Previous Section Index Home Page


5 Dec 2002 : Column 969W—continued

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what rights district councils have to stop asylum seekers coming into an area. [84651]

5 Dec 2002 : Column 970W

Beverley Hughes: It is Government policy that asylum seekers who request that accommodation be provided as part of an application for support are dispersed away from London and the south-east. The National Asylum Support Service (NASS), with the approval of Ministers of the day, designated certain areas (referred to by NASS as Xcluster areas") as suitable for the dispersal of asylum seekers. Prior to designation NASS consulted each regional consortium (made up of all local authorities and county councils within that region) to seek their views on areas proposed for designation. District councils have no right to either stop NASS procuring accommodation for asylum seekers or to prevent asylum seekers being moved into NASS accommodation in their area.

Asylum seekers not requiring accommodation from NASS can live wherever they choose. Local councils have no duty to provide housing to asylum seekers if their need for this arises solely as a result of destitution.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers he has to compel a county council to accept asylum seekers. [85063]

Beverley Hughes: Under section 101 of the Immigration and asylum Act 1999 we can, by order designate an area as a reception zone. No such orders have been made. We have established dispersal areas for asylum seekers requiring accommodation. A county council has no power to prevent asylum seekers being housed in accommodation provided to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) for that purpose by an accommodation provider in an area designated by NASS as suitable for the housing of asylum seekers supported by NASS.

Mr. Howard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether Folkestone is a high-dispersal area so far as asylum seekers are concerned. [85561]

Beverley Hughes: Folkestone is not used by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) as a dispersal area for asylum seekers requiring accommodation.

Mr. Howard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he proposes to locate a 24-hour reporting centre for asylum seekers in Folkestone. [85563]

Beverley Hughes: The setting up of regional asylum reporting centres is part of the Government's strategy to introduce a more rigorous control into the asylum process and bring about improved contact with asylum seekers while their claims are under consideration. The aim is to achieve stronger management of the asylum process, while affording asylum seekers opportunities to monitor the progress of their cases.

Maintaining contact with asylum seekers while their claims are considered is essential. It is in the interests of all parties—the applicant, the local community and central and local Government—that asylum applications are managed quickly and efficiently as part of a well managed asylum system.

Reporting centres will form an important part of this process, providing a well managed approach to the handling of asylum seeker's applications; from arrival to the removal of failed applicants, or the integration into the community of those recognised as refugees.

5 Dec 2002 : Column 971W

The Government are planning to set up a number of reporting centres throughout the UK as part of an overall contact management strategy to support the processing of asylum applications and is keen to utilise such centres for this reporting process, rather than have asylum seekers reporting to their local police station with significant implications on police resources.

Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) on how many occasions the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs met to discuss its 2002 report on the classification of cannabis prior to its completion; which members of the Council attended each meeting; and if he will place the minutes of the meetings in the Library; [85093]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The report by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs: 'The classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971' was based on a detailed scrutiny of the relevant scientific literature, including four reviews commissioned by the Department of Health in 1998 as well as an update commissioned by the Home Office and completed in November 2001. A copy of the Council's report is in the Library. A fuller list of source materials is set out at pages 13 and 14 of the report.

The Advisory Council is a statutory and independent Advisory Non-Departmental Public Body, which was established under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Under the Act members of the Council, of whom there should be not less than 20, are appointed by the Secretary of State They must include representatives of the practices of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy, the pharmaceutical industry and chemistry

5 Dec 2002 : Column 972W

other than the pharmaceutical industry and people who have a wide range of experience of social problems connected with the misuse of drugs.

Since 1971 the Advisory Council has kept the classification all drugs of abuse including cannabis under periodic and systematic review. Following my right hon Friend the Home Secretary's announcement on 23 October 2001 that he would ask the Council to review the classification of cannabis, the Council agreed at its meeting on 8 November to commission some individual members to produce a draft report on the classification of cannabis. The Council met to discuss the draft report on 15 January 2002. It's discussion was informed by meetings of sub-committees of the Council, which had been held on 1 November 2001 and the morning of 15 January 2002.

Minutes of meetings of the Council are not published documents. However, the Council's report on the classification of cannabis (referred to above) represents the outcome of the Council's discussions on 15 January 2002.

During the period leading up to the Advisory Council's report, its' membership, and the capacity jn which members were appointed, reads as follows:

























5 Dec 2002 : Column 973W










The possible link between cannabis use and mental illness (especially schizophrenia) has been debated for many years. In its report on the classification of cannabis, the Advisory Council said that no clear causal link was demonstrated, although cannabis could unquestionably worsen schizophrenia (and other mental illnesses) and lead to relapse in some patients. The research highlighted by the British Medical Journal (23 November 2002) adds to, but is not at variance with, the existing body of research which was drawn on by the Council in its consideration of the classification of cannabis. The Council reviews all recent research in a systematic way. The Home Secretary does not propose to ask the Council to review its recommendation about the classification of cannabis.

The Forensic Science Service and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist analyse drug seizures and are therefore able to monitor the concentration of active ingredients in cannabis used in the United Kingdom, and in particular of the main psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The data they have collected indicates that the THC content of different cannabis products has varied, and continues to vary, widely, but that during the late 1980s and 1990s products with higher levels of THC became available as a result of new growing techniques being developed.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, in its report on the classification of cannabis, recommended the reclassification of all cannabis preparations to Class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This includes all forms of cannabis listed in Parts 1 and 11 of Schedule 2 to the Act. The Home Secretary intends to bring forward proposals to the House to amend the Act in line with the Council's recommendations.


Next Section Index Home Page