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18 Mar 2003 : Column 694W—continued

Spectrum Access

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations her Department has received on the recognised spectrum access scheme proposed in the Communications Bill; and how many of them were (a) in support of and (b) in opposition to the scheme. [101611]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 7 March 2003]: Eight representations have been received by the Department supporting recognised spectrum access and 26 opposing the principle of the scheme or its proposed application to satellite services.

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether Ministers from her Department have met representatives of the UK satellite industry to discuss the impact of recognised spectrum access on the satellite industry. [101612]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 7 March 2003]: I agreed last month to meet representatives of UK and European satellite operators to discuss recognised spectrum access. The meeting has been arranged for 8 April.

Staff Redundancies

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance she gives on whether firms, when making staff redundant without allowing staff to work their notice period, have to take into account lost pay and benefits pension rights when making payment in lieu of notice. [103395]

Alan Johnson: Employees entitled to notice of dismissal are entitled, where no notice is given, to pay in lieu for the period of notice required. They are also entitled to other benefits, such as pension rights, that would have accrued in respect of that period. This is the position whatever the reason for dismissal except in cases where the employer is justified in dismissing the employee summarily.

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Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many occasions her Department has been notified of significant redundancies planned by (a) AMP, (b) Pearl Assurance and (c) NPI; how many jobs were affected; and in what locations. [103399]

Alan Johnson: I regret it is not possible to disclose details of the number of notifications of proposed redundancies received by the Department. Such information is a confidential matter between the employer and the Department, under Exemption 13, Third Party's commercial confidences, of the Code of Practice on access to Government information.

UK Steel

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with Corus regarding the UK steel industry; and what support and assistance she can provide to the UK steel sector. [103859]

Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has had a number of discussions with senior management of Corus to discuss its current difficulties. She met Corus board members on 18 March when she again stressed the need for them to develop a workable solution which will return the company to profitability. We must await the outcome of commercial discussions.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what impact she estimates the present difficulties in the UK steel industry will have on production for military contracts. [103860]

Alan Johnson: It is considered that the UK steel industry will not have any difficulty fulfilling contracts.

Your Guide Project

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the total cost of the Your Guide project in post offices. [103541]

Mr. Timms: I refer to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) on 5 November 2002, Official Report, column 157W.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Accountancy Services

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total cost to his Department was for accountancy services in 2002. [101557]

Mr. Blunkett: The information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Appeals

Mr. Peter Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when he last reviewed provision under the Reviews of Sentencing Orders of 1994, 1995 and 2000; when his Department will next review this; and if he will make a statement; [100207]

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Hilary Benn: There is no formal review system in operation for the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme. New requests to extend the Attorney General's powers to refer unduly lenient sentences are considered by my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, in consultation with the Attorney General and Lord Chancellor, as and when they are received.

The Home Secretary is sympathetically considering a request from the Attorney General (which has the support of the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice) to add certain racially aggravated offences to the scheme. This request followed a specific recommendation in a report of a thematic inspection of casework with an ethnic minority dimension, conducted by Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.

An amendment was tabled during the Committee Stage of the Courts Bill in another place, to add burglary to the scheme, but this was defeated on 18 February.

The Home Secretary will continue to consider whether any additional offences should be added, and will liaise fully with the Attorney General, Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in such deliberations.

Asylum Seekers

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum applications have been outstanding for (a) more than three months and (b) more than 6 months. [102438]

Beverley Hughes: As at the end of December 2002 the number of asylum applications awaiting an initial decision for more than three months is estimated to be 25,800, of which 21,400 cases were outstanding after more than six months. This includes cases that are currently under consideration and compares with 27,300 and 22,100 such applications as at the end of December 2001, and 72,000 and 60,600 applications as at the end of December 2000.

Provisional data show that 60 per cent. of applications (excluding withdrawals and third country cases) received in 2001–02 had initial decisions reached and served within two months, 78 per cent. within four months and 84 per cent. within six months. 76 per cent. of applications (excluding withdrawals and third country cases) received in the period April to September 2002 had initial decisions reached and served within two months.

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Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how long it is taking to process (a) straightforward and (b) non-straightforward cases for (i) asylum and (ii) British citizenship. [102463]

Beverley Hughes: The information requested is unavailable and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost by examination of individual case records. Each asylum claim is assessed on its individual merits, and it is not clear on what criteria an asylum case would be classified as being straightforward or not straightforward. An asylum case, which appears straightforward at the outset, can become more complex later in the asylum process. 76 per cent. of applications (excluding withdrawals and third country cases) received in the period April to September 2002 had initial decisions reached and served within two months.

The average time between application and initial decision was six months for initial decisions made in 2002. This has been calculated using all cases for which data are available, including older cases decided as part of the reduction of the backlog, as well as new cases. This compares to 20 months in 1997.

Applications for British citizenship are dealt with upon receipt and are not subdivided into straightforward and non-straightforward applications.

The most recently published data on average processing times for British citizenship relate to applications lodged prior to 31 March 2001, when the average waiting time was 11.6 months.

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what funding arrangements are in place to enable the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to meet the target to halve the number of asylum applicants by September. [102469]

Beverley Hughes: The budget for 2003–04 will be published in the Home Office's main estimates (in the usual way).

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what (a) guidelines and (b) rules the National Asylum Advisory Service gives to contracted companies as to where each asylum seeker can be housed in a cluster. [103182]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 17 March 2003]: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) identified areas suitable for the provision of accommodation to asylum seekers. NASS contracted companies were told where these areas were and that accommodation must be located within the defined areas. All accommodation had to meet a strict specification laid down by NASS. Providers were responsible for ensuring that all necessary planning regulations were met, including local requirements relating to houses in multiple occupation. Additionally, where it is proposed that a single address will have over six bedspaces, there is a requirement that NASS should formally consult the local authority.


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