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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 14 March 2005


Asylum and Immigration

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy): Earlier today my right hon. and noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland), made a statement in the other place reporting that on 7 March the Lord Chancellor made the following statutory instrument:

The order is made in accordance with section 48(3)(a), (4), (5) and (6) of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, hereafter referred to as the 2004 Act. This order commences section 26 (unification of appeal system) of, and Schedules 1 and 2 to, the 2004 Act on 4 April 2005. This order also contains transitional provisions in relation to pending appeals which were made to an adjudicator before 4 April 2005, and in relation to further appeals and applications in such cases. Copies of the order have been made available to Members and Peers in votes and printed pages office.

The statement also reported that, on 10 March, the Lord Chancellor laid before Parliament the following statutory instruments;

The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (Fast Track Procedure) Rules 2005 are made in accordance with sections 106(l)-(3) and 112(3) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and section 40A(3) of the British Nationality Act 1981, after consulting with the Council on Tribunals in accordance with section 8 of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992. These rules prescribe a fast track procedure for appeals and applications to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, where the appellant is in detention under the Immigration Acts at the locations listed in schedule 2 to the rules. The rules come into force on 4 April 2005.

The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (Fast Track Time Limits) Order 2005 is made in accordance with sections 26(8) and (9) of the 2004 Act, after consulting with the Lord Chief Justice in accordance with section 26(10) of the 2004 Act. This order shortens the time limits for review applications made by parties to fast track appeals to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. These are referred to as section 103A applications.

For a transitional period, section 103A applications will initially be considered by a member of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. If the tribunal member does
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not make an order for reconsideration or grant permission for the application to be made out of time, the applicant may notify the appropriate court, under paragraph 30(5)(a) of schedule 2 to the 2004 Act, that he wishes the court to consider the application.

This order reduces to two days the time limits for making the section 103A application and for giving notice under paragraph 30(5)(a), in cases where the fast track procedure rules apply, so long as the appellant remains in detention when the application is made or notification is given. It comes into force on 4 April 2005.


Homelessness Strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): I am pleased to announce that the Government's new homelessness strategy "Sustainable Communities: Settled Homes; Changing Lives" has been launched today.

"Settled Homes; Changing Lives" follows on from our five year plans, "Homes for All" and "People, Places and Prosperity". It builds on our achievements to date in tackling the worst forms of homelessness. This has resulted in meeting challenging targets to significantly reduce rough sleeping since 1998 and put an end to the scandal of homeless families having to raise their children for long periods in cramped bed and breakfast hotels. It also sets out our plans for reducing homelessness further and halving the use of temporary accommodation by 2010.

I have placed copies of our strategy for tackling homelessness in both Libraries of the House. The Government response to the ODPM Select Committee report on Homelessness will be laid before Parliament today. Both documents are also available on the ODPM's website:


Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Amendment Regulations

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill ): I am announcing today the publication of a consultation document on draft regulations to amend the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999.

The amendments implement the requirements of Article 3 of European Directive 2003/35/EC. This amends environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements to bring them into line with the pubic participation provisions of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (also known as the Aarhus Convention), which was ratified by the UK on 23 February.

The EIA provisions are largely compliant with the Convention, and only a few changes to the current requirements are proposed. They include a requirement that supplementary information provided voluntarily by the applicant after the submission of an environmental statement should be subject to the same full public
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consultation process as the statement itself, and that, when applications are determined, information about the public's participation and the right to challenge the validity of the decision should be made publicly available.

The consultation will run until 6 June 2005 and will apply to England only. Copies of the consultation document will be made available in the Libraries of both Houses and from The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website www.odpm.gov.uk.


Parliamentary Questions

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I should inform the House of inadvertent errors in the answers to two written parliamentary questions tabled by the hon. Members for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) and for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) in November 2004.

The hon. Member for Cotswold asked:

I replied:

I regret that two further written parliamentary questions that received no answer in the 2003–04 Session have been identified. In addition, the original answer counted six questions that did receive a "prorogation answer" as not having been answered, and one of the six questions, tabled in September 2004, was wrongly attributed to October. I understand that Departments have dealt with this question in different ways and to be consistent with answers that the hon. Member has received to similar questions from other departments, we should exclude these "prorogation answers".

My revised answer to the hon. Member for Cotswold is therefore that three written parliamentary questions were unanswered when Parliament prorogued, of which one was tabled in December 2003, one in October 2004 and one in November 2004.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley asked:

I replied:

As noted above, two further written parliamentary questions that received no answer have been identified. My revised answer to the hon. Member is therefore that nine questions did not receive a substantive answer before the end of the last parliamentary session. Of the nine, one was tabled in December 2003, one in September 2004, one in October 2004 and six in November 2004.
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