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11 Mar 2003 : Column 202W—continued

Drug Offences

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) men and (b) women

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have been convicted of drug offences by courts covering the Greater London area in each of the last three years. [100601]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The number of men and women convicted of drug offences by courts in Greater London for the last available three years is shown in the table.

Number of persons convicted of drug offences in the Greater London area, by gender, 1998–2000

199819992000
Males10,43510,3469,389
Females739799648

Source:

RDS, Drug and Alcohol Research


Government Buildings (Security Review)

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the most recent review of the security at government buildings in London was undertaken; and what steps have been taken as a result of these reviews. [102115]

Mr. Blunkett: The security of all government buildings is kept under constant review. For reasons of security it would not be appropriate to comment on the range of security measures that are in place.

Illegal Drugs

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his estimate is of the total cost of spending related to illegal drugs by government departments, broken down by (a) department and (b) drug; and if he will make a statement. [101765]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Information on resources is not available in the form requested. The planned pro-active expenditure, broken down between the four aims of the Drug Strategy, for this year and the next three years, is as follows:

£ million

2002–032003–042004–052005–06
Protecting young people102149155163
Reducing supply376380380380
Safeguarding communities*110212297367
Drug treatment**438503512573
Total1,0261,2441,3441,483

* Includes expenditure strengthening delivery

** Includes mainstream spending, prison treatment and pooled budgets


Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Mr. Simon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the reasons are for the closure of the Birmingham Public Enquiry Office of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate; and when it is expected to reopen. [101660]

Beverley Hughes: The Birmingham Public Enquiry Office is closed for essential refurbishment purposes. As soon as the completion date is known the re-opening date and details of the services and facilities, which the refurbished office will provide, will be published.

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Justice and Home Affairs Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the outcome was of the Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Brussels on 27 to 28 February; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [101359]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: My noble Friend (Lord Filkin) represented the United Kingdom at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in Brussels on 27–28 February.

The A points were approved as in document PTS A 8 (6756/03) (a copy has been placed in the Library) with the exception of point 3.

The Council discussed the draft Council Decision on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals and stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection. Member states remained divided on whether refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection should receive equal treatment on family unity (Article 21), access to employment (Article 24), social welfare (Article 26) and health care (Article 27). The Presidency reminded member states of the undertaking made at the Seville European Council to adopt the text by June.

The Council reached a general approach on the draft Council Directive on the right to family reunification subject to consideration of the European Parliament's opinion and one parliamentary scrutiny reserve. The UK has not opted in to the adoption of this measure.

The Commission set out its ideas for strengthening of the procedures for passport control at the Schengen entry points, designed to tighten existing controls on the entry of third-country nationals at Schengen borders. Two member states presented a joint paper on the future use of biometrics in visas and residence permits. Lord Filkin stressed the importance of work in this area being carried out in line with existing international standards. He also invited the Commission to examine ways of using Eurodac data to assist in identifying those who overstayed in the Schengen area.

The Commission gave a short presentation of the forthcoming feasibility study on improving sea-borders control, proposing the creation of three maritime zones covering the Western, Central and Eastern Mediterranean.

This was followed by an orientation debate concerning the effectiveness of financial resources available at Community level for dealing with migration issues. Lord Filkin called for appropriate budget and burden sharing mechanisms and urged the Commission to produce its report on burden sharing before June. One member state called for an increase in the Community budget to support JHA-related work on burden sharing, whilst two others argued for re-structuring of the European Refugee Fund to allow money to be used for repatriation measures.

During the open debate on fighting organised crime in the Western Balkans the Presidency underlined its commitment to action in the Balkans and the need for concrete follow-up to the London Conference on organised crime in South East Europe. The Presidency also reiterated the view that responsibility for change

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rested with Governments in the region. Lord Filkin focused on the need to move from rhetoric to action, to implement the commitments made at the London Conference and to develop appropriate mechanisms to monitor progress. He also underlined that countries in the region must co-operate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Other member states highlighted the importance of reinforcing the rule of law, the creation of stable institutions and of increased police co-operation in response to the trafficking of drugs and people through the Balkans.

The Council suspended negotiations with the US on the draft Agreements between the EU and USA on Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters and on Extradition which remained subject to a reservation by one member state. The Presidency undertook to prepare documents for member states' use for the purpose of consulting their national parliaments on the proposed Agreements.

The Council discussed the outstanding issues on the draft Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia. There was agreement that the scope of offences in Article 1 should not include acts directed against a group of persons defined by reference to their "belief". However a recital was proposed explaining that the use of the word "religion" could include persons "defined by reference to their religious convictions or belief".

Member states remained divided on the scope of criminal liability in Article 8. Four delegations favoured the inclusion of a provision obliging member states to derogate from dual criminality for mutual legal assistance in relation to offences of racism and xenophobia if they applied the stricter test for criminal liability. The UK and five other member states opposed. Lord Filkin reiterated the need to strike a balance between effective measures on racism and xenophobia and freedom of speech; he noted that improvements to judicial co-operation arrangements should be pursued through mutual recognition initiatives.

The Council discussed a list of offences for which cross-border fines would be enforced in the absence of dual criminality in the draft Framework Decision on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties. A majority of delegations, including the UK, were content to use the list adopted for the European Arrest Warrant, adding road traffic offences and six other types of conduct. However, one member state said that the European Arrest Warrant list was unsuitable for this instrument and three others had reservations on the inclusion of specific offences.

The Council reached a general approach on the draft Framework Decision on attacks against information systems subject to consideration of the Recitals, the European Parliament's opinion and parliamentary scrutiny reserves from five member states.

Under Any Other Business, the Commission gave a progress report on the implementation of the Afghan Return Programme. Voluntary returns were due to commence on 1 April 2003. Over lunch, the Commission reported on negotiations with Switzerland for its

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participation in Schengen arrangements. There was also a discussion of current counter-terrorism arrangements, including the role of Europol.

Lili Lin

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the proposed deportation of Lili Lin, Home Office reference number L1053356. [101322]

Beverley Hughes: Ms Lin was due to be removed from the United Kingdom on 6 March 2003, under administrative powers contained in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. She was not being deported. Ms Lin has since submitted a further application to remain in the United Kingdom. She will not be removed while this application is under consideration.


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