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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 9 May 2000



Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the role of the United Nations in Kosovo. [121067]

Mr. Vaz [holding answer 5 May 2000]: The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has the unenviable task of reconstructing a devastated province and reconciling a polarised population. To this end UNMIK's operations have divided up under four pillars, covering civil administration, humanitarian relief, democratic institution-building and reconstruction.

We fully support UNMIK's efforts to carry out its mandate and have provided UK personnel to assist in local government, 60 civilian police officers with a further 90 promised and £119 million in humanitarian relief and reconstruction aid.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Sierra Leone. [121299]

Mr. Hain: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 8 May 2000, Official Report, columns 518-29.


Nuclear Test Veterans

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many claims for compensation by British nuclear test veterans have been (a) made and (b) settled to date. [121304]

Dr. Moonie: My Department has recorded 144 claims for compensation from British nuclear test veterans. As there is no evidence of excess illness or mortality among British nuclear test veterans as a group which could be linked to their participation in the nuclear tests, no compensation claims from them have been settled. In any event, prior to May 1987, Service personnel were prevented from pursuing claims for compensation from the Ministry of Defence by section 10 of The Crown Proceedings Act 1947. The repeal of section 10 by the Crown Proceedings (Armed Forces) Act 1987 was not made retrospective and claims arising from injury or illness caused before the repeal are barred by law.

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Dr. Harold Shipman

Mr. Pendry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from hon. Members regarding an inquest on the 23 alleged victims of Dr Shipman; and if he is minded to direct the Stockport coroner to hold such an inquest. [121461]

Mr. Straw: No representations have been made to me on this matter other than from my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry). Having regard to all the issues, including the difficult position for the relatives if the deaths were not investigated in public, I have agreed that inquests should take place and directions have been sent to the coroner accordingly. The directions give the coroner authority to hold inquests. However, the detailed handling arrangements are matters for the coroner to determine.

Radio (Emergency Services)

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from (a) other Government Departments, (b) the Fire Service, (c) the Ambulance Service and (d) the Police concerning the Radio Replacement Scheme. [121336]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I have received various representations from police forces, the Association of Police Authorities, individual Police Authorities and other interested organisations in England and Wales about the Public Safety Radio Communications Project (PSRCP). The project represents an important part of our commitment to ensure that the police have access to the modern facilities they need to play their key part in tackling crime and disorder and improving community safety. Concern has been expressed about the cost of the project. I recognise those concerns. Over the three year period starting from the 1999-2000 financial year, the police service will receive an additional £1.24 billion in central Government funding. The annual charges for the PSRC Service will be reduced by the £50 million that I obtained from the Capital Modernisation Fund, specifically for the PSRCP. Consideration of the financial pressures on forces will also be taken into account in the overall level of resources to be provided to the police service in future years as part of the year 2000 Spending Review.

I have received, also, various representations from the fire services about future radio communications and control room requirements, including views on cost and on participation in the PSRC Service. All fire authorities in England and Wales are now required to undertake Best Value reviews of their communications requirements in 2000-01. I am making available to fire authorities this week the results of a consultancy study to assist consideration of their future control room needs. This strongly confirms the benefits of a joined-up approach in exploring technology to create new possibilities for improving cost-effectiveness and service delivery. This will be followed by guidance on take up of the PSRC Service.

The PSRC Service represents a positive approach to options to radio replacement programs within the Ambulance Services. The NHS Executive is reviewing this.

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Chinese Head of State (Visit)

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the conduct of the Metropolitan police in relation to protesters during the Chinese Head of State's visit in 1999. [121298]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The policing arrangements for the State Visit of the President of China were fully reviewed by the Metropolitan police after the visit, and a copy of the review placed in the Library.

Since that time, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has accepted, in the context of court proceedings, that the removal of some flags and banners from protesters was unlawful.

