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21 Jan 2004 : Column 1274Wcontinued
Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what amnesties in the form of permission to stay have been offered to people who entered the country illegally during the last 15 years; and when. 
On three occasions during that time special exercises have been undertaken to grant leave to people meeting specified criteria. The administrative exercise in 199293 granted exceptional leave to remain to 60 per cent. of those refused asylumpossibly over 20,000. There was no announcement to Parliament.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason he is planning to levy a surcharge on those coming to the UK (a) for higher education and (b) to take up employment; what windfall gain this charge is intended to engender; and what his Department means by the term over-cost. 
Beverley Hughes: The Asylum and Immigration Bill includes an enabling power to introduce an over-cost charge for non-asylum applications where there are existing powers to charge. We believe it is fair that people who want to come to the UK to study or take up employment should make a contribution in return for the benefits they receive. Final decisions about the level of any additional fees for different categories of applicant,
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and regarding the timing of their introduction, will be taken only after wide consultation with key stakeholders and other Government Departments.
Paul Goggins: The Home Office is responsible for aspects of the criminal law, but records of all imprisonable offences enacted in any parliamentary session are not kept centrally. The following information therefore relates only to Home Office measures. 257 imprisonable offences have been created, modified or re-enacted since 1 May 1997.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will encourage leaders of the Islamic faith in the United Kingdom to support the reform of Islamic law which calls for the death penalty for apostates. 
Beverley Hughes: While the Government does not generally intervene in matters of religious doctrine, I am aware that Islamic teaching places a strong injunction on Muslims to abide by the laws of the society in which they live and that the great majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom are peaceful and law-abiding members of society. The United Kingdom is fortunate in having a number of wise and responsible Muslim religious and community leaders who advocate a peaceful and constructive way of life. The Government has a continuing dialogue with these leaders, as with leaders of other faiths, and shares their aim of resisting and isolating all forms of extremism.
Beverley Hughes: There is already substantial legislation to protect people who are victimised or discriminated against because of their religion. For example, the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 already contains provisions which make it a criminal offence to incite or arouse fear of racial or religious hatred. The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 created new religiously aggravated offences in England and Wales, under which crimes such as assault and criminal damage attract a higher maximum penalty if they are committed because of the victim's religious belief or lack of belief. We would urge any person whose safety or property is threatened because of their religious beliefs or lack of beliefs to report the matter to the police. The Home Office has recently published a response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Offences, in which we have indicated our support in principle for a new offence of incitement to religious hatred in England and Wales.
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Beverley Hughes: The United Kingdom Passport Service and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are working on a joint programme to issue electronically enabled passports capable of supporting the applications of facial recognition software. The programme plans to start issuing this new form of passport in mid 2005 with a phased roll out through the remainder of that year. This will be a major technological change and it is important to introduce the new form of passports in a safe and controlled way. The possibility of a pilot using diplomatic passports is also being considered.
The cost of the new passport will depend on the method of embedding the contactless computer chip into the passport book. Four prototype methods have been developed and are subject to durability tests. Information on likely costs will be developed during the pilots.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how an applicant for a new British passport will be able to provide biometric information for the passport; and how system security will be guaranteed. 
Beverley Hughes: The new British passport will support facial recognition and the biometric data will be provided by applicants in the form of a photograph. These photographs will need to comply with format standards and new guidance notes are being prepared.
Beverley Hughes: The new British passport, which it is planned will be issued from mid 2005 onwards, will store electronically a portrait or image of the applicant of sufficient resolution to support the application of any form of facial recognition software. In addition, some of the information printed on the biodata page of the passport will also be stored electronically.
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Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to introduce an exit centre in HM Prison Leeds for people leaving prison, to link addiction, mental health, rehabilitation, education and training procedures inside prison with programmes available outside. 
Paul Goggins: Funding has been secured for the development of a healthy living centre that will draw upon partnerships with the community to provide better opportunities for prisoners to make informed decisions about lifestyle and healthy living. Community partnerships have also been established to build upon housing and employment provision and to improve the opportunity and quality of education. I would be happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss how these projects can help achieve the objectives he outlines.
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Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the reasons for the change in the percentage of remand prisoners who are women convicted and awaiting sentence. 
|Females on remand||383||395||490||491||538||599||704||748||700||775||945|
|Convicted unsentenced (23)||29||28||28||30||31||34||39||42||43||45||47|
(23) As a percentage of total female population.
The components do not always add to the totals because they have been rounded independently.
The number of female convicted unsentenced prisoners as a percentage of the total female remand population has increased since 1992; showing a similar increase to the number of male convicted unsentenced prisoners as a percentage of the total male remand population. There are many reasons for this increase. For example, arrangements for plea before venue, as made possible by the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1996 and the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, were implemented on 1 October 1997. Plea before venue led to offenders pleading guilty earlier than previously and hence spending less time untried and spending proportionately more time convicted unsentenced.
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