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Angela Eagle: This information is not readily available and could be obtained only by scrutiny of individual case files at a disproportionate cost. The length of time to process an application varies from case to case.
The information relates to decisions on applications for leave to remain in the United Kingdom as a student. The latest available data are for the period July to December 2000. Data for 2001 are due to be published later this year.
(25) Excludes dependants of principal applicants, the outcome of appeals and withdrawn applications.
Data rounded to the nearest 10; because of this the sum of constituent items may not agree with the total as shown.
Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his target of three weeks' average for the processing of student visa applications starts on the day of receipt and not the day of being entered on the computer. 
Angela Eagle: The target of processing all straightforward applications within three weeks has been measured from the date of receipt until now. As a result of the business process changes recently introduced, this will in future be measured from the date on which the application is posted by the applicant.
Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many clerical staff were engaged in processing student visas in each of the years (a) 199899, (b) 19992000 and (c) 200001; 
Angela Eagle: There are no staff dealing only with applications for leave to remain in the United Kingdom for the purpose of following a course of study. The average number of staff involved in the initial processing of new postal immigration applications in each of these
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years was as follows: 60 in 199899; 115 in 19992000; and 160 in 200001, but over the last six months this has increased to 190 staff.
Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it clear on the appropriate form and on his Department's website that applications for student visas sent by unregistered post cannot thereafter be traced until the visa is finally granted. 
Angela Eagle: This now is not the case; as a result of the business process changes introduced over recent months, all new applications are opened and entered on to a case information database within a very few days of receipt and updated at each stage of the process. This has brought about a significant improvement in our ability to trace all individual applications as they are processed.
Angela Eagle: All applications are processed in the same way irrespective of the method of posting. The only advantage of registered mail is that the barcode on the package allows it to be registered on to a database as soon as it is received.
Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time from receipt of an application for a student visa to its entry on the computer was in the last 12 months. 
Angela Eagle: This information is not currently available. We are introducing a Casework Information Database which, when fully operational, will enable us to monitor our performance on general immigration casework more effectively.
Angela Eagle: Although not specifically aimed at students the Integrated Casework Directorate is conducting a self-assessment of its general casework process using the European Foundation of Quality Management, with a view to independent assessment of benchmarking in due course.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many employees in his Department who regularly use computers have taken up the provision of a free eye test; and how this service is advertised to (a) current and (b) new staff. 
Angela Eagle: The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, effective January 1993, require employers to provide and pay for, upon request from an employee designated as a user, an eye and eyesight test. There is a requirement for further tests at regular intervals; the optometrist doing the first test can recommend when the next one should be. In addition, employers must pay the cost of special spectacles required where normal ones cannot be used.
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Comprehensive figures are not held centrally, but the available information shows that in the period 1 April 2001 to 14 February this year 782 staff in the core Home Office and Prison Service Headquarters had a free eye and eyesight test.
This free provision is advertised throughout the Department by various means. A revised Home Office Notice was issued in August last year. In addition other means of drawing the provision to the attention of staff include information notices to staff, global e-mails, health and safety notice boards, Prison Service Orders, handbooks, and induction course material.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department who are the members of the Victims Steering Group; how often the group meet; and whether minutes of the meetings are available to the public. 
Home Office National Probation Directorate
Home Office Research and Statistics Unit
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Association of Chief Police Officers
Association of Chief Officers of Probation
Crown Prosecution Service
Lord Chancellor's Department
Justices' Clerk's Society
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how victims are classified for the purposes of the Victims' Charter; and how many victims have utilised the service since its inception, broken down by (a) region and (b) type. 
Mr. Keith Bradley: The Victims' Charter applies to all individual victims of theft, burglary, criminal damage, arson, assault, domestic violence, racial harassment, sexual crimes and homicide. It also applies to the parents or carers of child victims of any of these offences, and to the relatives or close friends of homicide victims.
The second version of the Charter, published in 1996, sets out 27 standards of service which victims should expect to receive from individual criminal justice agenciesthe police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, the National Probation Service, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, the Prison Service, and Victim Support.
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Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what extra help victims of serious crime have received; how many victims have received extra help (a) per year and (b) broken down by region; and how serious crime is defined in this respect. 
Mr. Keith Bradley: Victim Support offer help and support to all victims of crime, and will gauge how much help a victim needs according to the seriousness of the offence and the effect it has had on the victim. Most victims of crime will be automatically referred to Victim Support by the police, unless the victim specifically states he/she does not want this to happen. Victims of serious crimes will only have their details passed to Victim Support with their expressed consent. In this context, serious crimes are defined as sexual offences, domestic violence or homicide.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which agencies have consulted victims since 1977; what the subject of the consultation was; and whether the reports are available to the public. 
The most significant recent consultation involving victims was a review of the Victims' Charter. A consultation paper was issued on 28 February 2001 seeking views on issues such as a bill of rights for victims, the establishment of a Victims' Ombudsman, and whether victims of road traffic incidents should receive the services provided to victims of crime. The consultation period ended on 15 June 2001, and 120 responses were received, including 49 from individual victims. A summary of responses was placed in the Library and on the Home Office website in July 2001.
Mr. Keith Bradley: After reporting a crime, all victims will be given the opportunity, by the police, to be contacted by Victim Support if they so wish. At or about the same time, the "Victims of Crime" leaflet is also issued by the police, and it outlines how Victim Support can be contacted directly. Victims are also made aware of Victim Support through television programmes such as "Crimewatch UK".
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how criminals in prison are informed of the victim support service; and how many visits have been undertaken by the victim support service
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to prisoners who have alleged that they have been sexually abused, broken down by prison since inception of the service. 
Mr. Keith Bradley: Victim Support is an independent charitable organisation which receives grant aid from the Home Office (£25 million in 200102) to provide support to victims of crime and to witnesses.
There is no requirement for Prison Service staff to inform prisoners who allege that they have become victims of crime about the services of Victim Support. However, if a prisoner had a need for such information and sought it from a member of staff, such as his personal officer, probation officer or a health care worker, the information would be provided.
Victim Support advise that they work from a non-judgmental position, and accept that a prisoner can become a victim and thus qualify for their support. Victim Support schemes are accordingly willing to visit prisoners on request and with permission from the prison authorities. They do not collate data on how many prison visits have taken place.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many criminals in prison who are victims of crime (a) have been taken to visit courts before their case is started and (b) have had seats reserved for a friend or relative, broken down by area since inception of the service; and what recent research he has undertaken to examine the link between abused children and their potential to become abusive adults. 
Mr. Keith Bradley: The Witness Service, run by the voluntary organisation Victim Support, can arrange pre-trial visits to familiarise victims of crime with the layout of the court and the courtroom. No statistics are collected on how many victims, including those serving prison sentences, take advantage of this opportunity, nor how often seats are reserved for a friend or relative during the trial itself.
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