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Asylum Removals Centres

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are included which take into account the proximity of schools, housing estates, industrial and regeneration sites in respect of asylum removals centres. [70945]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 22 July 2002]: When examining individual sites differing criteria are used, dependant upon our requirements. These will be specific to a particular site or project.

National Asylum Support Service

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 9 May 2002, Official Report, column 329W, on the National Asylum Support Service, what the average time taken by NASS to respond to correspondence from (a) supported asylum seekers and (b) their representatives is. [56636]

Beverley Hughes: The Operations Section of the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is responsible for determining applications for support and answering correspondence about the support offered. All correspondence received within the Operations Section of NASS—currently in excess of 4,000 pieces per week—is subject to a target for completion. Targets are applied across the board—there is no distinction between correspondence received from an asylum seeker or a third party.

Targets for response depend on the nature of the correspondence. Correspondence which can be fast tracked will receive meaningful action within three working days. Correspondence raising complex issues will receive meaningful action within 10 working days. For example, an application for a single additional payment will be assessed within three working days of receipt and the applicant is notified of the outcome at this stage. Any payment approved will be included in the support applicant's regular payment within three weeks of the application being made.

All targets are monitored to ensure compliance and any backlog is addressed to avoid unnecessary delay.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Mr. Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received the annual report for

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2001–02 of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's independent Complaints Audit Committee; and if he will make a statement. [72982]

Beverley Hughes: A copy of the report has been placed in the Library and will be placed on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate website. It is a useful and informative document, and I am grateful to the Committee for its comments and its recommendations. I am currently considering how best to implement the recommendations.

Committee Mandates

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the mandate of the Committee for the implementation of the programme of training, exchanges and co-operation in the field of asylum, immigration and crossing of external borders (Odysseus) is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if he will list the items currently under its consideration; if he will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [58454]

Beverley Hughes: The Odysseus Committee assisted the European Commission in the management and implementation of a programme to co-fund projects to promote co-operation in matters of asylum, immigration, the crossing of external borders and the security of identity documents. The programme expired on 31 March 2002.

The Odysseus Committee met once a year to discuss the proposed bids for funding and agree the allocation of funds to successful projects. One of the first projects to receive such funding was a seminar held at the Civil Service College in Sunningdale in 1998 on combating illegal immigration.

The United Kingdom was represented on the Committee by a Home Office official and an official from the United Kingdom Permanent Representation in Brussels.

The Odysseus programme was funded by the European Community budget and travel costs to attend Committee meetings were met by the European Commission. However, the Home Office paid a subsistence allowance to cover attendance at a Committee meeting.

The European Commission was required to prepare an annual report on the implementation of the Odysseus programme and is currently preparing the report for its final year. This will be sent to the European Parliament and Council, and will be published on the EUROPA internet website. I did not see a need for further measures to increase the Committee's accountability and transparency during its lifetime.

The Odysseus programme is to be replaced by a new funding programme for co-operation in the fields of external borders, visas, asylum and immigration to be known as ARGO.


Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners in jails in the UK have been deported to the US to face charges that could result in the death penalty in that country in each of the last five years. [71327]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: None. Our policy is in accordance with the Sixth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, and with the provisions of the Extradition Act 1989. We do not extradite any persons to a jurisdiction where the offence for which they could be tried, or for which they have been tried, carries the death penalty, unless sufficient assurances are provided by the requesting state that the death penalty will not be imposed, or if imposed, will not be carried out.

Accommodation Centres

Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the per capita cost of education provision in accommodation centres. [71326]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 19 July 2002]: We are in the process of running a competition for the delivery of accommodation centres. Information about costs is commercially confidential.


Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average length of service was for a (a) policewoman and (b) policeman in England and Wales in the latest year for which figures are available. [50682]

Mr. Denham: The latest figures available are for March 2000 and they are set out in the table.

The lower average length of service for women officers in part reflects the increase in recent years in the number and proportion of women in the police service from 14,496 female officers (11.6 per cent. of strength) in 1990 to 21,800 (17.4 per cent. of strength) by September 2001.

However, the rate of voluntary resignation by women is higher than the rate for men and this also contributes to the shorter average length of service.

As part of the Dismantling Barriers initiative, we have asked forces to carry out externally audited exit interviews with departing staff to build a picture of why those leaving have decided to do so, and identify where changes might help retain staff.

We are liaising with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Work/Life Balance Team to determine how the Home Office can assist forces in using flexible working.

A research project into the retention of policy officers is under way, to inform the development of effective and practical approaches by forces to improve the retention of police officers. The focus of the research is on those forces identified as having high or increasing levels of resignations and among those groups of officers (including women officers) that have disproportionately high levels of resignations.

Mean average length of service in years for female and male police officers March 2000(33),(34)

Female officers (0–30 years' service only(35))9.7
All female officers (includes over 30 years' service(35))9.7
Male officers (0–30 years' service only(35))14.6
All male officers (includes over 30 years' service(35))15.0

(33) Source—Dismantling Barriers monitoring return March 2002.

(34) Individual officers' length of service is not available centrally. These figures are calculated from aggregate returns showing the total number of officers in each year of service and are therefore approximate.

(35) Two figures are shown. The standard period of service 30 years, although some officers elect to serve beyond this, with the agreement of their chief constable. The first figure is therefore the average for officers who have 0–30 years' service. The second figure includes officers who have over 30 years' service. There are very few female officers with over 30 years' service, so the average length of service does not increase if they are included, where it does for male officers.

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Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what contingency plans he has in place should the police work to rule, ban overtime or strike. [38817]

Mr. Denham: Police officers do not have the right to strike. Under section 91 of the Police Act 1996, it is a criminal offence for anyone to cause disaffection among police officers or to induce any police officer to withhold his services. Police officers are under a duty to carry out all lawful orders, so would have to work overtime if required to do so.

On 9 May, we reached agreement in the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) on a package of reforms to police pay and conditions of service. PNB is the statutory negotiating body for police pay and conditions of service, on which all the main police organisations are represented, including the Police Federation, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities. The PNB was, in part, set up to compensate for police officers not having the right to strike. Due process was followed throughout the negotiations leading up to the Agreement on 9 May.

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