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Office Accommodation

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made on his plans for new office accommodation for the Home Office and Her Majesty's Prison Service staff working in Central London. [46684]

Mr. Blunkett: A contract has been awarded to Annes Gate Property plc, for a new development on the site of the former Department of Environment offices at Marsham Street. The contract is for a period of 29 years and involves the construction of new office accommodation, its long-term maintenance, and provision of facility management and business support services. The net present cost of the contract is around #311 million at current prices. The demolition of the existing building at Marsham Street will start as soon as possible. On current plans, completion of the new development is expected to be Spring 2005. Westminster City Council have already given planning consent for the re-development of the site which includes mixed office, residential and commercial development. The Department plans to vacate five of its existing office buildings in central London after the move to Marsham Street.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what written representations have been made to him in the last three months concerning staffing levels and staff training at Yarl's Wood; and if he will place copies to the Library. [38669]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 28 February 2002]: Oral representations were made to my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary during his visit to Yarl's Wood removal centre on 18 March 2002. The issues of staff levels and staff training at Yarl's Wood will naturally be amongst those covered by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate inquiry into the incident.

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if the Asylum Seeker Accommodation Centre proposed for Hemswell Cliff will require a staff of between 200 and 300; from where they will be recruited; and what training they will receive; [44648]

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Angela Eagle: It is estimated that an accommodation centre with around 750 residents would require between 200 and 300 staff. These are likely to include a mixture of locally recruited staff, together with some who transfer from elsewhere in the country. Staff training, and its cost, will be a matter for the contractors selected to run the sites.

Transport implications will form a part of the planning process for the trial Accommodation Centres. We will provide for transport for residents where necessary.

We will consult local service providers as part of the planning process. Department of Health officials will act as the initial conduit between the Home Office and the National Health Service (NHS) in respect of accommodation centres once the sites have been selected.

This is a matter for contractors who will run the centres. Bids to operate Accommodation Centres have not yet been invited.

I am satisfied that in most respects our European partners are already meeting the quite broadly defined provision of the Geneva Convention. However, it is true that there are differences in the way the Geneva Convention is interpreted and there are variations in asylum practice among Member States. This is why the United Kingdom (UK) government has committed itself to helping establish a common European asylum system, which can respond effectively to the challenge that global movements of people present and help limit unwarranted secondary movement of asylum seekers between European Union (EU) states.

The Government has opted in to all the European asylum proposals to date and in doing so continues to exert maximum influence during negotiations. Of particular significance in reaching consensus on a common application of the Geneva Convention is the proposal for a Council Directive on minimum standards for the qualification and status of refugees, presented by the European Commission in November 2001. One of the key aims of this draft directive is to establish a common interpretation of Article 1A of the Geneva Convention, the grounds for refugee status. The definition of prosecution adopted by the Commission reflects the current UK position.

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Hemswell Cliff is just one of a number of places that are being considered as a possible suitable site for an Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers. A final decision has not yet been taken. We have no plans to vary police grant in areas where asylum facilities may be located.

The budget for National Asylum Support Services (NASS) in 2000–01 was #38* million. This figure includes grants totalling #22 million* to the voluntary sector for the provision of services to asylum seekers and refugees.

Total spending on asylum support in the year 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001 was #751 million*. This includes grant payments of #580 million* to local authorities and the Scottish Executive for provision of accommodation and support for asylum seeking adults and families under the Interim Regulations and for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC). A further #12 million* was paid to local authorities and the Scottish Executive directly by NASS under contracts to provide accommodation and related services for dispersed asylum seekers.

#46 million* was paid directly by NASS to private sector accommodation providers for the provision of accommodation and related services to dispersed asylum seekers.

The budget for the current financial year, 2001–02, is #36 million*. This figure includes grants totalling #18.1 million* to the voluntary sector for the provision of services to asylum seekers and refugees.

The budget for asylum support for 2001–02 is #1,094 million*.

No consultations have taken place on the provision of dental services in Lincolnshire in relation to the potential site at Hemswell Cliff. Health care will be provided at Accommodation Centres and we will consider how best dental services can be provided in consultation with the Department of Health.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what guidelines he has issued on the establishment of centres housing asylum seekers in remote rural areas; [45163]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 25 March 2002]: No guidelines have been issued. Home Office officials are currently looking at a number of potential sites, but no decisions have yet been taken. A wide range of factors, including transport, environmental, and health and safety issues, will be taken into account before the final site selection is made.

In making final decisions on preferred sites, we will take all the relevant factors into account including security, to which the hon. Member refers. These assessments have not yet been made.

Leave to Remain

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications to remain in

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this country have been (a) granted and (b) refused under the domestic violence concession; and if he will make a statement. [44441]

Angela Eagle: Up to the end of 2000, the latest available data from case records, show that 93 applications were made under the terms of the concession, of which 63 have been granted settlement and 30 have been refused.

Public Appointments

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many appointments to public bodies have been made through his Department (a) from April 2000 to March 2001 and (b) since 31 March 2001; and how many of these were (i) men and (ii) women. [42164]

Angela Eagle: The number of men and women appointed, or re-appointed, by Ministers in this Department to bodies sponsored by this Department during the periods in question is as follows:

PeriodMen appointedWomen appointed
1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001296176
1 April 2001 to 28 February 2002204142

Summary information contained in 'Public Bodies 2001', which was published on 14 February 2002, shows that as at 31 March 2001, women held 34 per cent. of appointments made to the boards of public bodies, and people from ethnic minority backgrounds held 4.8 per cent. of appointments. This is an increase of 1 per cent. and 0.4 per cent. respectively on the previous year. The position in the Home Office was better than the average: on 31 March 2001 women held 40 per cent. of all appointments to Home Office sponsored NDPBs, and people from ethnic minority backgrounds held 9.1 per cent.

The Home Office has included the following in its objectives to be achieved by March 2005:

1. XTo increase the number of women applicants for appointments to public bodies so as to achieve an interim target of 45 per cent. women appointees by 31 March 2005."

2. XTo ensure that women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds and disabled people are each represented in line with these targets on the different types of bodies, and in responsibility, including the Chair and Vice-Chair."

To achieve these objectives the Department will, amongst other measures:

1. Employ targeted advertising to encourage under-represented groups to apply.

2. Seek possible candidates using candidate lists held by other government departments.

3. Continue to monitor the composition of the different types of bodies sponsored by the Home Office and the proportion of women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds and disabled people in positions of Chair and Vice-Chair.

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