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HOME DEPARTMENT

Lord Birt

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what changes to policy have resulted from Lord Birt's work on crime. [29192]

Mr. Blunkett [holding answer 22 January 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 17 January 2002, Official Report, column 469W.

Private Prisons

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason private prisons are not required to submit (a) sickness and (b) minority ethnic staff data. [28637]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 22 January 2002]: Her Majesty's Prison Service collects data on sickness levels and ethnic identity on its own employees. These details are not collected in respect of staff employed at private sector prisons as a matter of course because personnel issues are the concern of the contractors and such information is therefore not contractually required. The information is however, made available on request.

MI5 Records

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason the request by the Advisory Council on Public Records to be allowed to consider the conditions under which MI5 records are released was refused; and if he will make a statement. [28630]

Mr. Blunkett [holding answer 22 January 2002]: In July 1998, my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary, invited the Advisory Council on Public records to review the criteria employed by the Security Service to select files for permanent preservation on grounds of historical interest. During the course of the review the chairman of the Council, Lord Justice Woolf, wrote to the Home Secretary to ask whether he wished to extend the terms of reference to encompass issues relating to access to Security Service records.

The intelligence services and the Interception Commissioners and Investigatory Powers Tribunal have full access to all service records necessary for their functions and therefore the Home Secretary replied that

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he was not contemplating changing the arrangements to widen access beyond this "need to know" approach. This was recognised in Lord Justice Woolf's report. However, the Home Secretary did agree that officials of the Public Records Office, with the necessary security clearance, should be invited by the Security Service to examine files earmarked for destruction after review by the service. This now happens.

The Advisory Council reported in December 1998 and the report was placed in Library on 3 February 1999. At the same time the then Home Secretary announced that he was accepting in full the recommendations of the committee. All of these have now been implemented.

Saville Inquiry

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what costs have been incurred by his Department to date in connection with the Saville inquiry; and what his estimate is of the final cost to his Department. [29068]

Mr. Blunkett [holding answer 22 January 2002]: The Home Office has responsibility for the protective security arrangements for public figures, for which some costs have been incurred in relation to this inquiry. It is not our policy to comment on the details of protection arrangements for individuals, as to do so could compromise their security.

The Home Office has no other direct involvement in the Bloody Sunday inquiry and does not employ staff full-time on inquiry related work. Some small administrative costs have been incurred.

Market and Opinion Research

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what record his Department keeps of the expenditure of his Department on (a) polling exercises and (b) focus groups. [29516]

Mr. Blunkett [holding answer 22 January 2002]: The Department conducts or commissions market or opinion research only when it is justified by the specific needs of a particular policy or programme, and when this is the most economical, efficient and effective way to achieve the purpose.

Detailed breakdowns of costs and analysis by types of research, such as polling exercises and focus groups, are not held centrally or captured by the Department's accounting systems. Data are recorded under broad expenditure headings, further disaggregation would be possible only at disproportionate cost.

Magistrates Court

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made towards the provision of a witness service in every magistrates court by March. [29369]

Mr. Keith Bradley [holding answer 22 January 2002]: The Magistrates Court Witness Service is being established and run by the organisation Victim Support, with funding from the Home Office. As at 14 January 2002, witness services had been established in 220 (58 per cent.) of the 382 magistrates courts in England

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and Wales. Victim Support advise that the process of recruiting staff and volunteers for the remaining 162 courts is in progress, and that they are hopeful of meeting the target of establishing witness support services in all magistrates courts by 31 March 2002.

Victims of Crime

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the operation of the duty on the Probation Service to keep victims of serious violent and sexual crimes informed of the offender's release. [29367]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 22 January 2002]: Under the new statutory duty, local Probation Boards are required to consult and notify victims about release arrangements of offenders serving a sentence of 12 months or more for a sexual or violent offence. We expect approximately 3,500 more victims of serious crimes each year will be informed of an offender's release under these arrangements. There are currently no figures collected centrally on the actual numbers of victims notified of offenders' release arrangements since the legislation came into force on 1 April 2001.

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in what percentage of prosecutions the victim chose to make a personal statement to the court in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [29368]

Mr. Keith Bradley [holding answer 22 January 2002]: I understand from the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Court Service that information of this nature is not collated.

Asylum Support

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers received advice or assistance from each of the reception assistance agencies in relation to their application to the National Asylum Support Service in (a) 2000–01 and (b) the current financial year to date. [28891]

Angela Eagle: Voluntary sector agencies are grant funded by the Home Office to assist asylum seekers who need to make an application for support. The number of asylum seekers assisted by reception assistants from individual agencies is as follows:

3 April 2000 to 31 March 2001(13)1 April 2001 to 31 December 2001(14)
Refugee Council17,37319,391
Migrant Helpline12,8948,845
Refugee Arrivals Project5,5544,337
Refugee Action2,7172,456
Scottish Refugee Council504425
Welsh Refugee Council150164
Total39,19235,618

(13) based on information provided by the voluntary sector agencies

(14) provisional


Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will provide a breakdown of the amount of grant made to each of the reception assistance agencies by the National Asylum Support

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Service under section 111 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 in (a) 2000–01 and (b) the current financial year to date. [28780]

Angela Eagle: The level of grant paid by the Home Office to the voluntary sector organisations is as follows:

£

2000–01(15),(17)2001–02(16),(17)
Refugee Council7,934,00010,038,000
Refugee Action2,290,0003,246,000
Migrant Helpline2,094,0002,587,000
Refugee Arrivals Project1,913,0001,971,000
Scottish Refugee Council595,000743,000
Welsh Refugee Council343,000200,000

(15) Information based on outturn figure.

(16) Information based on estimate of outturn figure.

(17) Excludes payments for provision of emergency accommodation.


Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total cost was of providing (a) accommodation and (b) emergency accommodation under the National Asylum Support Service-run asylum support system in (i) 2000–01 and (ii) in the current financial year to date. [28781]

Angela Eagle: The total cost of (a) accommodation paid for directly under contract by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) for (i) 2000–01 was £54.1 million and for (ii) current year to 30 November £150.1 million, and (b) emergency accommodation for (i) 2000–01 was £27.5 million and for (ii) current year to 30 November £38.2 million.

These figures reflect the increased activity undertaken by the NASS since it began operation on the 3 April 2000.

Costs in 2000–01 are cash based and for current year resource based. All figures are rounded to nearest £0.1 million.


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