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Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in deciding allocations of asylum seekers for dispersal to areas outside the south-east, he takes account of the number already coming in to such areas through ports of entry within the areas. 
Mrs. Roche: The identification of suitable cluster areas for the dispersal of asylum seekers and their dependants is based on research conducted centrally by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). Information is obtained from local authorities and other organisations with an interest in asylum. The presence of asylum seekers already in the area will also be taken into consideration.
Only asylum seekers who request that accommodation be provided as part of a support package will be considered for dispersal. Asylum seekers making their claim in one dispersal area may, if they request accommodation, be required to move to another which is more suitable for their needs. An asylum seeker requesting support including accommodation who is already resident in a dispersal area may be housed here by NASS if his circumstances make this appropriate.
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many places have been provided for dispersed asylum seekers by (a) local authorities, (b) accommodation providers and (c) boarding houses since dispersal began. 
|NASS public sector providers||18,742|
|NASS private sector providers||20,584|
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what limits are placed on numbers of asylum seekers in any one property purchased by accommodation providers; and what guidance is given to them on the size of properties. 
Mrs. Roche: All accommodation providers must as part of their contract with the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) comply with the provisions of the Housing Act 1985 or the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987. In addition providers must comply with local authority regulations relating to planning and environmental health and any local registration or licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
1 May 2001 : Column: 612W
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) who authorises the purchase of properties for the accommodation of asylum seekers in cluster areas by accommodation providers; and who bears the costs if planning permission is refused; 
Mrs. Roche: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is responsible for the commission and finance of accommodation for asylum seekers. The voluntary sector supplies initial emergency accommodation for asylum seekers while their application for support is being considered. Local authorities, registered social landlords and private sector companies provide accommodation in dispersal areas. The length of individual contracts varies from one to five years.
Accommodation providers under contract to NASS are responsible for obtaining sufficient accommodation in cluster areas to meet the terms of their contract. Once obtained the accommodation is offered to NASS who decide if it is acceptable. If the property contains more than six bedspaces it will be subject to a 28 day consultation period with the relevant local authority.
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how he limits the numbers of properties and places private accommodation providers can purchase in each cluster area for asylum seekers; 
Mrs. Roche: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) establishes cluster areas in consultation with local authorities. Accommodation providers are contracted to provide bedspaces in individual cluster areas up to the target specified in the contract.
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 12 February 2001, Official Report, column 57W, what evidence he has to support the conclusion that people seeking asylum are managing to combine their vouchers and cash to ensure they do not lose out; and what representations he has received to the contrary. 
The issue is something we are looking at as part of the review of the operation of the asylum voucher scheme. As part of that review we have investigated asylum seekers' experiences and I have visited retailers and spoken to staff about the operation of the no change rule. We will make our conclusions available when the review reports.
1 May 2001 : Column: 613W
Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are made to provide support to prisoners serving a life sentence who are released having had their conviction overturned on appeal; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Boateng: The probation service does not have any obligation to provide support to such former prisoners since they are not on licence. However, where resources permit, they may be prepared to do so on a voluntary basis. The Government understand the difficulties that such former prisoners may face in resettling in the community and the Home Office has set up a working party to look at what might be needed, in terms of advice and counselling. A consultant has prepared a report and recommendations will go to Ministers by the summer.
Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what support was provided to John Kamara following his release as a result of his conviction being overturned by the Court of Appeal; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Boateng: Mr. Kamara has had voluntary contact with the Merseyside probation service since before his appeal was heard. Although there was no obligation on either side to continue contact after the successful appeal, there have been ongoing contacts with the probation service.
Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations the Government have received regarding allegations of UK financial institutions being involved in money laundering activities in respect of money transferred out of Serbia and the former Yugoslavia; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Straw: Allegations of money laundering activity involving any financial institution, or indeed any person, within the United Kingdom fall to be considered by the police. Reports are received by the National Criminal Intelligence Service, to be analysed and if necessary disseminated to competent authorities for further investigation. Such reports of suspicious transactions are received for the purposes of criminal intelligence and for the possible investigation of suspected criminal behaviour, and for operational reasons cannot be commented upon.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time taken to reach an initial decision for applications for asylum is; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Roche: I refer the right hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) on 26 March 2001, Official Report, column 852W, which gives the available information on the average time taken to reach an initial decision for applications for asylum.
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Mr. Charles Clarke: Information is not available in the form requested. Information is not collected centrally on arrests for drug offences. Although information is collected on cautions and convictions for drug offences, published breakdowns are not available in the specific form detailed in the question. It would be possible to provide information on cautions and convictions for possession of Class A drugs only at disproportionate cost.
The Area Tables of the Home Office bulletin "Drug Seizure and Offender Statistics, United Kingdom" give breakdowns by main type of drug or by main offence type for individual police force areas. Copies of these publications for the period up to and including 1999 are available in the Library. Unfortunately, it is impossible to provide these figures by any other geographical unit.
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