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4 Nov 2002 : Column 99Wcontinued
Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what resources are available to the Immigration Service in dealing with asylum applications made on entry to Northern Ireland from Eire. 
Beverley Hughes: Any person seeking asylum in Northern Ireland is directed to the UK Immigration Service staff at Belfast International airport, where arrangements are then made for their screening and interview in the same way as a person seeking asylum elsewhere in the UK.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are being used in assessing the suitability of contractors for operating the proposed new centres for asylum seekers; and who will decide on the award of contracts. 
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In due course, the criteria to be used in evaluating bids will involve project management; legal and financial responses; design and construction; and delivery of services and maintenance. Home Office Ministers will make decisions to award contracts.
Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made for a full year of the cost of the withdrawal of the work concession to asylum seekers in (a) added benefit and (b) payments to detainees; and what he estimates to be the net difference in the costs to each removal centre of employing contract and agency labour in place of detainees working in cleaning and kitchens. 
Beverley Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: We do not have figures on the additional costs, if any, of providing support to asylum seekers who can no longer seek permission to work. Internal management Information indicates that during the financial year 200102 we made initial decisions on the vast majority of new substantive applications within the initial six months. The number who might have been able to benefit from the concession is therefore much reduced.
The percentage of new substantive cases in 200102 which were decided within six months will be available from 29 November 2002 on the Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1 .html
Following their redesignation earlier this year as removal centres, the Prison Service detention facilities at Dover, Haslar and Lindholme ceased to operate under Prison Rules. As a consequence, detainees no longer had the opportunity to undertake paid employment in the centres and the practice of relying on such work for the provision of certain ancillary services came to an end. Work formerly undertaken by detainees at these centres has been contracted out or transferred to agency staff. For this year this has resulted in a net additional cost of #1.09 million. This will be met from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's budget.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) local authorities, (b) private sector contractors and (c) voluntary sector contractors are providing accommodation and support services for asylum seekers; and what the financial value is of tenders awarded to each sector. 
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Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what geographical areas are covered in each region in the regional breakdown used by NASS; and what powers and responsibilities have been delegated to the individual regions. 
|East of England||Norfolk|
|South Central and East||Dorset|
|Tyne and Wear|
|North West||Greater Manchester|
|Northern Ireland||County Antrim|
|Scotland||Dumfries and Galloway|
|Hereford and Worcester|
|Yorkshire and Humberside||North Yorkshire|
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National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is planning to increase the number of its staff in each major region. It is expected that the regional infrastructure will be in place by the end of the current financial year. Under the regionalisation programme work related to investigations, outreach and housing contract management will be delegated, with the expectation that aspects of operations work will follow at a later date. Actual locations of individual offices within regions are still being finalised.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many private contractors providing accommodation or support for asylum seekers have been dropped since 1997 because of dissatisfaction with their performance. 
Beverley Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) became operational on 3 April 2000. Since that date NASS has not terminated any contracts with private sector contractors providing accommodation or support asylum seekers.
Simon Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: The Home Office, in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, closely monitors the situation in the Russian Federation, and in particular, the conflict in Chechnya. We are aware that the Russian authorities have intensified their security operations in the wake of the terrorist incident in Moscow, but the impact of this remains unclear thus far. Our deportation policy, however, is kept under constant review.
Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will reply to the letter to him dated 3 September from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Tabasum Raja and Asif Kamal. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps the Government is taking to ensure that the Criminal Records Bureau delivers an effective service to its customers. 
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Mr. Blunkett: The Government is committed to the delivery of an effective service for undertaking pre-employment criminal record checks for people working with children and vulnerable adults. The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has not so far been able to provide a satisfactory service.
A number of steps have already been taken to improve the CRB's performance. In May an initial service improvement plan was put in place. As a result the number of disclosures issued by the CRB has increased from an average of 24,500 per week in August to an average of 39,500 per week in the three weeks ending 26 October. The CRB has now issued 541,000 disclosures.
In addition, in September I announced the appointment of an independent team, led by Patrick Carter, to take a fundamental look at the strategy and operations of the CRB and its private-sector partner, Capita. The team will be looking to identify the longer-term changes in the way the CRB operates to ensure that it can meet the demand both for the standard and enhanced disclosures already in place and the basic disclosures to be introduced in due course.
I expect the independent team to report to me with their conclusions and recommendations by the end of the year. It is likely, however, to require a period of months before any system changes necessary to deliver the required step change in the CRB's output can be fully implemented. In the meantime it is expected that there will be a gradual improvement in performance through the ongoing service improvement plan.
In the interim, we need to take steps to ensure that the demand for disclosures is in line with the CRB's current ability to process the applications. I have therefore agreed with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Health, and for Education and Skills a number of measures to defer the existing or proposed requirement on certain occupations or office holders to obtain a CRB disclosure.
Persons caring for children and vulnerable adults will, as now, continue to be subject to rigorous pre-employment checks, including confirming previous employment history and taking up references, to ensure their suitability for the position in question. All those occupations which were subject to a criminal record check prior to the advent of the CRB will continue to be subject to such a check.
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