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Asylum Accommodation

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will offer undertakings to (a) West Mercia police authority police and (b) Hereford and Worcester fire authority about their protection from legal liability for the consequences of disturbances at the proposed asylum accommodation centre at Throckmorton. [59799]

Beverley Hughes: We are considering the insurance provisions necessary for accommodation centres.

Asylum Seekers

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will conduct an inquiry into NASS's supervision of contracts related to landmark properties in Liverpool. [62423]

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Beverley Hughes [holding answer 17 June 2002]: Arrangements already exist to monitor the performance of the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). Like any other directorate within Immigration Nationality Directorate (IND), NASS and its management is subject to investigation by the Home Office Internal Audit and the National Audit Office on financial issues. However I have asked the director of NASS to arrange for an inquiry into issues arising from NASS's dealings with the Landmark company to be carried out. The terms of reference for the inquiry are as follows:

Asylum Seekers (Afghanistan)

Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is towards unsuccessful asylum seekers from Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [69923]

Beverley Hughes: Our long standing approach to Afghan asylum applications has been that we would not, other than in exceptional circumstances, normally seek to return to Afghanistan asylum seekers whose applications have been found not to meet the criteria set down in the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. In those circumstances we would normally grant the unsuccessful asylum applicant four years exceptional leave to remain (ELR) in the United Kingdom. We modified that policy in April this year so as to grant only 12 months ELR to reflect the improving situation in Afghanistan.

Large numbers of Afghans have come to the United Kingdom to seek asylum in recent years. We have provided them with asylum when they have needed it or granted ELR. But the situation in Afghanistan has now changed.

We believe there has been a real and sustained improvement in the country situation. The recent establishment of the Transitional Government serves to underline the improvements which continue to be made. The improvement in the country situation no longer justifies a blanket policy of granting exceptional leave to remain in the United Kingdom to all asylum seekers from Afghanistan who do not meet the criteria in the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. We will of course

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continue to honour our international obligations under the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.

Asylum caseworkers will continue to consider— on a case by case basis—whether in the individual circumstances of a particular case it is appropriate to grant exceptional leave to remain in the United Kingdom to an unsuccessful asylum applicant and taking into full account the country situation. If the circumstances of an individual case justify it, exceptional leave to remain will be granted but, for the reasons stated above, I have decided that a blanket policy of granting exceptional leave to remain in all such cases is no longer justified. In cases where asylum has been refused, and exceptional leave has not been granted, we will take the appropriate enforcement action.

Further, in order to facilitate voluntary returns to Afghanistan I am considering whether for a limited period of time, incentive payments could be made to returnees. The payments would help returnees to re-establish themselves in Afghanistan. The payments would be closely administered and time limited: it is essential that they not act as a pull-factor to the United Kingdom, nor their provision abused. We will also be looking into what other support may be needed in order to ensure the sustainability of returns.

This would be the start of a number of packages we intend to develop to encourage return to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Other packages will involve, for example, different forms of re-integration programmes and explore and prepare visits. This demonstrates our long-term commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Criminal Cases Review Commission

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cases the Criminal Cases Review Commission are reviewing; how cases are classified; what percentage of all cases concern sexual abuse and of those, how many cases are (a) related to historic sexual abuse in care homes and (b) within a domestic context; and what period of time has elapsed between the sex crime being committed, the case being brought to court and the CCRC considering the case in each case. [64267]

Hilary Benn: At 30 April 2002 there were 402 cases under review and 309 waiting for allocation distributed as follows:

Waiting for Stage 1 review3
Under Stage 1 review35
Waiting for Stage 2 Screen review120
Under State 2 Screen review171
Waiting for Stage 2 review186
Under Stage 2 review187
Under Stage 3 review9

The Commission includes abuse in care homes cases in the category of "Sexual Offences". Sexual offences cases constitute a very significant percentage of all the applications received.

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Of the 834 applications received in the 12 months to 31 March 2002 the sexual offences were as shown:

Sexual offencesNumber of offencesPercentage of all offencesNumber of countsPercentage of all counts
Indecent assault12912.132818.9

The Commission has set up a working group to analyse and refine its approach to child sex abuse cases and this group will gather more detailed data on the type and circumstances of the offences and convictions. This will include information on the institutional/domestic environment of the offence and the elapsed time from the crime to the conviction.

The average time between conviction and application to the Commission for all applications is 3.5 years.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will answer the questions from the hon. Member for Hendon, refs 25180 and 25186. [31629]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I replied to question 25180 on 15 January 2002 and to question 25186 on 23 January 2002. Unfortunately, there was an error in the printing of the Official Report, and the answers appeared with the wrong questions. This error has been rectified for the Bound Volume of Hansard. In the meantime, I have resubmitted the correct versions of these questions and answers to my hon. Friend.

New Prisons

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department who will pay insurance for future new prisons in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [66620]

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Hilary Benn [holding answer 2 July 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) on 3 July 2002, Official Report, column 439W.

Departmental Expenditure Limit

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much and what proportion of the departmental expenditure limit for 2002–03 had been spent by 31 May; what the figures were for 2001–02; and if he will make a statement. [61012]

Beverley Hughes: The information requested is provided in the table.

Annual departmental expenditure limit (DEL) (£ million)10,73110,230
Spend to 31 May (£ million)1,8232,140
Spend to 31 May as proportion of annual DEL (per cent.)17.020.9

The 2001–02 DEL includes £826 million from the DEL Reserve, voted in the spring Supplementary Estimates, mainly to fund asylum expenditure. If this is discounted, the spend to 31 May 2001 constitutes 19.9 per cent. of that year's DEL.

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