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Mr. Charles Clarke: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary published the Government's proposals to reform police training in May 2000, following a period of consultation with the key stakeholders. The proposals are set out in the paper, "Police Training: The Way Forward", which represents an ambitious programme to raise standards and ensure relevant profession-long training for all staff. The measures requiring legislation will be implemented at the earliest legislative opportunity. Work is already in hand to implement within available funds the non-legislative proposals. A steering group drawn from the Police Training Council is overseeing most of these arrangements.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what obligations there are on (a) public authorities and (b) others who discover overstayers to report them to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Roche: There is no legal duty for either public bodies or private individuals to report overstayers to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. However, as with any other offence, I would urge anyone who suspects that an offence has been committed to inform the appropriate authorities.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reimburse local authorities for spending incurred in relation to (a) the establishment and (b) the running costs of regional consortia for the provision of accommodation to asylum seekers, where no contract for such provision is to be entered into. 
Mrs. Roche: The establishment and running costs of Regional Consortia are met by the Home Office through the Enabling Grant. If any Consortium does not enter into contracts for accommodation, the portion of the grant relating to the co-ordination of local and regional services can still be provided.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers are currently being supported under the National Asylum Seekers Support scheme; and how many are receiving both accommodation and vouchers from NASS. 
Mrs. Roche: As at the end of September 2000, 14,200 1 asylum seekers, including dependants, are being supported under the scheme administered by the National Asylum Seekers Support Service. Of these 9,500 1 have been allocated support of both accommodation and vouchers.
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for which figures are available by persons who had been in the United Kingdom for (a) six months or less, (b) more than six months, but less than 12 months and (c) 12 months or more. 
Mrs. Roche: I regret that reliable information on the date of arrival for persons making an in-country asylum application is not yet available. The information that is available is given in the table.
|Asylum applications received in-country(6)|
(6) Figures rounded to the nearest 5
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers who have (a) been granted asylum, (b) been granted exceptional leave to remain and (c) not had their applications for asylum determined are on (i) further and (ii) higher education courses in the United Kingdom; what is the cost to public funds; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Roche: The latest information available shows that 13,685 students in further education colleges in 1998-99 were asylum seekers (that is, had not had their applications for asylum finally determined). The cost of their education is not currently available.
Information on the number of asylum seekers in higher education is not available, and no information on the number of those granted asylum or exceptional leave to remain in further or higher education is available.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much was spent on (a) the provision of legal aid and (b) other legal services for asylum seekers in each of the last five years for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Roche: The information is not available in the form requested. In England and Wales in the last five years legal aid has been provided in immigration and nationality cases, including to those seeking asylum as follows:
Grant in aid has been given to Immigration Advisory Service and to the Refugee Legal Centre in the following table, to provide representation in all immigration cases including asylum seekers. The grant is not broken down into asylum seekers and others.
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Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which recommendations of the Vantagepoint report on asylum procedures have been implemented to date; which have yet to be implemented; which will not be implemented; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Roche: I refer the right hon. Lady to the answer the Secretary of State for the Home Office gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) on 29 February 2000, Official Report, column 255W, which set out the background to the radical overhaul of asylum decision-making processes that this Government have undertaken. The Asylum Process Project/Vantagepoint Report was part of this process.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agreed in principle that the fundamental changes to the process suggested in the report should be pursued, but it was never the intention that this should be done in isolation. Many changes had already been put in place, prior to the completion of the report, as part of our strategy to speed up processes across the asylum business as a whole.
Substantial improvements have already been made. IND has made almost 81,000 asylum decisions so far this calendar year, compared with less then 25,000 during the same period last year, an increase of 225 per cent. Decisions continue to outstrip intake and the backlog of initial decisions has fallen for eight consecutive months. The backlog is now 75,680. We remain on course to clear the backlog down to frictional levels by spring 2001.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what contracts have been entered into with local authorities' regional consortia to provide accommodation for asylum seekers; how many units are to be provided by the regional consortia in (a) 2000-01 and (b) 2001-02; how the actual level of provision required differs from previous estimates given to local authorities; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Roche: Three contracts have been entered into by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) with Regional Consortia for provision of accommodation to asylum seekers. These are: with Glasgow City Council on behalf of the Scottish Consortium; with the North East Consortium; and with the Yorkshire and Humberside Consortium. The number of units that these contracts will provide is commercially confidential. During negotiations, the number of accommodation units to be provided under the contracts was discussed in the context of what was reasonable for Consortia to provide and what NASS's needs were likely to be.
The National Asylum Support Service recently revised some of the assumptions used to forecast accommodation requirements, based on its operational experience to date, with the result that the year's national forecast is now
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some 44,000 bedspaces rather than 65,000. That revision did not alter the number of accommodation units provided under either of the two contracts already signed (with Scotland and the North East) or the one that has just been signed (with the Yorkshire and Humberside Consortium).
Where it has not yet entered into contracts with Regional Consortia, NASS is taking the change in assumptions into account when continuing negotiations. NASS will not contract for more accommodation than it judges necessary.
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to allow retailers to provide cash change to asylum seekers using vouchers; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Straw: The Government's review of the operation of the voucher support system is being undertaken by the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green. It will include early consideration of how change and lower denomination vouchers can be issued in the context of the decisions made by Parliament and reflected in the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. All relevant stakeholders and interested parties are to be invited to make representations. I will place in the Library of the House a list of those organisations which contribute to the review.
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