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8 Feb 2005 : Column 1431W—continued

Sentencing Policy

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will enable the formation of panels of local people to help to decide what form unpaid community work should take in their areas. [213350]

Paul Goggins: Local probation areas have always liaised with local communities in order to identify work which can usefully be undertaken by offenders. All areas survey those who benefit work undertaken by offenders to ensure that the nature and quality of the work help develop has met their needs; and they use this feedback to inform future work plans.

With the introduction of the new community order and the unpaid work requirement throughout the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the probation service is moving towards a much more structured approach to eliciting the views of local communities. In the course of February 2005, as part of a nationally co-ordinated Clean-Up" campaign, residents in ten probation areas will be asked to vote on a number of possible projects to be undertaken in their locality. The work will then be undertaken in the order of priority identified by residents.

This desire to take greater account of the views of local people is reflected in the civil renewal strategy currently being developed by the National Offender Management Service. This explores ways in which the confidence of the public in community sentences can be increased. It is crucial that offenders make a visible contribution that can be identified by those in the community who benefit from it. Reparation marques, which indicate that pieces of work have been carried out by offenders, have been distributed across probation areas.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the comparative rates of detention of black men and white men. [213351]

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Paul Goggins: On 28 February 2003, there were 51,427 white males and 10,850 black males held in prison establishments in England and Wales, as recorded on the Prison Service central IT system.

The latest available incarceration rates by ethnic group have been published in Figure 6.6 of 'Prison Statistics England and Wales 2001'. A copy of this publication is available in the Library.

Student Visa Extensions

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what data he collects on the quality of service international students receive while processing a visa extension. [214051]

Mr. Browne: Since the introduction of charges on 1 August 2003, we have for the most part been completing 70 per cent. of postal applications within three weeks of receiving them in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND).

We may not be able to complete applications within three weeks of receipt if they need further documents, inquiries or an interview, or if they are complex. We should normally deal with these within 13 weeks at most. A very small minority which are particularly complex or sensitive may take a little longer.

Those international students who use the Student Batch Scheme through their student advisers have their applications decided within three weeks or earlier. The percentage of Batch Scheme cases decided at the Initial Consideration Stage is much higher than average—approximately 90 per cent.

Tobacco Sales (Children)

Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prosecutions there have been in (a) South Yorkshire and (b) England of retailers for selling tobacco to under-age children in each of the last five years. [212263]

Paul Goggins: The information requested, relating to England and South Yorkshire police force area, 1999 to 2003, is given in the table.
Number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts for offences relating to the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to underage persons(27)— England and South Yorkshire police force area, 1999 to 2003

Offence descriptionStatuteYearEnglandSouth Yorkshire PFA
Sale of tobacco etc. to persons under 16Children and Young Persons Act 1933, Sec. 7 as amended by Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991, Sec. 1199911211
Sale of unpackaged cigarettesChildrens and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991, Sec. 119993

(27)These data are on the principal offence basis.

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West Mercia Police

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the last appraisal was carried out of the chief constable for West Mercia police. [213312]

Ms Blears: Procedures for Performance and Development Reviews (PDRs) of chief police officers were established with effect from 1 April 2003.

The first formal appraisals were carried out in April 2004. The chief constable of West Mercia took up post in August 2003 and since then he has been subject to the normal cycle of appraisal by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary for the South of England Region, with review meetings being held periodically throughout the year.

As a local arrangement, the West Mercia police authority also carries out an annual review of the chief constable taking account of the HMI's views as part of this process.

Work Permits

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many work permits were issued in 2004. [214069]

Mr. Browne [holding answer 4 February 2005]: 181,432 work permits were issued in 2004 for single and group applications (this number includes all group members individually). If an application for a group is counted as one application, the number of permits issued in 2004 was 160,279.


Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were deported to Zimbabwe during 2004. [209613]

Mr. Browne: In 2004, one person has been removed as a result of deportation action to Zimbabwe.


Affordable Housing

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which other policies in addition to the £60,000 home scheme are planned to make housing more affordable for young adults. [213651]

Keith Hill: A number of homes created under the Design for Manufacture" (£60,000 home scheme") will be available under the First Time Buyers Initiative (FTBi). The FTBi will release land held in the public sector for the construction of new homes, removing the cost of land purchase and enabling us to offer homes to first time buyers at less than the market price. English Partnerships will lead on the delivery of 15,000 homes to 2010.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister offers a range of other low cost home ownership options, including shared ownership and Homebuy, which we are looking to
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simplify and make fairer. In addition, affordable housing for eligible key workers in London, the South East and Eastern regions is available through the Key Worker Living programme. This £690 million programme provides equity loans, shared ownership, intermediate rented and short term rented accommodation, and will help up to 16,000 people in the three years until March 2007.

Sustainable Communities—Homes for All", published on 24 January sets out a wide range of measures to extend home ownership. This includes how the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will help 80,000 people into home ownership by 2010, including through the FTBi and our traditional programmes. It also announces a new Homebuy scheme that will allow tenants of local authorities and housing associations to buy a stake in their home, which can increase over time. Finally, it also proposes changes to the planning system to ensure more affordable housing for key workers and young families in rural areas.

This builds on the £38 billion Sustainable Communities Plan announced in February 2003 to provide for 200,000 extra homes in London and the wider South East.

Also, in the longer term, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is considering our response to the Barker Review of Housing Supply in England, which has reinforced the case for housing growth in areas of high demand. Wide-ranging research is currently being carried out into the implications of her recommendations and we plan to consult on proposals for a national market affordability goal in autumn 2005.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will take steps to increase the number of affordable homes for the people of Chorley. [214398]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently consulting on national policy for the provision of affordable housing in mixed communities. Planning for Mixed Communities" was launched on 24 January and the consultation period ends on 15 April.

The Government office, with its regional partners, is considering the provision of affordable housing, as part of the reviews of the regional housing and regional spatial strategies for the north-west. The strategies are expected to be with Ministers in May and September respectively this year.

The Government office will continue to monitor the provision of affordable housing, in Chorley as in the remainder of the north-west.

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