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Afghan Hijacking

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the immigration status of those persons who claimed asylum after arriving on the hijacked Afghan airliner in February 2000, how many such persons have left the United Kingdom to date; and if he will make a statement. [148821]

Mrs. Roche: Of the 170 passengers who arrived on the aircraft, 81 returned to Afghanistan. 51 passengers claimed asylum. Because of the exceptional circumstances of the hijack and the wider issues surrounding it, the Home Secretary personally decided each of the asylum claims.

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Of the cases which have been considered to date, four have been granted asylum and 35 refused. 30 of the subsequent appeals to the independent appellate authority have been dismissed, confirming the Home Secretary's original decision.

The appellants whose appeals were dismissed are entitled to remain in the United Kingdom pending the outcome of their appeals to the tribunal.

Asylum Support

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total cost has been in 2000-01 of accommodation paid for by the National Asylum Support Service during the periods when such accommodation was (a) occupied and (b) unoccupied; and if he will make a statement. [148826]

Mrs. Roche: In the period 1 April to 31 December the total cost of accommodation paid for by the National Asylum Support Service was £26.7 million. Of this, £19.9 million related to payments for properties that were occupied by asylum seekers.

The remaining £6.8 million related to accommodation pre-booked by the National Asylum support Service. This is a necessary operational requirement to ensure that sufficient accommodation units are available to meet demand.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research his Department has conducted into housing asylum seekers in reception

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centres; what the conclusions were of that research; if he will place the conclusions of the research in the Library; and if he will make a statement. [148823]

Mrs. Roche: The potential role of reception centres was considered by officials as part of the comprehensive spending review completed in 1998, but there has been no research on this subject.

Asylum Applications

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his plans to reduce the backlog of asylum applications to frictional levels by April; what he estimates will be the size of the backlog in April; and when he estimates that the backlog will be cleared. [148822]

Mrs. Roche: We have substantially increased resources to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), which has enabled an additional 500 asylum decision- makers to be recruited, and as a result the backlog has fallen for each of the last 11 months.

IND estimates that a frictional level of work is likely to be in the range 25,000-35,000 cases awaiting initial decision, depending on the level of intake, the nationality mix of the intake and external factors (for example, conflicts or civil unrest) which may mean certain groups of cases cannot be substantively considered at a particular time.

Subject to these factors, we expect the backlog to reduce to close to frictional levels during April.

Crime Statistics

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the most recent crime figures for the Vale of Glamorgan. [147105]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I understand from the chief constable of South Wales police that there have been significant reductions in recorded crime in the Vale of Glamorgan. Domestic burglaries fell by 29 per cent., thefts of a motor vehicle fell by 26 per cent., and theft from a motor vehicle fell by 18 per cent. There was also a small fall in violent crime of 0.6 per cent. (six offences).

Violent Crime

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reverse the growth in violent crime in the Avon and Somerset area since 1997. [148685]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Government are committed to reducing violent crime and the fear of violent crime and to ensuring that individuals and communities are protected and safe. We are working in partnership with the police, including Avon and Somerset constabulary, and other agencies across the country on a wide range of ways to tackle violent crime. Our strategic approach to combating violent crime is set out in "fighting violent crime together"--an action plan published in January.

The Government are putting in place the investment to make sure that the police have the resources they need. Under the crime fighting fund, Avon and Somerset constabulary have been allocated 195 additional recruits over and above previous plans, over a three-year period

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from 2000 to 2003. I understand from the force that they will be able to recruit their full allocation in 2000-01. Last year, the Home Office awarded the Avon and Somerset constabulary a grant of £1.1 million to tackle robbery in Bristol. This will be used to target hot spots and run education campaigns.

Under the Government's crime and disorder reduction partnerships, Avon and Somerset constabulary are working with other agencies to put in place a number of initiatives to tackle violent crime, notably domestic violence, alcohol-related violence and bullying.

Avon and Somerset constabulary have confirmed that some of the rise in recorded violent crime in the Avon and Somerset area is due to the increase in reporting of domestic and racial violence. The Government, the police service and other agencies have been working together to raise awareness of these crimes, and to increase reporting, detection rates and support for the victim. In South Gloucestershire, for example, a number of initiatives are currently in place to tackle domestic violence. The police are working in partnership with hospitals to improve reporting, and in the major casualty units a freephone service has been installed to link domestic violence victims with the police and other agencies when they are most vulnerable.


Mr. Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on the voluntary registration of charities. [149274]

Mr. Boateng: I am grateful to all who responded to the recent consultation on this issue. There was general agreement as to the purposes of registration as set out in the consultation document. The responses received made it clear, however, that voluntary registration is a complex matter which requires further careful examination and consideration before informed decisions can be reached on longer-term policy. I have asked officials to develop more detailed proposals in the light of the responses to the consultation and in discussion with interested organisations.

The current regulations which made registration voluntary for charities connected with a number of religious bodies expire on 1 March 2001. I am today laying a new statutory instrument to extend those regulations until 30 September 2002. This will allow time for the necessary work to be done to enable the way forward to be settled.

I will make a further announcement later this year, but I want at this stage to allay concerns expressed by some of those consulted that one of the proposals in the consultation document meant that umbrella bodies would be compelled to take on responsibilities which neither they nor their members want. I can give an absolute assurance that that was not, and is not, the Government's intention.

Many respondents were also concerned that any change could make it more difficult for the public to find out about charities. The further work that I have commissioned will explore ways of making sure that this is not the case.

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Prison Service

Mr. Pond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made on the review of the Prison Service's suicide and self-harm strategy; and if he will make a statement. [149275]

Mr. Straw: The review's analysis and recommendations have been accepted by the Director General of the Prison Service and by Ministers, and will be implemented progressively from April 2001 with the aim of year-on-year reductions in prisoner suicide and self-harm. There will be a strong stress on a preventive strategy which invests most resources where the risks are highest. An all-round pro-active approach will be developed which encourages a supportive culture in prisons based on good staff-prisoner relationships, a constructive regime and a physically safe environment. There will be improved identification and case arrangements for high-risk prisoners.

The review's recommendations will be developed and piloted in five establishments: Wandsworth, Feltham, Eastwood Park, Leeds and Winchester. They will be evaluated and rolled out to other prisons. The three-year strategy will involve a major investment of capital and staff in prisons. In the first year, £8 million will be invested in implementation. Improvements will be made to reception and induction areas, for example through installing more first night centres, and by having more safe cells, crisis suites and gated cells. New health care screening procedures will start in 10 pilot prisons. Wing staff will be supported in their work by in-reach mental health teams and by the establishment of dedicated drug detoxification units. There will be full-time suicide prevention co-ordinators in high-risk local prisons. The numbers of trained listeners at high-risk prisons will be increased substantially.

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Copies of the review are being placed in the Library. The review recommended:

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