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14 Jan 2003 : Column 593W—continued


Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to establish a removal centre alongside the immigration reception centre at Oakington in Cambridgeshire. [89801]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 13 January 2003]: No decision has been made to alter the current status of Oakington. I am currently looking at this matter and will write to the hon. Member once a decision has been made.

Refugee Integration

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he has made of the impact upon refugee integration of the reduced entitlement to guidance and language training due to the withdrawal of the work concession for asylum-seekers who do not have an initial decision after six months; [89782R]

Beverley Hughes: By the time the concession was abolished about 80 per cent. of new applications were receiving an initial decision within the initial six months. The number of new asylum seekers able to benefit from the concession was therefore falling and will continue to do so. Asylum seekers who had permission to work or who had sought permission to do so before the concession was abolished continue to be able to work and receive work based training.

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Asylum seekers remain eligible to attend a range of courses to assist in the development of English for speaker of other languages (ESOL) and other basic skills in the short period before a decision is taken on their claim.

Settlement Visa Applications

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average length of time for the Home Office immigration department to process a settlement visa application for the spouse of a British citizen was over the last 12 months; and what the expected length of time is, as outlined in the Home Office guidelines, for the Department to process a settlement visa application for the spouse of a British citizen. [90120]

Beverley Hughes: There is no published data on decision times specifically to determine applications for settlement of spouses of British citizens. 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 currently taking around 10 weeks on average. Some that 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. There are no guidelines on average processing times for specific types of application.

Statutory Instruments

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Statutory Instruments subject to negative procedure made by his Department (a) came into force and (b) were considered by a delegated legislation committee in each of the last three sessions. [88028]

Hilary Benn: Details of the Statutory Instruments (SIs) made each session by Home Office Ministers, which came into force, are not held and such information could not be made available other than at disproportionate cost. However, statistics on the number of negative instruments made by Home Office Ministers each year, are kept. The numbers for negative instruments for each of the past three years are as follows, none have been annulled.

Negative instruments

YearNumber of SIs made

(11) Provisional figure

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considers all negative Statutory Instruments once they have been made.

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Sussex Traffic Police

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on changes to traffic policing within Sussex; [89347]

Mr. Denham: These are matters for the Chief Constable of Sussex. I understand that the changes in question stem from a force operational review that the chief constable established with the aim of getting more capacity at the front line of policing. The review acknowledged the important role the traffic division played in the policing of Sussex and concluded that the best way forward was the establishment of a smaller road policing unit (RPU) and a dedicated force wide unit taking advantage of automatic number plate recognition technology. The RPU will concentrate on the investigation of road death, potential road death and serious injury collisions, on patrolling and dealing with incidents on the strategic road network, and on assisting district commanders by providing specialist expertise.

These changes reflect the priorities contained within the National Policing Plan 2003–06. They will enable officers to concentrate on core police business and ensure a high level of service to the community, while also allowing the effective use of specialist skills.

I understand from the chief constable that within the new arrangements the established RPU base at Chichester will remain, with an enhanced staffing and vehicle level. Adur and Worthing, with Chichester, are within the West Downs division. Deployment profiles are in the process of being established to provide a response across the division. Road policing lends itself to a flexible approach and support will also be provided from other base areas such as North Downs and Brighton and Hove.

The chief constable and force operational review identified the number of differing shift and rest day patterns across the force area as adversely affecting the force's ability to mobilise resources quickly and effectively. A force working pattern was therefore proposed. In line with Police Regulations this pattern was put to the workforce, who voted overwhelmingly for its adoption. A shift pattern has now been developed by the RPU, which maximises resourcing levels at times of operational need such as the morning and evening traffic peaks.


Contingency Planning

Tom Brake: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment the Department has made of the effect of devolution on comprehensive contingency provision in the United Kingdom. [86601]

Mr. Blunkett: I have been asked to reply.

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The Government are satisfied that arrangements for contingency planning between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom have not suffered any detriment due to devolution. Every effort has been made to ensure consistency and proper co-ordination.

The devolved Administrations participate in the Civil Contingencies Committee and its sub-committees. Cabinet Office officials work closely with the devolved Administrations to facilitate the provision of comprehensive contingency arrangements in the United Kingdom.

Tom Brake: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what arrangements are made to ensure that contingency provision exists to safeguard the public in the event of a major civil disaster; when such arrangements were last updated; and what changes were made. [86596]

Mr. Blunkett: I have been asked to reply.

There are well established arrangements for civil protection at national and regional level, involving Government Ministers, Government Departments, emergency services, local authorities and others. The Government support these arrangements by providing funding and guidance, as appropriate.

The Government reviewed general emergency planning arrangements in 2001. It also reviewed and updated its management in light of the fuel protests, the foot and mouth outbreak, recent flooding and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. As a result, measures have been taken by Government Departments, the emergency services and local authorities to improve assessment, detection, protection, planning and response to a wide range of threats. This work continues to develop according to risks and capabilities.

The Government recognise that the current legislative framework for civil protection needs updating to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It plans to introduce new legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows. Work involving a wide range of stakeholders is well under way to develop this legislation.

Tom Brake: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what common standards are set across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in order to ensure good and proper contingency provision; and what arrangements exist for their inspection. [86598]

Mr. Blunkett: I have been asked to reply.

Consistency between the guidance documents is ensured by liaison between the Cabinet Office and the devolved Administrations, who work together to deliver co-ordinated contingency planning across the United Kingdom.

The core guidance documents for contingency planning arrangements for England and Wales are: XDealing With Disaster" (3rd Edition) and XStandards for Civil Protection in England and Wales" produced by the Home Office in October 1999. A revised version of XDealing With Disaster" is scheduled for publication in the first half of 2003. The arrangements are under the oversight of the Cabinet Committee on Civil Contingencies and Resilience which I chair.

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Emergency planning in Scotland is a devolved responsibility. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the guidance reflects the principles and methodology of the above documents but is adapted to take account of local circumstances.

The main guidance document in Scotland is: XDealing With Disaster Together" produced by the Scottish Executive Justice Department.

In Northern Ireland, the key documents are: XA Guide to Emergency Planning in Northern Ireland", which is currently under review, and XNorthern Ireland Standards in Civil Protection".

Auditing is carried out by a range of bodies. For example, the emergency services are monitored by service inspectorates, and the National Audit Office monitors the work of central Government Departments.

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