Supplementary information provided by
the Home Office
On the question of PSAs, we offered to explain
which had been changed or dropped from the list in the Annual
Report 2002 and why (Q44). The attached chart shows how the Home
Office's targets have evolved in the transition from Comprehensive
Spending Review targets, via SR2000 targets, to SR2002 targets.
The overall number of targets has reduced in SR2002; this is because
some targets have been met, others having been consolidated, and
some no are longer being presented in the Public Service Agreement.
The Home Office's Service Delivery Agreement targets will be agreed
with the Treasury in the autumn.
The Committee also asked why did it take the
Home Office eleven months to amend a standard form (Form IS91R)
used by immigration officers in accordance with a major policy
change, the opening of Oakington reception centre for detention
purposes? We very much regret that the form IS91R, which gives
reasons for detention, was not revised sooner to reflect the Oakington
process. This cannot be defended, but the Committee might wish
to be aware, by way of background, that the form has been subject
to wider review and it was originally anticipated that the Oakington
change would be one amongst others. This took longer than expected
and it was recognised, albeit belatedly, that the inclusion of
a reference to the Oakington process should not be further delayed.
Initially, this was achieved by way of an addendum to the form
but the Committee may wish to be aware that the form itself has
now been amended to include specific reference to the Oakington
Without wishing to excuse the delay in amending
the IS91R form, as explained to Lord Justice Collins during the
relevant hearing, those who were to be detained at Oakington were
nevertheless made aware of the reason why they were being detained
by way of written information given to them on the journey to
The Committee also asked what proportion of
failed asylum seekers have children under the age of 18, and therefore
continue to receive support from the National Asylum Support Service
until they leave the country. The information is not available.
We have global figures for asylum seekers including dependants
but we do not break this down to singles, childless couples and
Finally, Mr Mullin sought Stephen Boys Smith's
thoughts on a radio programme broadcast on Radio 4 on Sunday 14
July on the National Asylum Support Service (Q165). The programme
presented a rather one sided version of NASS's performance since
it began its work in April 2000. In particular it made no acknowledgement
of the scale of the task facing the organisation or of the fact
that, for all its failings, NASS had managed to provide housing
and other support for over 70,000 asylum seekers as at the end
of March 2002.
The programme raised issues over the standard
and location of NASS's accommodation and in particular cited the
tower blocks in Liverpool. But as the programme made clear, those
tower blocks are no longer in use and NASS has rehoused almost
all the asylum seekers that were previously living there. Further
NASS can only acquire housing where it is available and this may
not be in locations that local councils will always regard as
ideal. However NASS has now made clear to its contractors that
they should avoid acquiring housing in designated regeneration
The delays in and lack of liaison with affected
local authorities about contract negotiations highlighted by the
programme are regretted and NASS is taking steps to avoid a repetition.
NASS is also tackling the issue of asylum seekers
wrongly housed in accommodation located outside agreed cluster
As regards criticisms of the handling of individual
cases, NASS has taken steps to reorganise itself to deliver a
better service and, as Beverley Hughes indicated, is aiming to
develop its regional structure so as to have more staff in the
regions and capable of tackling problems on the ground.
None of this is to minimise the distress and
annoyance that past failures, highlighted by the programme, have
caused but as Beverley Hughes the Minister of State made clear
in her interview NASS is being required to address its deficiencies
and will be held to account by Ministers if it fails to make significant
improvements over the next twelve months.