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Entry Screening

21. Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the procedures for screening applications to enter the United Kingdom. [47082]

Angela Eagle: In 2001, 71,700 people applied for asylum on arrival in the United Kingdom. This represents an 11 per cent. fall in applications compared with a 2 per cent. fall for the European Union generally.

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Overall there were a record 118,000 decisions made with 74 per cent. refused, 9 per cent. granted asylum and 17 per cent. granted exceptional leave to remain. The backlog of undecided applications was more than halved and continues to fall.

79 per cent. of appeals were dismissed by the Immigration Appellate Authority (IAA) in 2001. This is an indication that despite the increase in decision-making, the quality remains high.

Provisionally, 9,285 principal applicants were removed in 2001, an increase of 3 per cent. on 2000 and the highest annual total on record.

Street Crime (Wandsworth)

22. Martin Linton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on (a) Operating Safer Streets and (b) the Robbery Reduction Initiative as they affect London, with particular reference to the London borough of Wandsworth. [47083]

Mr. Denham: The first phase of Operation Safer Streets, the Metropolitan police's anti-street crime initiative in London's nine worst affected boroughs, ran for eight weeks from 4 February until the end of March. The force statistics show that the operation has had a marked impact on street crime offences. In week eight of the operation, street crime allegations in the nine boroughs were 21 per cent. down on the corresponding week last year. The second phase began on 15 April and will run until March 2003. It will be extended to include a further six London boroughs, including Wandsworth.

The Metropolitan police force area is one of the 10 areas included in the Government's wider street crime initiative, which involves a concerted response to street crime across all the criminal justice and social agencies.

Police Morale

24. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police morale. [47085]

Mr. Denham: There is no established direct method of measuring the level of morale in the police service.

We are determined to tackle those elements of police officers' working lives that can create frustration and detract from their ability to do their jobs in the way that they would wish. We are committed to investment in scientific and technological support and to reducing the burden of unnecessary bureaucracy .

We are seeking agreement on a package of reforms to police pay and conditions of service which would leave the vast majority of officers better off. The package is now subject to conciliation in the PNB.

We have turned around the decline in police numbers that started under the last Government. By 31 January the police service was at record strength and we are on course for our target of 130,000 officers by spring 2003.

Violent Crime

25. Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of changes in the levels of violent crime in the last 12 months. [47086]

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Mr. Denham: The latest survey of violent crime is contained in the 2001 British Crime Survey, which indicated that violent crime fell by 19 per cent. between 1999 and 2000. Recent recorded crime statistics produced by the Metropolitan Police show a rise in recorded street robbery. That is why we have launched an initiative aimed at reducing the level of street crime in the 10 areas of England and Wales with the highest levels of street robbery. The programmes will focus on curbing the rise in street robberies and the number of illegally held weapons, as well as the adoption of fast track prosecutions to ensure that offenders are brought to justice speedily. The budget contained £180 million in new money and a further £100 million to be drawn from the Criminal Justice Reserve. These funds will be used for extra police, extra support staff, an increase in police operations and an additional 2,300 additional prison and remand places.

Juvenile Crime

26. Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about plans to reduce crime committed by juveniles. [47087]

Mr. Denham: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary for State for Culture, Media and Sport, and I are both members of the cross-Government action group to tackle street crime. We both fully recognise the potential of sport and the arts to divert young people from offending and we are working together to develop this.

"Secure Borders, Safe Haven" White Paper

27. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what responses he has received to his paper "Secure Borders, Safe Haven—Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain"; and if he will make a statement. [47089]

Angela Eagle: We have received 330 responses to the White Paper from organisations and individuals. We will arrange for copies of the responses from organisations to be placed in the Library unless they have indicated they do not wish their responses to be published.

Street Crime

28. Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the 10 force street crime initiative. [47090]

Mr. Denham: The street crime initiative starts operation this month across the 10 force areas with the highest levels of robbery: Avon and Somerset, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Metropolitan Police, Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Thames Valley, West Midlands, West Yorkshire. It involves the police in targeting offenders who commit robbery, snatch theft, carjacking and offences involving the illegal possession and use of firearms. The criminal justice'agencies will prioritise these cases to ensure that those taken off the streets by the police are dealt with quickly and effectively from arrest to disposal in specially designated street crime courts in each area. We have also strengthened the powers of the courts in the 10 areas by introducing electronic

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tagging to ensure that young people comply with bail conditions, and by giving magistrates enhanced powers to remand juveniles in secure accommodation.

The initiative also brings together the resources and expertise of non criminal justice system agencies to help tackle the causes of street crime and take preventive action. The initiative will include, for example, more schemes in place involving police in schools, more truancy sweeps, better information exchange between schools, the police and social services, diversionary activities and advice and services for young people, and early access to drug treatment provision.

Community Support Officers

29. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when his Department will consider a further round of applications for funding for community support officers to assist the police. [47091]

Mr. Denham: The Police Reform Bill, which is still subject to parliamentary scrutiny, contains provisions which will allow chief officers of police to designate support staff as community support officers. It will be open to police forces to choose to use this available means to employ community support officers.

Criminal Justice

30. Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reform the criminal justice system. [47092]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The Government recognise that the criminal justice system is not working well enough on its key goals of crime reduction and justice.

To this end the forthcoming White Paper on Criminal Justice will include a wide variety of measures to increase efficiency and effectiveness across the criminal justice system. For example, these measures will include improving the workings of the jury system; and changing the rules governing the issue of disclosure.

We will also seek to improve the rules of evidence; and bring more persistent offenders to justice.

The Government will be looking closely at the possibility of reforming court culture in order to support vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. This may include the establishment of a Victims' Ombudsman.

The issue of sentencing will also be addressed to provide greater protection for the public; and include programmes designed to reduce the chance of re-offending.

The Government intend to publish full details of these proposals in legislation later in the year.

Volunteering (Older People)

31. Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to promote volunteering by older people. [47093]

Angela Eagle: The Government believe it is important to utilise fully the skills and talents of older people. That is why the Home Office is investing £20 million in the Experience Corps, which aims to recruit 250,000 volunteers over three years. We also provide funding for REACH, RSVP and other organisations which promote

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and encourage volunteering by older people. We have provided £1.5 million in funding for local and national organisations, such as Help the Aged, as part of the Older Volunteers Initiative, which addresses issues of raising quality and quantity of voluntary opportunities for older people. We are evaluating the initiative with a view to publishing the good practice it has identified.

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