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Departmental Employees (Ethnic Origin)

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of the total work force in his Department is of ethnic minority origin; and what steps he is taking to encourage the employment of people from the ethnic minorities in his Department. [102733]

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office set out in his reply on 16 December 1999, Official Report, column 264W, the corporate action that we are taking to encourage the employment of people from ethnic minorities.

The percentage of permanent staff of ethnic minority origin in the Home Office, including the Prison Service, was 5 per cent. on 1 April 1999. The percentage is of those whose ethnic origin was then centrally recorded. More detailed figures are given in the table. Staff provide information on their ethnic origin on a voluntary basis and can choose not to disclose their origin if they so wish.

As part of our commitment to encouraging employment of people of ethnic minority origin, the Home Office published on 28 July 1999 targets for the recruitment, retention and progression of ethnic minority staff over the next ten years. (These cover the core Home Office, Agencies and Services).

To achieve its targets, the Home Office has revised its recruitment literature and attends recruitment fairs specifically aimed at minority ethnic communities. It has and will continue to advertise a number of posts in the ethnic minority press, for example The Voice, the Ethnic

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Media Group, and Muslim News. The Home Office participates in the National Mentoring Consortium Scheme for ethnic minority undergraduates and is involved in an informal mentoring scheme for potential ethnic minority Fast Stream candidates. The Department also sponsors the Windsor Fellowship which supports Black and Asian students.

The Prison Service launched the RESPOND programme to promote racial equality for staff and prisoners in February 1999. This includes targets to recruit more staff from the minority ethnic communities. To secure this, a national recruitment outreach team has been formed which will work in partnership with local prisons, for example attending recruitment fairs. The Prison Service will also review its career literature and continue to advertise in the minority ethnic media.

The Home Office recognises that unless it is seen as a fair place to work and in which diversity is valued, recruitment initiatives alone will not encourage people from minority ethnic communities to join the Department. The Home Office is committed to a Race Equality Action Plan that includes race awareness training, a mentoring scheme involving Management Board members and ethnic minority staff and evaluating and monitoring of all Human Resources systems. An Ethnic Minority Network was launched for staff on 24 November 1999 and already has over 500 members. The Home Office also participates in Cabinet Office initiatives on diversity and equality proofing.

Area (9) of employmentPercentage of ethnic minority staff employed (10)
Home Office (core areas)10.9
Immigration and Nationality Department15.5
Her Majesty's Prison Service3.3
Fire Service College0
Forensic Science Service9.6
United Kingdom Passport Agency9.1
Home Office average excluding Prison Service12.4
Home Office average including Prison Service5.0

(9) The information is that recorded centrally on 1 April 1999.

(10) Percentage is of permanent non-industrial staff whose ethnicities are recorded.


Mr. Beard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reimburse local authorities for their expenditure on the Kosovan Humanitarian Evacuation Programme. [103721]

Mr. Straw: I have laid before Parliament today a Special Grant Report which sets out the arrangements for reimbursing local authorities in England for the additional expenditure which they may have incurred in respect of the Kosovan evacuees who arrived in the United Kingdom as part of the United National Humanitarian Evacuation Programme.

The Special Grant Report explains the areas of expenditure which will be eligible for the grant and the timescales for local authorities to make their claims. I very much hope that a significant proportion of the local authorities' expenditure in respect of the Humanitarian Evacuation Programme will be reimbursed within the current financial year.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when he will make a statement on the outcome of the consultation on the Holocaust Remembrance Day proposal; [103040]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: 521 responses were received, 237 from local authorities and other organisations and 284 from individuals.

The Government intend to announce their decision in January, as stated in the consultation document.

Departmental Funding

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on extra funding for his Department from Government reserves; and if he will make a statement. [103330]

Mr. Straw: I regularly discuss with my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury progress on the Public Service Agreements (PSA) whose delivery is supported by Home Office funding. Recent discussions on the PSA objectives to reduce crime and the fear of crime resulted in the announcements made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minster and me of additional investments funded from the Reserve and the Capital Modernisation Fund. These will cover £34 million for the DNA database and £35 million for the first year costs of a scheme for 5,000 more police recruits over the next three years.


Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if it is a condition of service that retained firemen must record on job applications or inform their existing employers of their Fire Service obligations. [102898]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The National Joint Council for local authorities' fire brigades, which comprises representatives from the fire authority employers and the employees, is the standing body charged with the supervision, from a national point of view, of questions affecting the conditions of service of firefighters. The Council has confirmed that there are no contractual obligations on retained firefighters in respect of other employers in its Scheme of Conditions of Service.


Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire will receive a reply to his letter of 22 September on behalf of his constituent Mrs. Birkbeck. [103082]

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Mr. Straw: I wrote to the right hon. Member on 16 December in response to his letter of 22 September on behalf of his constituent, Mrs. Birkbeck. I am extremely sorry that I was unable to do so sooner, and would like, through the right hon. Member, to extend my apology to Mrs. Birkbeck for the delay.

Fire Service College

Mr. Ian Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received the report of the Fire Service College Prior Options Review; and if he will make a statement. [103720]

Mr. Straw: Against the background of the continuing shortfall of the Fire Service College in meeting its financial targets, I commissioned a prior options review in March 1999. I asked the review team to evaluate the performance of the College; and taking account of developments since it was established, reappraise the options for achieving best value for money in the provision of central training for the United Kingdom fire service.

I have now received the Report of the review and arranged for its publication. Copies of the Report have been placed in the Library.

The review considered various organisational options for providing central training for the United Kingdom fire service. They took account of the College's track record as an Agency; its shortage of key skills and experience; and the need for decisive action to tackle the problems identified, including the requirement for significant capital investment if we are to keep the College viable. The review was conscious of the need to increase training throughput at the College and suggested that there would be additional significant benefits from joining up the activities of the Home Office and Ministry of Defence (MOD) Fire Services Central Training Establishment, at Manston.

The review concluded that the option most likely to restore the College to viability would be to end the College's Agency status and replace it with a partnership with the private sector. The Report therefore, recommends that a three way partnership should be established between the Home Office, the MOD and the private sector for the delivery of fire service training and to exploit fully the College site and facilities.

The public sector would continue to have a close involvement by having in the College officers seconded from the United Kingdom Fire Service and from the MOD. The Report also recommends that the College should be reviewed regularly by Her Majesty's Fire Services' Inspectorate. This would parallel the arrangements that exist in Scotland for inspecting the Scottish Fire Service Training School at Gullane. It would also provide the Home Office with a source of expertise to assist with the monitoring and management of a future partnership agreement.

I am grateful to the review team for the work they have undertaken. I welcome their findings, their thorough and careful analysis of the College's problems and their recommendations. I am accepting immediately their recommendation that in future the College should be

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reviewed by Her Majesty's Fire Services' Inspectorate and I have asked the Chief Inspector to inspect and report on the College regularly.

After this thorough review, and years of difficulties, it is very important that the College's problems are now gripped firmly and tackled expeditiously. I have agreed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that joining up the activities of the College with those of the Ministry of Defence Fire Services Central Training Establishment, in partnership with the private sector, holds the potential to bring benefit to all parties concerned and should be urgently explored. I am also commencing consultations today with the College, the Fire Service and other stakeholders on this and other recommendations in the report. I will also be seeking advice from the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council.

I am inviting views by the 18 February 2000.

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