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Local Authority Care Homes (Abuse)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance his Department issues to police authorities relating to the conduct of investigations of cases of sexual abuse in local authority care homes. [100237]

Mr. Charles Clarke: In August, the Government issued draft new inter-agency guidance "Working Together to Safeguard Children" which takes account of new research, experience and legislation concerning child abuse. It includes a section on children living away from home and provides guidance on investigating allegations of abuse committed by professionals, carers or volunteers. A final version of the document will be issued in the new year.

Child Pornography

Mr. Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action the Government are taking to prevent child pornography being transmitted over the Internet; and what penalties exist to deter those responsible for publishing child pornography over the Internet. [100293]

Mr. Boateng: The criminal law applies equally to material on computer systems as to material in other forms. We have very strict legislation against child pornography which makes it an offence to produce, circulate or possess with a view to distribution any indecent photograph of a child under 16. These offences carry a maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. The simple possession of an indecent photograph of a child is also an offence and carries a maximum sentence of six months' imprisonment.

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Section 84 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 updated these controls to include indecent computer-generated photographs of children and they have been successfully applied to child pornography transmitted over the Internet.

We are determined to ensure that there are effective measures against child pornography. We support the work of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) which passes to the police details of potentially unlawful material brought to their attention by members of the public via a specially established hotline. If the originators of the material are abroad, the Foundation passes the report to the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) who liaise with the enforcement agencies of the countries concerned. The IWF took action on 430 reports of alleged child pornography in 1998.

The Government also fully support international initiatives in the Council of Europe and the G8 to combat criminal misuse of the Internet.

Police Manpower

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the total change in England and Wales in the number of (a) all police officers, (b) police constables, (c) civilian police force staff and (d) special constables between May 1997 and the last date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [99793]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 26 November 1999]: Information is available in respect of numbers at March 1997 and March 1999. The information is set out in the table.

Police service numbers for March 1997 and March 1999

Police Service Numbers March 1997 March 1999 Total Change
Total Police Officers(8)127,158126,096-1,062
Police Constables(8)98,13297,520-612
Civilian police force staff(8)53,01153,031+20
Special Constables19,86416,484-3,390

(8) Full-time equivalent numbers

The powers of the Home Secretary to set police establishment levels for each force were removed under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994. It is for the chief officer to determine staffing requirements within the overall resources available.

The drop in the number of special constables has resulted mainly from police forces applying higher standards when recruiting them. The use of higher standards for recruiting reflects the fact that special constables are now being deployed on duties very similar to those of regular officers.


Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the aim of clearing all current cases by October 2000, stated by the permanent secretary in his letter of 13 October to the Public Accounts Committee, refers to all current asylum cases or to all asylum cases involving children. [100483]

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Mrs. Roche: The aim mentioned in the letter of 13 October referred to all asylum cases. This aim is a milestone to delivery of the published targets in April 2001. It will be kept under review in the light of pressures created by the current high level of asylum applications.

Computer-based Crime

Mr. Ian Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to develop a national fraud squad to tackle computer-based crime. [100404]

Mr. Charles Clarke: There are proposals for the establishment of a Computer Crime Unit within the National Criminal Intelligence Service, but this would not constitute a national fraud squad.

Integrated Casework Directorate

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the benchmark against which he plans to measure the four key performance indicators for the Integrated Casework Directorate listed by the permanent secretary in his letter of 13 October to the Clerk of the Public Accounts Committee. [100484]

Mrs. Roche: The benchmark figures for each of the four key performance indicators were compiled from statistics showing the output of the Asylum Directorate, the After Entry and Appeals Directorate and the European Directorate over a 13 week period between September and November 1998, divided by 13 to obtain an average weekly figure. The figures are as follows:

CategoryNumber of decisions
Asylum casework650
Asylum appeals250
European casework250
General/settlement casework4,100


Mr. McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons have been deported over the past 12 months; and on what grounds. [100614]

Mrs. Roche: The total number of people who have been removed or departed voluntarily from the United Kingdom between October 1998 and September 1999 is shown in the table. Regrettably, information about the grounds of removal could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Total number of persons (9) removed or departed voluntarily under port or enforcement procedures, October 1998 to September 1999

Port removals(10)30,710
Illegal entry removals(11)5,320
Deportation removals(11)1,220

(9) Does not include persons who may leave the United Kingdom without informing the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

(10) Refused leave to enter and removed.

(11) Figures are provisional and include persons departing voluntarily after enforcement action had been initiated against them.


All figures are rounded to 10.

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30-year Rule

Mr. Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the extent to which the 30 year rule is proposed to be relaxed in the Freedom of Information Bill; and (a) what kind of records will be released which would otherwise have been held for 30 years and (b) on what grounds records will continue to be held for the 30 year period. [100659]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Freedom of Information legislation will not affect the 30 year rule, as the principles governing the release of records at 30 years will remain broadly the same.

However, under the proposals in the Freedom of Information Bill, many more records will be released earlier, and therefore, fewer records will fall to be released at 30 years.

It is not possible to specify particular records which will be released under Freedom of Information, as earlier releases will be spread across a range of records which would otherwise have been held until 30 years.

The Freedom of Information Bill contains certain exemptions which provide the grounds for withholding information beyond 30 years. These grounds are: information supplied by, or relating to, work of the security services; national Security; defence; international relations; the economy; information from confidential sources in the course of investigations and proceedings; law enforcement (until 100 years); honours (until 75 years); health and safety; personal information (for the lifetime of the individual concerned); information provided in confidence; and specific statutory bars on disclosure.

However, even where an exemption in the Bill applies, the Public Record Office, or the authority holding the information, must consider on a case by case basis any discretion it may have to disclose the information, deciding whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs that of maintaining the exemption.

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