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Crack Cocaine

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many individuals were arrested for possession of crack cocaine in Weston-Super-Mare in the past five years. [64934]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The information is not collected centrally at the level required.

Marsham Street

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what art will be incorporated within his new headquarters on Marsham Street; and what resources have been allocated to art as (a) an overall figure and (b) a percentage of the final capital value of the new headquarters. [65069]

Beverley Hughes: This is a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) project being carried out by Annes Gate Property plc for the Home Department. The current scheme design agreed by Annes Gate Property with Westminster city council includes provision for art as this was a key consideration in the planning application discussions. The indicative capital sum provided in Annes Gate Property's cost plan is approximately one per cent. of the total capital spend. The art element is generally integrated into the scheme and relates to treatment of external finishes, elements of the hard landscaping, external lighting and other items as detailed in the planning consent.

Brixton Prison

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many Irish prisoners who died in Brixton during the last six years were on suicide watch; and whether in each case guidelines were followed; [65439]

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Hilary Benn: The tables detail the 14 self-inflicted deaths and three deaths by natural causes that have occurred at Brixton since 1995. Four of the 14 were Irish citizens and a further three of Irish extraction. One prisoner of Irish extraction was subject to intermittent observation and the investigation under way is reviewing the care he received.

Cell alarm systems are checked as a matter of routine, but there is no record available to show that alarms, in every cell where deaths occurred, were working at the time. Cell alarms checked, or their use noted, as part of an investigation into a death in custody, but only where it is considered relevant.

Issues about the use of a cell alarm were addressed in one investigation, with no evidence found to support claims made that an alarm was activated but not responded to.

Deaths at HMP Brixton: 1995–2002

Self-inflicted deaths
Natural causes deaths

(19) As at 25 June 2002

Visitors' Bonds Scheme

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made on Government proposals to introduce a visitors' bonds scheme. [65607]

Beverley Hughes: A consultation paper, "Financial Bonds for Visitors", was issued in October 1999. This sought views on a number of key questions, including the scope of any scheme, the nature and amount of the bond, and the locations for the proposed pilot study.

The response to the consultation paper was generally negative. Many respondents—particularly those from the ethnic minority communities—simply did not support the idea of a bond scheme, either in principle or because of worries over discrimination or affordability. Of those who responded more positively, many wanted a very low

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level of bond that would not have offered sufficient disincentive to fraud. The scheme also attracted considerable adverse reaction from the countries proposed for a pilot study.

Simultaneously, work on moving towards a more flexible approach to the operation of the immigration control made it difficult to design a simple, quick scheme for providing a bond facility for visitors and recording their entry to and departure from the United Kingdom.

It was also considered that the re-introduction of a right of appeal for family visitors in October 2000 would provide a more effective way of addressing the concerns of the ethnic minority community about visa refusals for family visits.

For all these reasons it was decided not to pursue the proposed pilot scheme—a decision that was generally widely welcomed. An announcement to this effect was made in a response to a parliamentary question from my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) on 28 July 2000.

The White Paper "Secure Borders, Safe Haven", published in February 2002, explained the negative response to the financial bond scheme proposals. It also referred to exploring community-based or other collective mechanisms, or a way of requiring people to report back to posts when they return, and invited views. We are currently considering the responses.

0870 Telephone Numbers

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on using 0870 telephone numbers for inquiries by the public to the Department and its agencies. [66191]

Beverley Hughes: The Home Department has no central policy on this matter. Each case is decided on its merits.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons came to the UK as visitors in 2001 and subsequently applied for indefinite leave to remain. [66335]

Beverley Hughes: The requested information is not currently available.

Air Weapons

John Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many offences were recorded involving the use of an air weapon in each year since 1997; [65288]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 1 July 2002]: The Government totally condemns the misuse of air weapons and has the deepest sympathy for Tommy Morris and those others who are seriously injured by people who

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use their guns in an irresponsible or criminal manner. The question of introducing a licensing regime for air weapons as recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee has been carefully considered by the Government. As the committee recognised, there are resource implications in setting up and running an effective registration system and we are reviewing these practical issues as part of an overall assessment of the effectiveness of the existing wide range of controls governing the sale and use of air weapons.

Information about the number of offences involving the use of air weapons, and the number of resulting injuries in each year since 1997, is given in the following table:

Violence against a person

Air weapon offences7,5068,66510,10310,227
Offences resulting in slight injury1,0651,3811,8061,654
Offences resulting in serious injury129133171166
Attempted murder and other acts (including wounding) endangering life75888062

(20) Calendar year.

(21) There was a change in counting rules for recorded crime on 1 April 1998. Crime figures no longer exclude offences where the value of criminal damage is under £20. 75 per cent. of air weapon offences consisted of criminal damage.

The laws concerning air weapons are already very strict, as are the penalties for misuse. We believe that much can be done to improve the situation through the enforcement of existing legislation and public education, and we are at present considering the Firearms Consultative Committee's advice on how this should be taken forward. The shooting associations and the police are already working closely together and have launched a campaign designed to create a greater awareness of the requirements of the law and to emphasise the basic principles of safe and responsible shooting. We believe that this will help to check the rise in criminal damage and to sustain the welcome reduction last year in the total number of injuries.

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