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Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the findings of the risk assessment on GHB carried out by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction; 
(3) what action he proposes to take in response to the WHO recommendation that GHB should be scheduled under Schedule IV of the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: There is little I can usefully add at this stage to my reply to my hon. Friend's question on 29 November 2000, Official Report, column 681W. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) have concluded, separately, that the available data do not support calls to increase the controls on GHB. But both organisations have decided to see if additional data can be obtained to better inform their decisions. I look forward to receiving their further advice in due course.
I have seen the report of the World Health Organisation recommending that GHB should be scheduled under Schedule IV of the United Nations (UN) Convention of Psychotropic Substances 1971. I understand that all parties will be voting on this recommendation at the
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meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2001. In order to assist the Commission in making a decision the United Nations International Drug Control Programme has asked for further data from parties' Governments about GHB in general, but specifically about seizures. We are in the process of collating data from a range of sources in order to comply with this request.
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers (a) were recruited and (b) retired, resigned or were dismissed, in each police force and in total (i) in 2000 and (ii) in each of the previous three years; what was the net change in the number of officers in each case; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Charles Clarke [holding answer 11 December 2000]: Police numbers are not assessed on a calendar year basis. The most recent available data, for the last three financial years, are given in the table. It should be noted that these figures relate to numbers of officers, as opposed to full-time equivalents.
|Year ending March 1998|
|Police force||Officers recruited||Total wastage||Net change|
|Avon and Somerset||138||148||-10|
|Devon and Cornwall||179||129||50|
|London, City of||34||73||-39|
|Total all forces||6,543||6,657||-114|
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|Year ending March 1999|
|Officers recruited||Total wastage||Net change|
|Avon and Somerset||142||104||38|
|Devon and Cornwall||57||111||-54|
|London, City of||18||58||-40|
|Total all forces||5,391||6,104||-713|
|Year ending March 2000|
|Officers recruited||Total wastage||Net change|
|Avon and Somerset||104||146||-42|
|Devon and Cornwall||74||134||-60|
|London, City of||0||50||-50|
|Total all forces||4,535||5,948||-1,413|
14 Dec 2000 : Column: 260W
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum removals there were in the first half of 2000-01; how many he estimates there will be in the second half of 2000-01; and if he will make a statement. 
The Government are determined to increase substantially the number of such removals. We have set a target of 12,000 removals of failed asylum seekers in this financial year increasing to 30,000 in 2001-02, 33,000 in 2002-03 and 37,000 in 2003-04. To achieve this, we are pursuing a number of measures, including recruiting an extra 400 immigration officers for enforcement work, expanding the detention estate and setting up a network of reporting centres.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many non-asylum offenders were removed in the first six months of 2000-01; how many he estimates will be removed in the second half of 2000-01; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Mike O'Brien: Approximately two thirds of new substantive family applications lodged between 1 April 2000 and 30 September 2000 had an initial decision within two months. Information on non-family applications is not at present available.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many non-asylum after-entry decisions were made in the first six months of 2000-01; how many he estimates there will be in the second half of 2000-01; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: There were 140,000 non-asylum after-entry decisions made in the period April to September 2000, excluding those in respect of European Economic Area cases but including cases dealt with by the Public Caller Unit which did not involve a decision. It is expected that the number of such decisions for the whole of the financial year 2000-01 will exceed the annual target of 205,000.
Mr. Charles Clarke: As at 1 December, the number of principal applicants held at Oakington since its opening is shown in the following table. A breakdown of the number of dependants by nationality could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
|Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)||12|
|Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)||42|
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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum decisions were made in the first six months of 2000-01; how many he estimates there will be in the second half of 2000-01; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: In total, 57,655 initial asylum decisions were made in the period April to September 2000. We remain on course to achieve our target of 130,000 to 150,000 decisions for the whole year.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the extent to which the introduction of the vouchers system of asylum support has deterred the making of asylum applications by economic migrants; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: The introduction of the new asylum support arrangements, including the voucher system, is part of the Government's wider strategy to deliver a fairer, faster and firmer immigration and asylum system. The number of asylum applications from Central European countries, where the vast majority of applications prove to be unfounded, have dropped since April this year.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the extent to which asylum support vouchers are used fraudulently; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: The National Asylum Support Service's Performance Monitoring (Investigations) section has the responsibility to detect and deter fraudulent abuses of the asylum support arrangements.
Mr. Charles Clarke: There is a total of 72 Immigration and Nationality Directorate staff currently employed at Oakington with grades ranging from Assistant Director to Administrative Assistant. They act as a liaison point between the centre and immigration offices, conduct substantive asylum interviews and decide whether applicants should be granted temporary release or detained at the end of the Oakington process.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many internal flights have been taken by asylum seekers attending IND interviews; what the cost was; what his policy is on the taking of such flights; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers housed at Oakington since the centre opened received an initial decision on their case while they were staying there. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: As at 1 December, of the total of 2,534 principal applicants who have been housed at the Centre since its opening on 20 March, 2,170 asylum seekers have received an initial decision on their cases while at Oakington.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers housed at Oakington since the centre opened have moved into (a) accommodation provided through the National Asylum Support Service, (b) another detention centre, (c) private accommodation and (d) have left the UK. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: As at 1 December, 462 asylum seekers and their dependants housed at Oakington Reception Centre have been transferred to detention centres and 298 have left the United Kingdom. Information on those moved to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) of private accommodation is only available from 25 May. Since that date, NASS has provided accommodation for 693 principal applicants and their dependants and provided subsistence only support to 409 principal applicants and their dependants who moved into private accommodation.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he plans to amend the Immigration Rules to include the proposals put forward in his consultation document on the refusal of entry to those with certain criminal convictions; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Officials are working on implementation of the proposals set out in the consultation paper, as indicated in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Clark) on 24 October 2000, Official Report, column 115W. We will bring forward the necessary changes as soon as practicable in the new year.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the conclusions were of the inquiry ordered by the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche), into the asylum cases highlighted by Refugee Action as contributing to the reasons for the closure of their Liverpool office on 2 November. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Refugee Action raised several points that are currently being pursued. A key point was that Refugee Action could not deal with the number of inquiries from asylum seekers claiming their vouchers were late in arriving. National Asylum Support Service has now addressed this problem by expanding the Voucher Inquiry team and the provision of additional telephone numbers for inquiries.
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information from (a) other Government Departments and agencies and (b) other organisations on persons suspected of being immigration offenders. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The statutory powers available to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) are contained in sections 20 and 21 of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, which came into force on 1 January 2000. These provisions allow information on suspected immigration, and other, offenders to be exchanged for specified purposes between IND and the police, the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. They also contain order-making powers which will enable further purposes to be specified, and additional statutory gateways to be established with other agencies. In addition there is already excellent co-operation between IND and a number of other governmental and non- governmental bodies.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when it was decided to alter the target for the reduction of the backlog of asylum applications awaiting an initial decision to the equivalent of some two months' work, as stated in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate business plan for 2000-01; what level of applications this represents; what progress has been made; if the target will be met; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Charles Clarke: The White Paper "Fairer, Faster and Firmer--A Modern Approach to Immigration and Asylum" set out the Government's aim to reduce the asylum decision backlog to frictional levels by 2001. The commentary in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's (IND) 2000-01 business plan was to give an indication of what is meant by frictional levels. Subject to the level of intake, we are on course to achieve this.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time taken by the National Asylum Support Service is to process an application for assistance; what his target time for processing such applications is; and if he will make a statement. 
Targets for the time taken to process NASS applications were published in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate business plan, Annex E, Objective 18. These targets were 70 per cent. in two days and 100 per cent. in seven days.
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