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Asylum Seekers

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list those to be involved in the conduct of the proposed review of the voucher scheme for asylum seekers; and if evidence will be taken from (a) NGOs and (b) individuals. [136081]

Mrs. Roche: The Government have undertaken to invite all stakeholders and interested parties to make representations, and to place in the Library a list of those organisations which contribute to the review. Those invited to make representations will include hon. Members, Lords, non-governmental organisations, retailers, the Post Office, local government, the police and Sodexho Pass, the voucher supplier. We will also be undertaking fieldwork to investigate the views of asylum seekers. Others with evidence to contribute to the review are welcome to send this to the National Asylum Support Service.

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are (a) the terms of reference and (b) the timescale for the proposed review of the voucher scheme for asylum seekers. [136080]

Mrs. Roche: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), 20 October 2000, Official Report, column 210W.

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions she has had with the South West Consortium for Asylum Seekers, with particular regard to future immigration policy; and if he will make a statement. [137001]

Mrs. Roche: I met with members and officers from the South West Consortium on 14 September to discuss the situation regarding National Asylum Support Service's requirements for accommodation in the current financial year. The meeting was not concerned with future immigration policy.

Election Deposits

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on the level of the deposit required for UK parliamentary elections. [136269]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: In its 1998 report on Electoral Law and Administration, the Home Affairs Committee recommended that the deposit required to stand as a candidate in Westminster parliamentary elections should increase from £500 to £700 for the next general election

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and that it should be index linked thereafter. This recommendation will need to be considered in consultation with all the political parties represented at Westminster and the European Parliaments.


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the investigation into leaks from the SIRENE bureaux in 1997 has identified the (a) source of the leaks and (b) recipient; and if he will make a statement. [136468]

Mrs. Roche: The particular circumstances of this breach of security are a matter for the Belgian authorities, whose investigations are continuing. The Government attach the highest importance to the maintenance of the security arrangements at the SIRENE bureaux. The integrity of the arrangements is vital to international judicial and law enforcement co-operation.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he has taken to ensure that the UK element of Schengen Information System- connected databases is of identical format to other connected databases. [136469]

Mrs. Roche: Arrangements for the United Kingdom's connection to the Central Schengen Information System database are still under consideration.

Schengen Agreement

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if Article 26 of the Schengen Agreement requires parties to support harmonisation of indirect taxation within the Council of Ministers; and if the UK Government are exempt. [136471]

Mrs. Roche: Article 26 of the Schengen Agreement signed in 1985 was given effect through the Schengen Implementing Convention signed in 1990. Those provisions of the Schengen Implementing Convention dealing with certain aspects of the creation of the Single Market (Articles 120-125) were not given a legal basis in the European Union Treaties as they had been superseded by European Communities legislation. They are therefore not the basis of future Schengen development, and they were not included in the Council Decision on the United Kingdom's participation.

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Travel Advice (India)

Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will issue guidance to UK citizens travelling to India about visiting the Sai Baba ashram. [136850]

Mr. Hain: I have been asked to reply.

The FCO issues guidance for visitors to India through its Travel Advice Unit. This information is also available on the FCO web-site (

We have no specific guidance for UK citizens visiting any of the Sai Baba ashrams at Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh), Bangalore (Karnataka) or Shirdi (Maf harashtra). The police at Puttaparthi, the focus of celebrations to mark Sai Baba's birthday on 23 November, have assured our Deputy High Commission at Chennai (Madras) that preparations are already under way to meet the demands of the large congregation expected at the ashram.

Animal Experiments

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what criteria are used to classify a project 1 procedure under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 as being likely to be of substantial severity; and if he will make a statement; [136599]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Guidance on the Operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 sets out the criteria for determining severity levels. Two different types of severity levels are set on project licences; a severity limit for each protocol authorised in the licence and an overall severity banding for the project.

The severity limit for each protocol is determined by the upper limit of the expected adverse effects that may be encountered by a protected animal, taking into account the measures specified in the licence for avoiding and controlling these effects. It represents the worst potential outcome for any animal subjected to the protocol, even if it may only be, and often is, experienced by a small number of the animals to be used. Indeed, it may never be encountered.

Protocols of substantial severity may result in a major departure from the animal's usual state of health or well-being. These include: acute toxicity procedures where significant morbidity is an endpoint; some efficacy tests of anti-microbial agents and vaccines; major surgery; and some models of disease, where welfare may be seriously compromised. If it is expected that even one animal would suffer substantial effects, the procedure would merit a substantial severity limit. The Secretary of State will not license any procedure likely to cause severe pain or distress that cannot be alleviated. Licence holders are required by conditions in both project and personal licences to minimise any pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm and to approach the set severity limit only when absolutely necessary.

The assessment of the overall severity of a project reflects the cumulative effect of each procedure. This assessment is used to weigh the likely adverse effects on

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all the animals to be used against the benefit likely to accrue. It takes into account not just the level of suffering that might be reached, but also such factors as the number of animals involved; the frequency of use of each procedure; the proportion of animals that are expected to be exposed to the upper severity limits; and the length of time that animals will experience such adverse effects.

The severity bandings of project licences were introduced into the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals in 1998 at Appendix B. Figures before that date were not published in the annual statistics, but were generally included as part of the Annual Report of the Animal Procedures Committee.

Figures are as follows:

Project Licences issued during 1991
Project Licences issued during 1992
Project Licences issued during 1993
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1994
Substantial not readily available
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1995
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1996
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1997
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1998
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1999

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