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20 Mar 2003 : Column 944W—continued

Ministerial Transport

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the cost of (a) ministerial cars and drivers and (b) taxis for his Department was in 2002. [101535]

Mr. Blunkett: Responsibility for the provision of ministerial cars and drivers has been delegated under the terms of the Framework Document to the Government Car and Despatch Agency. Part (a) of this question will be addressed in a letter from Mr. Nick Matheson, Chief Executive of the Government Car and Despatch Agency to the hon. Member.

The cost of taxi fares incurred by the Home Office is not recorded centrally and the information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Miscarriage of Justice

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria he takes into account when assessing ex gratia payments for persons whose convictions have been quashed as a result of a miscarriage of justice; and if he will make a statement. [103961]

Hilary Benn: While the Home Secretary decides whether an applicant qualifies for compensation, the assessment of the amount of compensation is undertaken by an Assessor appointed by the Home Secretary under the Criminal Justice Act 1988, currently the Lord Brennan QC. In statutory cases the amount of an award is wholly a matter for the Assessor and the Home Secretary has no power to influence or vary his determination. In ex gratia cases the Assessor's role is to advise the Home Secretary but successive Home Secretaries have agreed to be bound by the Assessor's advice.

In calculating the amount of compensation to be awarded to victims of miscarriages of justice, the Assessor applies principles analogous to those governing the assessment of damages for civil wrongs. The level of compensation is calculated in the same way whether the applicant qualified for compensation under the statutory scheme or the ex gratia scheme. The basis on which compensation is assessed is given in statute (section 133(4A) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988), in the Home Office "Compensation for Miscarriages of Justice—Note for Successful Applicants" (copies of which have already been placed in the Library) and in individual assessments.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many named day written questions were tabled to the Department between 15 October 2002 and 24 February 2003; how many that

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received a holding answer were given a substantive answer (a) within three days, (b) within seven days, (c) within 14 days, (d) within 28 days and (e) over 28 days later; and what procedures the Department has in place to monitor performance on answering (i) parliamentary questions and (ii) ministerial letters. [99431]

Mr. Blunkett: 541 named day written questions were tabled to the Home Office between 15 October 2002 and 24 February 2003. 426 received a holding answer. Of these:

The Home Office recognises that its performance in answering PQs is not as good as it should be and is working closely with directorates and its business change and IT partners to improve the situation. We hope to implement a new electronic PQ system by the summer. This should provide us with enhanced methods for monitoring performance and help us to become more efficient in answering the ever-increasing volume of PQs that we receive.

The target for responding to letters from MPs is 15 working days. To monitor performance, management information is produced internally on a weekly and monthly basis to show details of unanswered letters, and plot overall performance against the target. This month, the Home Office is beginning the roll out of a new computer based correspondence tracking system which, as well as enabling the efficient handling of correspondence, will also provide more detailed management information to help monitor performance.

Sex Trade Workers

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions the Government have had with the Government and agencies of the Republic of Ireland about preventing the movement of sex trade workers over the UK border with the Republic. [102433]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 12 March 2003]: I am not aware that any discussions have taken place specifically focusing on preventing the movement of sex trade workers between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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The issue of the trafficking of those working in the sex trade is one which the Government take very seriously indeed. We have introduced a number of measures to address this.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, introduced a new offence that commenced on 10 February 2003 which criminalised the trafficking of a person for the purpose of controlling them in prostitution.

The Sexual Offences Bill, introduced into the House of Lords on 28 January 2003 proposes new comprehensive offences of trafficking for sexual exploitation to replace the stop-gap offence introduced by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 of trafficking in prostitution. These new offences tackle the movement of people into, within and out of the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and will carry maximum penalties of 14 years imprisonment. The offence relating to trafficking within the UK applies equally to UK nationals trafficked from place to place in the UK, and to foreign nationals brought here and then moved around from place to place within the UK. This is the first time that the trafficking of UK nationals within the UK has been tackled in legislation.


Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many visas permitting entry without restrictions on work have been issued in each of the last seven years. [102821]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 13 March 2003]: There are a range of ways of entering the United Kingdom, legally, from outside the European Union for employment purposes. The main route of entry into the UK for economic purposes is the work permit scheme, which has recently been modernised, and which requires employees to submit applications on behalf of employees. There are a number of other labour-related entry routes such as the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and Innovator categories. Other routes such as visitors, students, working holidaymakers and those that exist for family reunion and humanitarian protection, all place restrictions on the applicants ability to work in the UK.

Women Prisoners

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many women received prison sentences in each of the last five years for (a) failing to have a television licence and (b) other debt. [103092]

Hilary Benn: The information is given in the table.

Number of females received into prison

For defaulting on the payment of a fine for using a television without a licence614124129
For defaulting on the payment of a fine for other offences31128519113764
For non-payment of community charge/council tax3011755
For non-payment of other debts00000

Yarl's Wood

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the date for the reopening of the undamaged section of the Yarl's Wood Removal Centre for women detainees and their families has been changed; and if he will make a statement. [103954]

Beverley Hughes: We want Yarl's Wood to re-open as soon as possible. However, we are continuing to negotiate

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with Group 4 Amey International and the insurers about the future of the remaining centre at Yarl's Wood and the claim for losses following the fire. Until these negotiations are concluded, no firm date can be given in respect of when Yarl's Wood will re-open.


Acute Care

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the areas where waiting lists for treatment in acute hospitals have lengthened since 2000–01. [88756]

Mr. Hutton: From 1 April 2002, the maximum waiting time for inpatient treatment has been cut from 18 months to 15 months. The National Health Service are working to reduce waiting times further, so that by the end of March 2003, the maximum waiting time foran inpatient appointment will be cut to 12 months.

Maximum waiting times will continue to fall year on year, so that, by the end of 2005, the maximum waiting time for inpatient treatment will be cut to six months.Information on the number of acute NHS trusts by Department of Health and Social Care in England, which have increased their inpatient waiting list size from end of December 2000 to end of December 2002 has been placed in the Library. The information also shows the number of patients waiting over 12 months for an inpatient admission for these trusts at the end of December 2000 and December 2002, the increase/decrease of over 1 2-month waiters from the end of December to December 2002 has also been provided. Whilst recognising that list size in these trusts has increased the government is committed to ensuring the maximum waiting times are reduced in these and all other NHS trusts.

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