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18 Mar 2003 : Column 701W—continued


Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what emergency planning has been undertaken in preparation for a chemical or biological attack in the UK; and if he will make a statement about the state of preparedness of the (a) emergency services and (b) local authority services. [102518]

Mr. Blunkett: I refer the hon. Member to the Written Statement on Terrorism (Civil Contingency Planning) that I made on 3 March 2003, Official Report, column 72WS.

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Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what evaluation has been made of the impact of the detonation of a dirty radiological bomb in a city centre; what assessment has been made of the ways in which decontamination needed can be carried out; and what calculation has been made of the likely consequential costs of such a dirty bomb being used. [101994]

Mr. Blunkett: The United Kingdom has well tried and tested contingency plans—developed over many years—for responding to a wide range of terrorist threats, including those which might involve the threatened or actual use of radiological materials.

At a national level, existing contingency plans for dealing with the aftermath of radiological emergencies arising from nuclear and other incidents have been reviewed and adapted to cater for the deliberate release of radioactivity, or 'dirty bombs' into the environment. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) takes the lead in maintaining these plans.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (John Denham), published the Strategic National Guidance for the Decontamination of People Exposed To Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) Substances or Material on 3 February 2003 which contains ways in which the decontamination of people is carried out. This is an approach which provides simple but effective decontamination for chemical, biological or radiological contaminants.

The consequential costs of such an incident would of course depend on a number of factors, including the size of the device, the weather conditions and the area affected.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures are in place to prevent illegal immigrants being used by terrorists to introduce dangerous pathogens into the UK. [102301]

Beverley Hughes: Clandestine illegal entrants detected in Kent are transferred to the Dover Asylum Screening Centre and they and their baggage are searched thoroughly as part of the screening process.

Clandestine illegal entrants detected elsewhere in the country, are normally taken to the nearest police station where they would be searched before being taken into the custody area.

The terrorist threat remains real, and serious. As recent events have shown, no country is immune from attack, and it simply is not possible to guarantee against more attacks in the future. However, this Government are resolute in their determination to defeat terrorism regardless of its source.

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.

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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.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the pathogens which could be used in a terrorist attack against which there is vaccine available. [102302]

Mr. Blunkett: Our defence against bioterrorism takes account of the possibility of terrorists seeking to use a wide range of pathogens and toxins. Schedule 5 to the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 lists 47 such agents for which security arrangements must be made.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the detection technologies available to each of the emergency services for use in incidents where terrorist threat surveillance may be appropriate. [102303]

Mr. Blunkett: The Fire Service has access to radiological survey meters and, in appropriate circumstances, personal radiation dosimeters. In addition, all brigades have access to explosive atmosphere monitors and local scientific advice.

The Police Service has access to chemical monitors and radiation dosimeters. They also have access to specialist national chemical, biological and radiological advice.

The Ambulance Service use the detection technologies of Police and Fire Services. It would not be appropriate, on security grounds, to give more specific information.

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to protect the parliamentary estate against potential terrorist attacks. [102455]

Mr. Blunkett: Operational responsibility for security within the parliamentary estate rests with the Serjeant-at-Arms. Outside the estate's boundaries, operational responsibility falls to the Metropolitan Police Service. For security reasons, I cannot comment on the detail of the measures in place to protect against potential terrorist or other forms of attack.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the level of preparedness amongst voluntary organisations of the United Kingdom to respond to a major terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement. [96250]

Mr. Blunkett: The degree of preparedness of any voluntary organisation judged competent to work with the statutory agencies in handling the consequences of any civil emergency is a matter for assessment by the local authority and/or emergency service through which the voluntary organisation is registered and operates. The Government have published clear guidance on the use and training of volunteers and voluntary organisations in the following core guidance publications: 'Dealing With Disaster' (3rd edition), England and Wales (chapter 6); 'Dealing With Disaster Together', Scottish Executive (chapter 7); 'A Guide to Emergency Planning in Northern Ireland' (annex C).

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Contingent Liabilities

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which contingent liabilities for which his Department has responsibility have matured in each of the last five financial years; and if he will make a statement. [101767]

Mr. Blunkett: My Department carries out an exercise each year to identify the contingent and actual liabilities of the Home Department and reports the findings to Her Majesty's Treasury.

Information relating to 1997–98 is not readily available.

Between 1998–99 and 2001–02, payments were made against only one contingent liability. This arose from section 27 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. It related to the cost of re-funding charges for travel documents issued between January 1994 and February 1999. By the end of the year 2001–02, the liability had reduced to below the £100,000 reporting threshold.


Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the Immigration and Nationality Directorate will reply to letters from the hon. Member for Vauxhall dated 25 March 2002, 19 June 2002, 21 October 2002 and 16 December 2002 about a constituent, reference number M61644. [101833]

Beverley Hughes: I wrote to my hon. Friend on 17 March 2003.

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to reply to the letter to him dated 3 January from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Mr. B. Padya. [103746]

Mr. Blunkett: I wrote to my right hon. Friend on 14 March 2003.

Court Judgment (Howard League)

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what meetings have been held between Home Office and Department of Health officials following the judgment in R (Howard League for Penal Reform) v Secretary of State for the Home Department. [103157]

Hilary Benn: Following the High Court judgement, Prison Service Officials have had a series of three meetings so far with Department of Health and Youth Justice Board officials to consider the implications of Justice Munby's judgement. The meetings are looking at the possible need for further guidance.

Criminal Justice Bill

Kevin Brennan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the number of children and young people who will be sentenced annually under each of the new proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill to (a) detention for life, (b) detention for public protection and (c) extended sentences. [103077]

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Hilary Benn: The Criminal Justice Bill provides new mandatory sentences for offenders who commit a specified violent or sexual offence and who, in the opinion of the court, present a serious risk to members of the public of serious harm commissioned by the offender of further specified offences.

Relevant juveniles convicted of an offence which carries a maximum penalty of detention for life under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, will receive detention for life under section 91.

Those convicted of a serious specified offence which does not fall within this category, will receive either a sentence of detention for public protection or an extended sentence.

Those convicted of a specified offence which is not a serious offence, will be given an extended sentence.

The provisions aim to protect the public from the very small minority of juveniles who present a serious risk and to enable those offenders to be detained until their risk has been reduced. We anticipate their being used infrequently. We estimate that under them around 30 juveniles a year are likely to receive detention for life, around 10 the extended sentence and one or two detention for public protection.

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