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19 Jan 2004 : Column 971Wcontinued
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of South Africa regarding the political situation in Zimbabwe. 
Mr. Mullin: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed Zimbabwe with President Mbeki at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Abuja from 5 to 7 December 2003. We and our High Commissioner in South Africa are in regular dialogue with the South African Government on the issue.
16. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effects of the forthcoming recategorisation of cannabis in (a) London and (b) England; and if he will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint: Cannabis is a harmful drug and it will remain illegal to produce, supply or possess it following reclassification as a Class C drug on 29 January. The presumption against using the power of arrest for simple cannabis possession offences committed by those aged 18 or over, following reclassification, will save police time and provide them with an opportunity to focus greater resources on priority areas like tackling Class A drug supply offences.
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and the possession of category 4 fireworks (professional display fireworks) by the general public have now come into force.
18. Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the powers contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 on (a) graffiti and (b) fly-posting will be introduced. 
Ms Blears: On 20 January we will be publishing a Guide to the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 which will give the dates when these measures will be commenced. The powers on graffiti will be commenced on 31 March 2004, those on fly posting on 20 January 2004.
Ms Blears: Police authority precepts are a matter for each police authority. We expect all police authorities to assess their local needs carefully, taking into account local views on service and budget levels. We also expect authorities to exercise restraint in setting budgets and precepts as the current trend in council tax increases is unsustainable.
Ms Blears: I have no current plans to meet chief constables from East Anglia. I have received written representations on the provisional grant funding settlement from Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. These will be fully taken into account in decisions on the final settlement.
21. Mrs. Ann Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will introduce legislation to combat the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children within the UK; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Goggins: The Sexual Offences Act 2003 includes offences which criminalise trafficking into, within and out of the country for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The offences carry a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment. The Act also introduces a wider range of offences covering the sexual exploitation of children. The Asylum and Immigration Bill includes a new offence of trafficking for purposes other than sexual exploitation.
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22. Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the plans contained in the report "Reducing Crime, Changing Lives" will be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny. 
Ms Blears: The chief executive of the National Offender Management Service will be accountable to Ministers for reducing re-offending and delivering other agreed outcomes from the new service. Ministers will of course remain accountable to parliament for the service. Some of the reforms proposed in Reducing CrimeChanging Lives are likely to require legislation to be passed by parliament.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have been arrested through powers exercised under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; how long the detention lasted in each case; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Blunkett: Individuals who are detained under Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCS) are not arrested. They are detained under Immigration powers pursuant to a certificate issued under Part 4 of the ATCS Act 2001, pending their removal from the United Kingdom.
Under the other 12 Parts of the ATCS Act, Home Office records show that there have been 24 convictions under Part 5 (Racial and Religious Hatred) of the Act. Arrest figures for Part 5 of the Act and figures for the length of time each individual is detained are not held centrally. In addition, six people have been arrested
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Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to give a substantive reply to the question, reference 143845, concerning asylum and immigration cases heard in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, tabled by the hon. Member for Woking on 9 December 2003. 
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many failed asylum seekers were returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo in each of the last six years; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) how many applicants for asylum there were from the Democratic Republic of Congo in each of the last six years; and how many and what percentage of applications were accepted. 
Beverley Hughes: Estimates of the number of nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo who had sought asylum at some stage and who were removed between January 1997 and June 2003 are shown in the table. These figures include persons departing 'voluntarily' after the initiation of enforcement action against them, and persons leaving under Assisted Voluntary Returns Programmes run by the International Organisation for Migration.
|Nationality||1997||1998||1999||2000||2001||2002||January to June 2003|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||60||20||n/a||n/a||20||35||10|
(8) Includes persons departing "voluntarily" after enforcement action had been initiated against them, persons leaving under Assisted voluntary return programmes run by the International Organisation for Migration, and removals on safe third country grounds.
(9) Figures rounded to the nearest five with * = 1 or 2.
(10) Data have been estimated due to data quality issues
(11) Provisional figures
n/a not available
Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many and what proportion of asylum seekers in each country of the United Kingdom had achieved, prior to their entry into the UK, professional qualifications or their equivalent in (a) nursing, (b) medicine, (c) dentistry and (d) teaching in each year since 1997; 
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Beverley Hughes: Data on the qualifications which asylum seekers had obtained prior to entry are not recorded and collated centrally, and could therefore only be obtained from individual case files at disproportionate cost.
Beverley Hughes: After an application for asylum has been refused a family with children may be detained if there is a considered risk of non-compliance with the conditions of temporary admission or release, or to effect removal.
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will provide a substantive response to the question relating to funding due to Kent county council in respect of asylum seekers, ref 144468, tabled by the hon. Member for North Thanet on 12 December and transferred to his Department by the Treasury for named day answer on 16 December 2003. 
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