EU Action Plan

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the role of Europol in co-operation with the Russian Federation authorities combating organised crime in the context of the EU Action Plan. [120851]

Mr. Charles Clarke: In its meeting on 27 March 2000, the Justice and Home Affairs Council approved the European Union Action Plan on common action for the Russian Federation on combating organised crime. In that meeting, the Council also adopted a Decision authorising the Director General of Europol to enter into negotiations on agreements with certain third states, including the Russian Federation, and non-European Union related bodies. The Government welcome this Council Decision which, in the context of the Action Plan, enables Europol to play a full part in supporting co-operation between the member states and the Russian Federation in combating the common threat from organised crime to mutual advantage.

Schengen Agreement

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on Government policy on acceding to elements of Schengen in lieu of a third state agreement, as set out in the Council Decision of 27 March, 2000/C106/01; what elements of

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information may not be shared under the latter agreement; and what assessment he has made of the additional benefits from direct partial accession. [120850]

Mrs. Roche: The United Kingdom Government have applied to participate in the law enforcement and judicial co-operation aspects of the Schengen acquis, including the Schengen Information System (SIS), in order to enhance co-operation at European Union level in the fight against organised and international crime.

The purpose of the Council Decision referred to is a limited one: it authorises the Director of Europol to enter into negotiations on agreements with third States and non-European Union related bodies. The United Kingdom is, of course, already a full member of Europol.

The Decision does not cover the broader police and judicial co-operation arrangements provided for in the Schengen Convention, nor the opportunity to participate in the SIS.

Europol and the SIS were established for entirely different purposes: the Europol Convention specifically excludes exchanges of information between the two databases. The Government's application to participate in parts of the Schengen acquis is complementary to its existing participation in Europol.

Magistrates Courts

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the cost to the probation services in England and Wales consequent upon the closure of magistrates courts from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1999. [121030]

Mr. Boateng: The information on which such estimates could be based is not held locally.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much his Department spent (i) directly and (ii) indirectly on asylum seekers in (a) 1995, (b) 1996, (c) 1997, (d) 1998 and (e) 1999; and what estimate has been made of expenditure in the year 2000. [119485]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 17 April 2000]: The following amounts have been directly spent on supporting asylum seekers. Expenditure is recorded by financial year and it is not possible to give figures for calendar years.

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Direct Costs
£ million

Home Office--------537
Department of Social Security:
Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance205195150150(1)--
Housing Benefit205195145125--
Council Tax Benefit10101010--
Department of Health:
Total (to nearest £ million)420413375475590

(1) Home Office figures for 1999-2000 include the following amounts paid to the Department of Social Security for the cost of asylum support:

Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance--£170 million

Housing Benefit--£135 million

Council Tax Benefit--£10 million


Figures may not sum due to rounding

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The Department of Health did not incur costs of supporting asylum seekers before 1996-97, but from 1996-97 to 1998-99 was responsible for Special Grant payments to local authorities towards the cost of supporting asylum seekers. In 1999-2000, responsibility for grant payments for adult singles and families transferred to the Home Office, with responsibility for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children remaining with the Department of Health.

The Home Office also incurs other costs of dealing with asylum seekers, but these cannot be separated from the overall costs of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. The following table shows the annual outturn for Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which includes the cost of dealing with asylum seekers. The budgeted amount for 2000-01 has yet to be confirmed.

Indirect Costs
£ million

YearAmount spent

(2) Forecast outturn

The Lord Chancellor's Department also incurs costs in dealing with asylum seekers, but these cannot be separated from the overall running costs of the Immigration Appellate Authority. The following table provides administration costs of the Immigration Appellate Authority, which includes the costs of dealing with asylum seekers but excludes accommodation recruitment and other capital expenses. The budget for 2000-01 has yet to be confirmed.

£ million

YearAmount spent

The Department of Social Security estimates that between 1994 and 1999 the annual administrative cost for income support asylum seeker claims was in the region of £1 million. In 1999-2000, the estimated cost is in the region of £2 million.

The Department of Health is unable to quantify the indirect cost of asylum seekers as no data are collected for analysis.

The Department for Education and Employment does not collect information centrally about education, training or employment provision for asylum seekers or their dependants and cannot supply costs spent directly or indirectly from 1995.

The Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has no programme of expenditure on asylum seekers and indirect expenditure is not separately identifiable.

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The number of asylum seekers in Northern Ireland is extremely small and any expenditure is, therefore, negligible.

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