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13 Jan 2003 : Column 452W—continued

Private Action, Public Benefit

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to bring in new legislation suggested in the publication, XPrivate Action, Public Benefit" of December 2002; and if he will make a statement. [88840]

Beverley Hughes: The report, XPrivate Action, Public Benefit", was published on 25 September 2002 and the consultation period ran until the end of December 2002. Work has started on analysing the responses which have been received. The Active Community Unit will later this year publish an implementation plan for the recommendations arising from the report. The Government are in principle committed to legislate and will be looking for an early opportunity to do so.

Religious and Ethnic Groups

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures have been taken to prevent the separation and isolation of minority religious and ethnic groups from the rest of UK society. [88729]

Beverley Hughes: We are committed to ensuring the fair treatment and inclusion of all communities within our society. We are actively working to ensure that

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where there are divisions along lines of race, religion, class—or any other factor—barriers are broken down, discrimination is eradicated and positive relationships are encouraged.

The Government are committed to social inclusion and equality of opportunity for all. Since 1997 we have done much to stamp out unlawful race discrimination in the United Kingdom. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 is the most far-reaching reform of race law in Britain for 30 years. And we have some of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in Europe.

The law has also been strengthened on incitement to racial hatred and racially and religiously aggravated offences in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

We have an on-going dialogue with the minority religious communities to ensure that Government policy is sensitive to their needs and to reassure them that the Government values the part that they have to play in building cohesive communities. We also encourage and support inter-faith dialogue and activity.

Since the disturbances of summer 2001—which demonstrated the isolation of certain communities—we have taken forward a number of programmes specifically aimed at improving community cohesion in England and Wales.

Among other things we have: funded a summer activities programme; set up a new programme of community facilitation; established a community cohesion panel and a number of practitioner groups to ensure that our policies and programmes help rather than hinder community cohesion; published—jointly with the Local Government Association, Commission for Racial Equality, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Inter Faith Network—guidance to local authorities on community cohesion; worked with local areas—including Bradford, Oldham and Burnley to enable them to produce action plans on community cohesion; launched a community cohesion pathfinder programme; and adopted a public service agreement target on community cohesion.


Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he plans to reclassify rohypnol. [88696]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Rohypnol, the proprietary name for the substance flunitrazepam, is one of the benzodiazepine family of drugs. It is controlled as a Class C drug—there are no plans to reclassify it.

Suffolk Punch

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his Department has reached a decision concerning the future of the Suffolk Punch Stud at Hollesley Bay Prison and Young Offenders' Institution; if he will allow the care of the horses to continue to be carried out by the inmates, while transferring the financial responsibility of maintaining the Suffolk Punch Stud from the Prison Service to the Suffolk Punch Trust; and if he will meet the hon.

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Member for Huddersfield and members of the Suffolk Punch Trust to discuss the future maintenance of the Suffolk Punch Stud. [87757]

Hilary Benn: The Prison Service has been reviewing its farming operations, including the future of the Suffolk Punch Stud at Hollesley Bay. The Prison Service is in contact with the Suffolk Horse Trust and recently held a meeting with Mr. Marsh of the Trust. It is the Service's aim for the horses to remain within Suffolk and for opportunities to continue in training of prisoners in equine skills. I would be happy to meet the Suffolk Horse Trust when proposals for the way forward are further developed.

Sussex Traffic Police

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many police officers have been attached to Sussex traffic police in each of the last 10 years; [89349]

Mr. Denham: Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has provided the following information.

Sussex Police (Traffic Officers)

Year (as at 31 March)Number of Traffic Officers(27)Percentage of force strength(28)

(27) Police officers who are predominately employed on motor cycles or in patrol vehicles for the policing of traffic and motorway related duties. Not including officers employed in accident investigation, vehicle examination and radar duties.

(28) Traffic officers as a percentage of force strength.

The basis on which HMIC classify Police Service staff changed in the year 1999–2000, so the figures for 31 March 2000 and 31 March 2001 are not directly comparable with those for earlier years. Some officers counted as deployed to traffic duties in earlier years may, from 1999–2000 onward, have been recorded as deployed to duties relating to traffic wardens.

Deployment of officers to traffic and speed management duties are matters for the Chief Constable. I understand from the Chief Constable that about 142 constables are currently deployed on traffic duties.

I am told by the Chief Constable that speed management is designed to influence driver behaviour and is directed to those instances where there can be a link between collisions and speed. Speed enforcement tactics are targeted where there is likely to be the greatest chance of casualty reduction. I understand that all Sussex traffic officers can be directed to speed management activities and are trained for it. However, I am told that the equivalent of four full-time officers are regularly directed to this activity.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many mobile camera speed checks have been carried out by Sussex traffic police in the last year. [89352]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I understand from the Chief Constable of Sussex that over the last year members of the Sussex Police Safety Camera Team have undertaken 262 mobile speed camera checks in which speeding offences were detected. This figure does not take account of other checks where there was no such detection.

Transnational Sex Trade

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many victims of transnational sex trade have been reported to British authorities in each of the last five years. [89021]

Beverley Hughes: Information is not held on the number of victims of transnational sex trade that have been reported to British authorities in the last five years.

Vehicle Clamping

David Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action the Government propose to take to regulate motor vehicle clamping by private organisations. [88570]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Regulation of motor vehicle clamping by private security firms on private land will be introduced by the Security Industry Authority, a non-departmental public body (NDPB) being set up by the Home Office under the Private Security Industry Act 2001. The authority is currently preparing for regulation, which will take the form of licensing all individuals carrying out activities covered by the Act. The suitability of individuals applying for a licence will be assessed in accordance with published criteria relating to criminality and competency. The Security Industry Authority will be established as an NDPB on 1 April 2003 and it is expected that it will start licensing clamping operatives by the end of this year/early 2004. It will be a criminal offence to engage in licensable conduct without a licence.

Visa Processing

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidelines are given to case workers at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to assist them in determining what constitutes (a) a straightforward and (b) a non-straightforward further leave to remain visa application. [88699]

Beverley Hughes: There are no specific guidelines. A straightforward application for leave to remain in the United Kingdom is one where it is clear from the information and evidence submitted that the requirements of the immigration rules are satisfied. An application which is not straightforward may require further inquiries, additional checks or discretionary consideration before it can be decided. Whether individual applications are straightforward depends on the individual circumstances of the case.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how long it is taking the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to process (a) a non-straightforward and (b) a straightforward further leave to remain visa application; and which month's post is being opened by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate with regard to visa applications. [88700]

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Beverley Hughes: We aim normally 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 currently taking around 10 weeks on average. Some that are not straightforward because they need further inquiries or more detailed consideration can take around 12 months to decide, subject to how easy it is to obtain the information and how quickly applicants respond to such requests. 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.

Postal applications received at the very end of December 2002 are currently being opened and details entered on to the General Casework Information Database. Those received in early January 2003 will be opened and entered very shortly and it is anticipated that the time-lag will be reduced to a week or less by the end of January.

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