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Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the police received a report of the existence of a written authority from the Prince of Wales to Harold Brown to dispose of a gold wedding ring; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Denham [holding answer 10 December 2002]: The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis informs me that, at the conclusion of the hearing on 3 December, the existence of a written authority from the Prince of Wales to Harold Brown to dispose of a gold wedding ring was made known to the court by defence counsel.
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Beverley Hughes: There is no published data on decision times specifically to determine applications for settlement. We aim to screen all postal applications within three weeks and decide those that are straightforward at that point. However, because of the high number of applications in the latter part of 2002, this is, regrettably, taking around 10 weeks on average. Some that need further inquiries or more detailed consideration can take around 12 months to decide. We are taking measures to improve this situation and expect to make significant progress towards our three-week target for initial screening over the next two to three months, and to reduce the turnaround time for deciding more complex cases.
Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking on solicitors who fail to give appropriate assistance to clients seeking to regulate their immigration status in the UK. 
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Immigration Services Commissioner, which was established under Part V of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Any subsequent disciplinary action is a matter for the relevan designated professional body. Complaints may also be submitted direct to the particular solicitor's professional body. The Commissioner must report annually to the Secretary of State as to the effectiveness of each designated professional body in regulating its members regarding the provision of immigration advice or immigration services. The Commissioner's first such report was incorporated in his Annual Report for 200102 which the Secretary of State presented to Parliament on 23 July 2002.
Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures have been taken to ensure that communications between the emergency services and local authorities are compatible in the event of a terrorist attack. 
In a major incident, including a terrorist attack, it will fall to the police to co-ordinate the emergency response, as laid down in the Home Office guidance manual, XDealing With Disaster". This is closely co-ordinated within the framework maintained by the Cabinet Office, working with the Home Office as Department with overall responsibility for counter terrorism. The Cabinet Office has regular contact with local authorities in England and Wales on this issue, through the provision of formal guidance, funding and co-ordination of local arrangements with national policy. The system for communications between the emergency services and local authorities has been well tried and tested through the many major incidents in which they are involved.
Local authorities have a general role in emergency planning, preparing to deal with the consequences of all emergencies, including those arising from terrorist attack. This is closely co-ordinated within the framework maintained by the Cabinet Office, working with the Home Office as Department with overall responsibility for counter terrorism. The Cabinet Office has regular contact with local authorities in England and Wales on this issue, through the provision of formal guidance, funding and co-ordination of local arrangements with national policy.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidelines are issued to hon. Members hotlines on what length of time must expire in the process of a visa application before an hon. Member's staff are permitted to make enquiries to the hon. Member's hotline; and what steps he has taken to communicate these guidelines to hon. Members. 
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Beverley Hughes: The Member of Parliament's hotline was set up to deal with general immigration inquiries of an urgent or compassionate nature. From 1 July 2002 this has been expanded to include urgent and compassionate enquiries about asylum, appeal or removal casework.
I wrote to all the hon. Members on 18 July setting out the new arrangements and enclosing copies of an updated leaflet XInformation for Members of Parliament about immigration and nationality enquiries".
Hon. Members may make inquiries about the progress of applications at any time. However, applications for variation of leave to enter or remain are dealt with in order of receipt in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND). Initial consideration is currently taking 10 weeks. Complex cases which cannot be decided at this stage can take around 12 months to be determined. However, if the inquiry is about an application which is still awaiting a decision by IND for over six months or where compelling evidence is provided of compassionate reasons for resolving the application quickly, the hotline and casework teams will endeavour to complete it or explain why that is not possible.
21. Mike Gapes: To ask the Solicitor-General what plans she has to ensure that the Crown Prosecution Service works to secure a higher percentage of prosecutions in cases of alleged incitement to racial hatred. 
Prosecutions of race hate crimes are monitored closely by the CPS. Last year Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Crown Prosecution Service produced a report on such prosecutions and made recommendations which the CPS is acting on.
The Solicitor-General: I have not met with representatives of small firms of organisations to discuss ways of combating fraud perpetrated against businesses. However, I meet regularly with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of the Serious Fraud Office to examine methods on combating, investigating and prosecuting fraud.
The Serious Fraud Office investigates and prosecutes cases involving serious and complex fraud and is aware that small businesses are at risk from fraud, whether internal or external, in the same way as larger companies.
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The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service deals with fraud cases of all types, from simple Xhigh street" frauds to major corporate frauds. The most complex cases do require highly specialised knowledge, for instance knowledge of Stock Exchange practices. The Casework Directorate of CPS Headquarters has a number of specialist lawyers, working with dedicated accountancy support, to deal with those cases.
Elsewhere in the CPS special casework lawyers deal with large fraud cases, particularly in the larger urban areas where these tend to arise. The capacity of the CPS to devote more senior lawyer resources to complex cases, including fraud, has increased following its restructuring in 1999 and a significant increase in resources in recent years. In response to the recent inspection of the Casework Directorate by HMCPS Inspectorate, the CPS will shortly be considering how best it can deploy its resources to deal with fraud cases in the future.
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Better support for victims and witnesses.
More CPS lawyers to ensure good quality case preparation.
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