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2 Apr 2003 : Column 756W—continued

Post Room

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to improve the efficiency of the post room at the Home Office. [105638]

Beverley Hughes: Within the Home Office's Central London buildings post rooms are run by the Mail and Messenger service under the provisions of a service level agreement. The performance standards are regularly monitored, and the levels specified are being achieved.

The Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) at Croydon have a separate post room, whose processes have been reviewed recently. All incoming and outgoing recorded delivery (RD) and special delivery (SD) mail is electronically logged and tracked. A new computer system is now being introduced to speed up the recording of RD and SD mail; this will also enable Call Centre staff to check whether the Integrated Casework Directorate (ICD) has received or despatched specific recorded or special delivery items. ICD are also working with Royal Mail to ensure that mail is not lost in transit.

Prison Officer Vacancies

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many vacancies there are for prison officers in each prison in England and Wales (a) in terms of the actual number of vacancies in each establishment and (b) as a percentage of the total number of prison officers employed in each establishment; and what the figures were in each of the last five years. [105762]

Hilary Benn: The level of stated vacancies within each grade is not available for each of the last five years. However, a return of planned posts (i.e. the anticipated staffing level) for each grade by establishment is collated. I have placed tables showing the recorded shortfall of staff in post compared to planned posts for officer grades in all public sector establishments on 31 March in each year in the Library. The figures include prison officers, senior officers and principal officers. Data on prison custody officers in private sector prisons is not included as this is commercial in confidence.

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Talgarth Hospital

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to use the former Mid-Wales Hospital at Talgarth as (a) an asylum centre and (b) a prison. [105612]

Beverley Hughes: There are currently no plans to use the former hospital at Talgarth as (a) accommodation for asylum seekers and (b) a prison.


Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about contingency planning for terrorist incidents in London. [105846]

Mr. Blunkett [holding answer 1 April 2003]: The UK has the necessary plans in place in the interests of national security and the protection of the public. The Government's preparations include a series of classified contingency plans for responding to a wide range of terrorist threats. These plans are regularly tested, reviewed and updated in the light of changing circumstances. The response to any terrorist incident relies upon a co-ordinated approach and the Government draws upon the resources of other Departments, the security and intelligence agencies, the police, the military, scientific and other specialist advice, local authorities and the emergency services. In addition to the national contingency plans, the London Resilience Forum under the chair of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) examines resilience and preparedness of London for major emergencies including those caused by terrorism.

Unaccompanied Children (Entry Clearance)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many unaccompanied children and young people up to the age of 16 years old have been refused entry into the UK in each of the last three years. [105267]

Beverley Hughes: The information requested is not available. Published statistics of those people refused leave to enter the UK and subsequently removed include unaccompanied minors although they are not separately identifiable. The information would therefore only be available by examination of individual case-files at disproportionate cost.

However, as a matter of policy, unaccompanied children are not removed under Immigration Act powers unless we aresatisfied that suitable arrangements have been made for their reception and care in the destination country.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what checks are made by immigration officials relating to unaccompanied children and young people, as to the reason why entry is being sought; and if he will make a statement. [105268]

Beverley Hughes: Anyone seeking entry to the United Kingdom who is not an EU/EEA national is subject to

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immigration control and must therefore satisfy the immigration officer that they meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules.

Unaccompanied children and young people under the age of 18 are no exception to this requirement, and will be seen by an immigration officer on arrival at United Kingdom ports and airports. Their age and the fact that they are travelling alone mean that special care is taken when they are interviewed. In seeking to establish whether entry is appropriate, the immigration officer may make checks with any relatives or sponsors in the United Kingdom, and against any address the child might have given as their intended residence whilst in the United Kingdom.

Should the unaccompanied minor seek asylum on arrival in the United Kingdom then there are well established procedures in place to ensure that the child is dealt with where possible by immigration officers specially trained to interview children. Social services are notified so that adequate care can be arranged in the absence of any family in the United Kingdom and the Refugee Council's Children's Panel act as the independent advisor to the child during the processing of the asylum claim.

Video Identity Parades

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the implementation of video identity parades. [105824]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The National Video Identification System (NVIS), a system using video images of suspects and look-alike volunteers to crate identification parades, is in the process of being implemented.

Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording (VIPER) is a system developed and operated, on a non-profit basis, by west Yorkshire police. The Home Office subsequently funded the development of a new VIPER Bureau in west Yorkshire. The Home Office subsequently funded the development of a new VIPER to sites in each of the ten street crime forces and the British transport police. A total of 17,000 compilations have been completed since the system was introduced in April 2002. Plans are in place, subject to appropriate funding, to roll out VIPER to all forces by the end of March 2004.

A national standard for video identification has been drawn up to ensure the NVIS—VIPER and other suitable commercial systems are capable of passing images to the national database. The NVIS aims to increase the number of parades held and the number of positive identifications made.

Video identification has shown marked benefits in the street crime forces and there are numerous examples of this process playing a significant role in bringing perpetrators for serious forces to justice within timescales previously unthinkable. For example, while 51 per cent. of live ID parades may be cancelled before witnesses can eve attend, with video ID that cancellation rate can be as low as 5 per cent.

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EU Fisheries

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the extent is of the Hague

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Preference gains and losses resulting from the December 2002 EU Fisheries Council, broken down by (a) species, (b) area, (c) loser and (d) gainer. [104731]

Mr. Morley: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is as follows:

Hague preference gains/losses 2003

Species/AreaUK gain/lossIreland gain/lossHP invoked byOther member states which losequota as a result of invocations
Cod Vb, VI, XII, XIV+133+183UK/IrelandBelgium, Germany, France
Cod VIIa-270+374UK/IrelandBelgium, France, Netherlands
Cod Vllb-k-18+192IrelandBelgium, France, Netherlands
Haddock Vb, VI, XII, XIV-538+639IrelandBelgium, Germany, France
Hake Vb, VI, XII, XIV-33+188IrelandBelgium, Spain, France, Netherlands
Plaice VIIa-428+503IrelandBelgium, France, Netherlands
Whiting Vb, VI, XII, XIV+143-15UKGermany, France
Whiting VIIa-71+90UK/IrelandBelgium, France, Netherlands

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what compensatory swaps have been entered into following the December 2002 EU Fisheries Council by way of restitution to the UK of lost Hague Preference quota. [104732]

Mr. Morley: I have been asked to reply.

Discussions with Ireland are continuing, but it has not to date proved possible to agree swaps which compensate UK fishermen for 2003 quota lost as a result of the operation of Hague Preference.

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