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Neighbourhood Warden Schemes

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with local authorities about neighbourhood warden schemes. [132503]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) on 24 July 2000, Official Report, columns 457-58W.

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with police about neighbourhood warden schemes in the north west. [132494]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Black Police Association are represented on the Advisory Committee of the Neighbourhood Warden's Unit which has been jointly established by the Home Office and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and which administers the Neighbourhood Wardens fund. The Advisory Committee meets quarterly. The five police forces in the North West region also benefit from having a police representative seconded to the Government Office for the North West, who has been closely involved in the development of town centre neighbourhood warden schemes and the recent bidding round for funding from the Neighbourhood Warden's Fund.

Fruit Pickers

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to review the permit system and the restrictions on the numbers of Eastern European students legally working as fruit pickers. [132578]

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Mrs. Roche [holding answer 25 July 2000]: Under the Immigration Rules, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme already enables non-European Economic Area (EEA) students between the ages of 18 and 25 who are in full-time education to enter the United Kingdom to do some seasonal work in agriculture. The scheme is organised through seven approved operators who issue work cards to the students to gain entry into the United Kingdom to participate in the scheme. There is an annual quota which was raised from 5,500 to 10,000 in 1996.

I am considering with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whether the present quota is adequate.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many unfilled vacancies for permanent staff his Department has; what percentage of staff positions in his Department are vacant; what the monthly cost would be to his Department of employing civil servants in these positions; how many and what percentage of staff his Department employs on a temporary basis through employment agencies; how much his Department paid employment agencies to supply temporary staff in each of the last 12 months; and how much he expects to pay employment agencies to supply temporary staff in each of the next 12 months. [131432]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 25 July 2000]: Agency staff are used to fill vacancies in the short term for a variety of reasons. These could include absences due to long-term sick or maternity leave, the need to provide particular skills for a short project or to cover vacancies that are waiting to be filled from recruitment exercises. Casual appointments, normally for less than 12 months are also made for similar reasons. It would not therefore be appropriate to draw a direct relationship between the use of Agency staff and vacancies in the Home Office.

The additional posts that have been made available to tackle the Asylum backlog in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) have provided opportunities for staff throughout the Home Office. But the vast majority of these additional posts are being filled by recruitment. I am committed to filling all permanent vacancies with permanent staff as soon as possible and a wide range of recruitment exercises have been taken place and are ongoing. For example, in IND, where there is the greatest number of vacancies, 30 recruitment campaigns are taking place and staff are currently joining IND at the rate of about 300 per month. However, until the staff have been selected and are able to join the Home Office, there will be an ongoing need for some vacancies to be covered by Agency staff.

All parts of The Home Office have delegated authority to manage resources, including staff numbers within agreed cash limits. Information on the use and cost of Agency staff is not collected centrally or accounted for separately and could be provided only at disproportionate costs. The best available information is set out in the following table.

Table 1. Staff vacancies and Agency Staff across the Home Office on 1 April

Staff in PostHome Office VacanciesTotal (Staff in Post and Vacancies)Vacancies as a percentage of total Home Office staff positionsAgency staffPercentage of total Home Office staff positions
Main Home Office2,9754403,41512.8(1)441.3
Prison Service HQ2,2281992,4278(1)--

(1) As at June 2000

(1) Figures as July 2000

(1) Not available

(1) Average

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Official Visits

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the visits outside Britain made by his Department's Permanent Secretary on official business since 1 January 1999, indicating the date and purpose of the visit in each case. [132746]

Mr. Straw: The Permanent Secretary at the Home Office visited Paris on Wednesday 6 October 1999 and Berlin on Friday 3 December 1999 for discussions with his counterparts.

Marsham Street Buildings

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if it is his policy not to retain the former Department of the Environment Marsham Street buildings for use by the Civil Service; [132426]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The building has been empty, apart from some temporary uses, including use as a shelter for the homeless, since 1997. It has 920,000 square feet (85,468 square metres) of floor space at ground level and above. It is proposed to retain part of the site and use it to construct offices for the Home Office, after demolition of the existing buildings. The rest of the site will be sold for residential or other uses. Bids from two private sector consortia are being evaluated and I expect it to be in a position to announce the outcome shortly.


Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will extend to all post offices the authority to issue passports. [132417]

Mrs. Roche: No. To ensure international acceptance of the British passport, its integrity and the security of the issuing process, the authority of the issuing process needs to remain with the United Kingdom Passport Agency. The Quinquennial Review of the Agency the report on which my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, published on 28 June confirmed that the Government should continue to be responsible for the issuing of the British passport.

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The Passport Agency does have arrangements with Post Office Counters Ltd which enable applicants for a small additional fee to have their applications checked for completeness and sent on to one of the Agency's offices for return within 10 days. This service is currently available from 1,500 main post offices, and the Post Office aim to extend this to a further 500 offices by early 2001.


Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the family from South Africa, about whom the hon. Member for West Chelmsford wrote to the Minister of State on 21 July, will have their passports returned. [132827]

Mrs. Roche: The family from South Africa had their passports returned to them, suitably endorsed, on 26 July.

Witness Protection

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his oral answer of 14 February 2000, Official Report, column 598, on witness protection, when he referred the comments of the hon. Member for Workington to the Chief Constable of Lancashire. [131541]

Mr. Charles Clarke: My officials did so on 16 February.

Telephone Harassment

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the Chief Inspector of Constabulary on the efficiency of the Lancashire Police in pursuing inquiries into telephone harassment. [131540]

Mr. Charles Clarke: No, but if my hon. Friend lets me have details of any specific case, I shall look into it.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for reports from chief constables as to the incidence of success in tracing phone calls on prepayment call mobiles. [131542]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I have no plans to do so.

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