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Downview Prison

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which prisons received prisoners from Downview between 17 July and 1 September. [25162]

Beverley Hughes: The main destinations for prisoners from Downview were:


Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average waiting time taken to renew a one year student visa was in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [23632]

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Angela Eagle: Information about average waiting times for student applications is not held centrally and could be obtained only by scrutinising individual case files, at disproportionate cost. We aim to decide 70 per cent. of new general and settlement applications within three weeks but at present it is taking up to eight weeks on average to consider new straightforward applications. The reasons for this are (i) the exceptionally high number of new applications received this year, especially in recent months; and (ii) process changes that are being introduced. We are working to reduce this to three weeks or less as soon as possible.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to enable individuals to retain their passports while their visa renewal applications are being processed. [23634]

Angela Eagle: There are no plans to change the existing procedures requiring overseas nationals to provide their passports when applying for extensions of stay in the United Kingdom. But everything possible will be done to reduce the time scales for dealing with such applications and to improve the arrangements for handling applicants' passports while their applications are pending.


Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were released from prison without accommodation to go to in the last 12 months. [23905]

Beverley Hughes: Information on the accommodation of prisoners after release is not available centrally for all prisoners. However a prisoner resettlement survey is currently being carried out for the Prison Service. This involves interviews with a representative sample of about 2,000 prisoners shortly before discharge. It will provide information about the proportion reporting that they have no accommodation to go to on release. Results will be available in spring 2002.

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of women were refused bail by the courts in each of the last five years on the grounds that (a) they would fail to surrender to custody, (b) they would commit an offence while on bail, (c) they would interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice, (d) they should be kept in custody for their own protection or welfare and (e) the case was adjourned for inquiries or a report. [23908]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The information held centrally does not give a breakdown of the reasons why people are refused bail by the courts.

Migrant Workers

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans the Government have to sign and ratify the 1990 UN convention on the protection of rights of all migrant workers and their families. [23686]

Angela Eagle: We have no plans at present to sign and ratify the convention. The Government consider they have already struck the right balance between the need for immigration control and the protection of the interests and rights of migrant workers and their families in the United Kingdom. The rights of migrant workers and their

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families are protected in United Kingdom legislation, including the Human Rights Act 1998, and the United Kingdom's existing commitments under international law.

Court Cases

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many court cases have collapsed during the last five years because of technical law procedures. [23877]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The number of court cases which collapsed because of technical law procedures cannot be identified by the Home Office from other early terminations or acquittals in the statistics collected centrally by the Department.

Driving Offences (Mobile Phones)

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prosecutions for (a) dangerous driving, (b) failing to have proper control of the vehicle and (c) careless and inconsiderate driving have been brought because of the use of mobile phones in each year since 1995. [24296]

Mr. Keith Bradley: There is no separate offence of driving a vehicle while using a mobile telephone and the circumstances of offences are not collected. In the main, prosecutions involving the use of mobile phones are likely to be for driving without due care and attention under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The number of prosecutions for this offence within England and Wales since 1995 is given in the table.

Proceedings at magistrates courts for offences of driving without due care and attention(6), England and Wales, 1995–2000

YearNumber of offences prosecuted

(6) Offences under section 3 Road Traffic Act 1988

It is also possible for such drivers to be prosecuted or issued with a fixed penalty for not being in proper control of a vehicle (Regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986), but such cases cannot be separately identified in the statistics collected centrally.

Driver Improvement Scheme

Mr. Pollard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the driver improvement scheme in reducing road traffic accidents; if he plans to assist those on low incomes with the fees and with loss of earnings while attending; and if he will make a statement. [25303]

Mr. Jamieson: I have been asked to reply.

National Driver Improvement Schemes are currently offered as an alternative to prosecution by the police. Research so far conducted shows improvement in driver attitudes and self-reported behaviour in the three months following attendance at courses. Further research is being undertaken to try to assess re-offending rates.

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The matter of fees is for the police and for the course providers.



Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to review the options for further decentralising handling of forestry policy and management. [26399]

Mr. Morley: When I announced the completion of the first stage of the review of the Forest Enterprise executive agency on 10 May 2001, Official Report, column 301W, I said that we intended to review the options for further decentralisation of forestry policy and management. The Scottish and Welsh Forestry Ministers and I have decided that the review will start shortly and report to us in the spring. It will consider the current administrative arrangements for delivering sustainable forestry policies in England, Scotland and Wales and the UK's international forestry commitments, including options for further devolution of these arrangements. The review will be undertaken by officials from the Forestry Commission, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury. The Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will also be involved in the review. Views will be sought from interested parties during the course of the review.

Timber Procurement

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent measures she has taken to ensure that the Government procure only sustainable and legally felled timber. [8285]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 December 2001]: My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment announced to Parliament on 28 July 2000, Official Report, columns 947–48W, that central Government Departments and their agencies were committed to actively seeking to buy timber and timber products from sustainable and legal sources. In January 2001 the Office of Government Commerce wrote to departmental Heads of Procurement to confirm this policy. Departments have been asked to report annually on their timber purchases and the recent Greening Government report for the financial year 2000–01 includes a summary of the responses received. My Department, on behalf of an interdepartmental working group on timber procurement, has commissioned a study on the scale of central Government's timber requirements and the options available for developing the most effective implementation of this policy. An interim report is due to be published at the end of February 2002 with a final report due at the end of May 2002. My Department has consulted the Timber Trade Federation and environmental NGOs in pursuit of the Government's timber procurement policy and has been raising awareness among Departments and the wider public sector. In May 2001 a timber procurement workshop was held at the Greening Public Procurement conference organised by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and attended by a cross-section of the public

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sector. In October 2001 my Department gave a presentation at the local government's Central Buying Consortium conference and took that opportunity to promote the purchase of sustainable and legally harvested timber. Recently my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment has met the Timber Trade Federation to discuss implementation of the Government's timber procurement policy and he addressed a wide cross section of stakeholders and answered questions at the WWF 95+ Group 10th anniversary celebration event. My Department has arranged to meet the Department for Transport, Local Government and Rural Affairs to discuss how local authorities may be encouraged to purchase timber from sustainable and legal sources where they are not doing so already. My Department is working closely with the Department for International Development and other Departments to develop bilateral agreements with producing countries that will help to halt the export of timber that has been felled illegally.

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures her Department is taking to promote the viability of (a) the hardwood and (b) the softwood timber growing industries; what recent discussions she has had with the Timber Growers Association; and if she will make a statement. [25187]

Mr. Morley: The Government's Forestry Strategy for England sets out our priorities and programmes for sustainable forestry in England. These priorities include supporting the strategic development of woodland resources. Specific actions include support for regional and local marketing initiatives, and ensuring the supply of timber from our woodland resource is available at levels indicated in long-term forecasts. In addition, through the Forestry Commission and in partnership with woodland owners and wood users we are supporting the Wood for Good campaign, the largest single timber promotion ever mounted in the UK. Other measures include purchasing research on timber use from the Building Research Establishment, the Timber Research and Development Association and other organisations. We are also working to ensure that small sized timber and woodland residues are recognised as a source of renewable energy. These measures will help to promote the viability of the hardwood and softwood industries.

I meet regularly with representatives from the Timber Growers Association (now known as the Association of Timber Growers and Forestry Professionals, following a merger with the Association of Professional Foresters, effective from 1 January 2002). The association is represented on the England Forestry Forum and I attended a parliamentary lunch with the Timber Growers Association and the UK Forest Products Association on 5 November 2001.

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