts to find suitable captive-bred primates. All applications to use wild-caught primates are referred to the Animal Procedures Committee for its advice.

The last authorisation was given in 1998 for up to 40 wild-caught baboons to be imported into the United Kingdom for use in scientific research into aspects of xenotransplantation. The first part of this consignment--28 animals--arrived from Kenya in May 1999. No more have been imported since then and none were imported in 1998.

The work with these baboons is to improve transplant procedures. Xenotransplantation includes the transplantation of organs such as hearts and kidneys between different animal species and from animals into humans. Organ transplantation is a hugely successful medical procedure--one that has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people across the world. The critical shortage of human donor organs has led scientists to investigate xenotransplantation as an alternative potential source of organs. This is policy on which the Department of Health leads. Baboons are used in heart xenotransplantation procedures because of the need to use primates of suitable body weight to sustain the size of the heart. They are extremely difficult to breed in captivity.

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Captive-bred animals are therefore available on the world market only in very limited numbers, and United Kingdom researchers have been unable to become "preferred clients" of the captive-bred sources.

The total journey time for the May 1999 consignment was 34 hours from placing the animals in transport crates at the supplier's premises in Kenya to their receipt at the designated establishment in the United Kingdom. All of the animals arrived in good condition.

The Inspectorate last visited Richard Mann's premises in Kenya in November 1995. This visit revealed that standards were not satisfactory and the Secretary of State was advised that approval of this establishment would be withheld unless and until substantial improvements were made to the accommodation and care offered to wild-caught baboons destined for supply to the United Kingdom.

By February 1997 documentary evidence confirmed that the necessary improvements had been made and the establishments "approved status" was restored. Animals destined for the United Kingdom are group-housed in large, modern outdoor enclosures. The Home Office is aware that the "sub-standard" areas remain in use for animals for supply to non-United Kingdom customers. We cannot regulate premises in Kenya used to accommodate animals that will never be shipped to the United Kingdom. Confirmation has been obtained that all animals destined for shipment to the United Kingdom have been held in the improved accommodation.

Crown Dependencies (Financial Regulation)

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the implementation by the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man of the Edwards report on Financial Regulation in the Crown Dependencies. [115188]

Mr. Straw: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man have produced reports setting out the steps that they have taken and are continuing to take to give effect to the conclusions of the Edwards Report. I have today placed copies of the Islands' reports in the Library.

I am encouraged by the positive and constructive way in which the authorities in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have responded to the challenge of the Edwards Report. Although the Report placed them in the top division of offshore centres, the authorities in all three jurisdictions have been implementing programmes of further improvement in their systems of financial regulation which had begun even before the publication of the Report in November 1998. These programmes are still being taken forward; the islands recognise that the process of improving financial regulation must be a continuing one that works for the benefits of their economies and will strengthen the integrity of offshore financial centres.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many appeals against refusal to grant asylum are waiting to be heard; and how many of them were lodged in the last six months and in each preceding six month period. [114682]

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Mrs. Roche: At the end of February 2000, a total of 5,615 asylum appeals were outstanding at the Immigration Appellate Authority. This figure includes 3,580 Adjudicator appeals, 310 applications for leave to appeal to the Tribunal and 1,725 appeals to the Tribunal.

Information on the number of appeals against asylum decisions on a quarterly basis, in 1998 and 1997, is given in Table 8.1 of Home Office Statistical Bulletin "Asylum Statistics United Kingdom, 1998", a copy of which is available in the Library. Information covering earlier years can be found in previous editions of the Statistical Bulletin.

It is planned that quarterly figures for the calendar year 1999 will be included in the next Asylum Bulletin which is due to be published in June of this year.

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the criteria for detention of asylum seekers at Oakington Reception Centre. [115345]

Mrs. Roche: Oakington Reception Centre will strengthen our ability to deal quickly with asylum applications, many of which prove to be unfounded. In addition to the existing detention criteria, applicants will be detained at Oakington where it appears that their application can be decided quickly, including those which may be certified as manifestly unfounded. Oakington will consider applications from adults and families with children, for whom separate accommodation is being provided, but not from unaccompanied minors. Detention will initially be for a period of about seven days to enable applicants to be interviewed and an initial decision to be made. Legal advice will be available on site.

If the claim cannot be decided in that period, the applicant will be granted temporary admission or, if necessary in line with existing criteria, moved to another place of detention. If the claim is refused, a decision about further detention will similarly be made in accordance with existing criteria. Thus, detention in this latter category of cases will normally be to effect removal or where it has become apparent that the person will fail to keep in contact with the Immigration Service.

Mr. Darvill: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what support arrangements exist for asylum seekers to submit material in support of their claim for asylum. [115346]

Mrs. Roche: The White paper 'Fairer, Faster and Firmer--A Modern Approach to Immigration and Asylum' published in July 1998, standardised the period allowed for asylum seekers to submit further material after a substantive interview at five days. We have decided that some adjustment to this policy is needed to deliver faster asylum decisions, while at the same time ensuring that asylum seekers have a proper opportunity to establish their claim.

In the case of applications considered at Oakington Reception Centre, we are arranging for the Refugee Legal Centre and Immigration Advisory Service to provide legal advice on-site. It has been agreed with those organisations that the consideration process should operate so that such advice may be provided both before and after the substantive interview. Other than in very exceptional circumstances, the substantive interview will take place

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on the third day at the centre and so there will normally be two more days after the interview in which to submit additional representations. The five day period for submission of supporting material will in these cases therefore commence as soon as the asylum application has been made, rather than from the date of the substantive interview.

We have also decided that the five day period for submission of further supporting evidence will not apply to asylum claims where no substantive interview is conducted at the time the claim is made. In those cases, applicants are issued a Statement of Evidence form which they are required to submit to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate within 14 days. We think this gives applicants a reasonable period to set out their claim, and time to seek legal representation if they wish. Where an application is not granted on the basis of the evidence in the Statement of Evidence form, applicants are interviewed and in these cases a decision will be made immediately after this substantive interview.

The five day standard period for applicants to submit further material after substantive interview, as set out in the White Paper, will continue to apply in all other cases.

Discretion will be exercised to permit an extension of the applicable period for the making of post interview representations where exceptional circumstances require--for example, where possible torture victims are identified.

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to review the policy of considering applications for permission to work by asylum seekers who have been in the UK for six months or more; and if he will make a statement. [114566]

Mrs. Roche: As we announced in the information document "Asylum Seekers Support", which we published in March last year, we intend to end, with effect from 3 April 2000, that element of the employment concession whereby asylum seekers who are appealing against the refusal of asylum are, on application, granted permission to work. However, we have no plans at present to withdraw the remainder of the employment concession whereby asylum seekers who have not received a first determination of their case within six months are, on application, given permission to work. We will, however, be keeping this under review, particularly with regard to whether, in the light of progress in processing all asylum claims within an average of six months, such a concession can continue to be justified.

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