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10 Oct 2005 : Column 176W—continued

Marriage Applications

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate has been made of the number of bogus marriages in the UK in each year since 1997; and what proportion of marriages this represented in each year. [301]

Mr. Charles Clarke: It is impossible to estimate the number of bogus marriages taking place in the UK as this is a clandestine activity. Where there are obvious signs of abuse, registrars will report their suspicions to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) in the form of section 24 reports. Introduced as a provision of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, these were brought into force in January 2001. Since then, IND has received the following numbers of section of 24 reports:
Number of section 24 reports received by IND

(57)To 30 April

Further measures to combat sham marriages were introduced in February this year. The new provisions require those subject to immigration control, who wish to give notice of marriage in the UK, to have:

Registrars will not accept notice without this evidence. Notice can only be given at one of a restricted number of designated register offices.

Since these provisions were introduced, there has been a marked decrease in the number of suspicious marriages reported by registrars. 166 section 24 reports were made in January 2005. This was reduced to 35 reports in February and 18 reports in March.


Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the unit cost of a
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passport in each of the next 10 years if the Identity Cards Bill is not passed by Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [10074]

Mr. Charles Clarke: In 2004–05 the actual average unit cost of issuing and delivering a passport was £38.30. In 2005–06, the UK Passport Service will begin issuing passports containing facial biometrics; these will be phased in progressively. The UK Passport Service has developed financial estimates only for the next two financial years. The average unit cost of producing a passport, accounting for the phasing in of facial biometrics, is estimated to be:

No further estimates have been made as the Identity Cards Bill, which is now before Parliament, will change the basis on which passports are issued should it receive Royal Assent.

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether external contractors will be involved in the introduction of facial and fingerprint biometrics in passports; and if he will make a statement. [6374]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The first generation of biometric passports will contain a single facial image that meets the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and US visa waiver scheme. The introduction of a biometric passport will be undertaken through current arrangements for passport application processing systems and passport book production. Third party suppliers for major components will be assessed in conjunction with the existing prime contractors to ensure value for money.

The development of the next generation of passports will consider further biometrics in the form of Iris and Fingerprint in light of evolving ICAO standards and EU requirements and international standards for travel documents. The Procurement strategy for the inclusion of a second biometric is under development and it is too early to determine the extent of external supplier involvement.

Police (Lancashire)

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police cells have been taken out of action in Lancashire since 1997. [10798]

Mr. Charles Clarke: This is an operational matter for the chief constable of Lancashire constabulary but I understand that the information is not available. However, I understand that in 1999 the total number of all police cells (including detention rooms) that were in regular use in the Lancashire police area was 186.

Policy Costings

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what costings of (a) Liberal Democrat and (b) Conservative party policies his Department has (i)undertaken, (ii) co-ordinated in the previous 12 months and (iii) advised upon in the previous 12 months. [7001]

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Mr. Charles Clarke: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 18 July 2005, Official Report, column 1334W.

Press Office

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much has been spent on the Department's press office; and how many press officers have been employed in each year since 2002. [9444]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Press Officers within the Home Office are employed at the Information Officer (IO) and Senior Information Officer (SIO) grades.

The Press Office spend for each year includes pay costs (all grades); overtime (all grades); all general office running costs and all other Press Office expenditure.
TotalSpend (£)

(58)2004–05, based on the latest financial reports. However, the accounts have not yet closed and the total may change due to any reconciling that takes place.

The Press Office expanded in 2000–01 following an external consultant's review of its operation in 1999. The review recommended the creation of the Newsdesk" so as to better meet the demands of the media. This improved efficiency from 'losing' in excess of 20 per cent. of the calls pre expansion, to a position where from June 2003 to June 2004, 91.8 per cent. of the 67,070 press calls received by the Newsdesk were answered.

The Home Office press office and the Prison Service press office merged in May 2001.

In 2003–04 the Press Office Newsdesk answered 60,039 calls; Press Office issued 583 press notices and held 29 briefings for the media. The Press Office operates 24 hours a day/7 days a week to meet demands of the 24hour news agenda.

Racist Assaults

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the number of racist assaults which took place in England and Wales in the last year for which figures are available. [16788]

Paul Goggins: In 2004–05, there were 3,677 offences of racially and religiously aggravated common assault and 5,312 offences of less serious wounding recorded by the police in England and Wales.

Schengen Agreement

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list each element of the Schengen acquis to which the UK has acceded, with the(a) dates of accession and (b) the date on which this was notified to Parliament in each case. [16120]

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Andy Burnham: As of 1 January 2005 the UK participates in the judicial cooperation, drugs cooperation, obligations on carriers, measures to combat trafficking of human beings and police cooperation parts of the Schengen acquis. The relevant Schengen articles and implementing conventions are listed in articles 1(a) (i), (b) , (c) (i) and (d) (i) of Council Decision 2000/365/EC, and the relevant Schengen building measures adopted since Decision 2000/365/EC are listed in the annexes to Council Decision 2004/926/EC.

My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) informed the House the application of parts of the provisions of the Schengen aquis to the UK would soon be ready for adoption, by way of a written answer on 15 December 2004, Official Report, column 1177W and informed the House by way of a written answer on 1 February 2005, Official Report, column 830W that Council Decision on the putting into effect of parts of the Schengen acquis by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2004/926/EC) had come into force.

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