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17 Nov 2004 : Column 1608W—continued

Sex Abuse Investigations

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether prisoners acting as witnesses in an institutional abuse case are eligible to have their evidence video recorded and given as their evidence-in-chief under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. [197445]

Ms Blears: In criminal proceedings witnesses may be provided with special measures assistance under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 if they satisfy the definition of eligible witnesses contained in sections 16 and 17 of the Act. These provisions operate irrespective of whether or not the witness is in prison. The special measures include provision for the admission of a video recording as evidence in chief of the witness.

Witnesses eligible for assistance by virtue of section 16 are: children aged under 17 years at the time of the hearing; and other witnesses whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished by reason of a mental disorder or a learning disability or a physical disability or disorder. Witnesses whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because of their fear and distress in connection with testifying are eligible by virtue of section 17. These definitions include complainants and witnesses for the prosecution or the defence but the accused is specifically excluded.

Video recorded evidence in chief is currently available to all section 16 witnesses in the Crown Court. It is available to child witnesses in sexual offences, offences of violence, threats, abduction, kidnapping and cruelty in magistrates' courts. Other than in a limited number of pilot courts this special measure is not currently available to witnesses who would only be eligible by virtue of section 17.

Sexual Offences

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what measures in the New Deal for Victims and Witnesses reduce the adverse effects of crime on victims and witnesses in sex offence cases; [196643]
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(2) how the New Deal for Witnesses and Victims has improved services for victims and witnesses in sex abuse cases. [196633]

Paul Goggins: We are working jointly with the Department of Health on a range of initiatives to improve services and reduce the adverse effects of crime on victims and witnesses in cases involving sexual offending. We are doing so through the National Institute for Mental Health Excellence (NIMHE) Violence and Abuse Programme and as part of our own strategy to support victims of crime. We have committed an additional £4 million over two years to support the development of a broad range of statutory and non-statutory services for male and female victims of all forms of sexual crime, including extension of the network of sexual assault referral centres (SARCs). We are also working alongside the Department of Health on plans to map current service provision and develop consistent service guidelines for work with this group.

Sham Marriages

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new measures his Department has taken to tackle the problem of sham marriages which are entered into by individuals in order to obtain the right to remain in the UK. [195467]

Mr. Browne: The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004 included measures to tackle the problem of sham marriages.

The first measure restricted notification of a marriage by a non-EAA national to certain designated register offices. This will allow the Immigration Service to target its intelligence and enforcement effort on a smaller number of register offices and for registrars to build up experience of handling these notifications.

They will continue to report their suspicions about possible sham marriages to the Immigration Service.

The second measure created an eligibility requirement for non-EAA nationals. Registrars will not accept notification of marriage unless the person:

In practical terms, this means a visa for marriage or a certificate of approval from the Home Office.

These legislative measures are being supplemented by targeted enforcement action against those entering sham marriages. This has led to 26 arrests in September and October this year and charges being made against 19 persons.

Student Visas

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for changes in charges to international students for visa extensions; and what data he collects on comparable charges in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. [197615]

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Mr. Browne: The Government are currently consulting on options for new charges for a range of non-asylum immigration applications. This includes possible increases in the fee for leave to remain applications payable by international students seeking to remain in the UK.

The table shows the impact of our proposals on the fee levels for leave to remain applications, upon which we are consulting.

Resulting proposed fee
Cost recovery modelPostal servicePremium service
Current fee155250
Administrative costs and overheads only195–230300–345
Recovery of administrative and appeals costs235–270335–390
Recovery of administrative, appeals and partial enforcement costs285–330390–450
Full cost recovery of administrative, appeals and enforcement costs325–380430–495

The consultation document is available at and closes on 8 December 2004.

The Home Office does not collect systematic data on other countries' immigration charges. Earlier this year, the Home Office commissioned research from UCL to look into this. The report, "Migration Policies and Trends: International Comparisons", 2004, J. Clarke, J. Hogarth and J. Salt, is available at

Sudbury Prison

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners are held in HMP Sudbury; and how many of these are serving a life sentence. [198349]

Paul Goggins: The population of Her Majesty's Prison Sudbury was 552 on 30 September 2004. Of these, 89 were life sentence prisoners.

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average cost of recapturing prisoners who absconded (a) from HMP Sudbury and (b) from Her Majesty's prisons was during (i) 2003 and (ii) 2002. [198352]

Paul Goggins: This information is not recorded and held centrally, and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost if at all.

Tamil Tigers

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he last reviewed the proscription of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam under anti-terrorism legislation; when he next expects to review that proscription; and if he will make a statement. [197598]

Mr. Blunkett: The list of proscribed international terrorist organisations that was created in 2001 under the terms of the Terrorism Act 2000 is kept under
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regular review. However, as a matter of policy we do not comment on whether particular organisations are being considered for de-proscription.

Tampere Agenda

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for The Home Department what progress has been made on the Tampere agenda; and what assessment he has made of its effectiveness. [192139]

Caroline Flint: The Government believe that significant progress has been made on the Tampere agenda. Many of the key bodies and legislation that provide the framework for practical co-operation are in place. Further effort is required to ensure that they function efficiently and their potential to support member states is maximised. The Government therefore support a new work programme which focuses on practical co-operation, evaluation and monitoring.

The effectiveness of measures should be evaluated individually. For example, the "Dublin agreement" and the EURODAC fingerprint database have helped to tackle asylum shopping by returning applicants to EU partners, allowing us to return an average of around 150 per month to other member states during 2004. Co-operation between Europol and member states on serious crime threats has seen success too; an anti-child pornography operation supported by Europol led to the identification of a total of 59 suspects in 2003. The European arrest warrant has simplified court procedures; in 2004 28 people have been arrested in the UK and 16 people abroad have been arrested following UK requests.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for The Home Department what the Government's policy is on the future of the Tampere agenda. [192140]

Caroline Flint: The Government supports the continuation of the Tampere agenda. A new Justice and Home Affairs work programme that consolidates and builds on progress so far is in the UK's interests.

The Government believes that the new work programme should concentrate on measures that bring tangible benefits to our citizens and add value to member states' efforts. In particular, the Government wants to ensure that measures are fully implemented, properly evaluated and cost effective, and that new proposals remove unnecessary barriers placed in the way of co-operation.

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