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13 Oct 2005 : Column 568W—continued

Impact Nominal Index

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made in developing the Impact Nominal Index; and if he will make a statement. [16476]

Paul Goggins: Significant progress has been made in developing the Impact Nominal Index. The operational capability is expected to be delivered in December 2005.
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Payroll Giving

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the promotion of recent changes to the Payroll Giving Grants programme. [17246]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 21 July 2005, Official Report, column 1784W.

Proceeds of Crime

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much money seized as a result of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 was invested in (a) Southend and (b) Essex police in each year of its operation; and if he will make a statement. [16591]

Paul Goggins: Information is not available in the form requested. The police asset recovery incentivisation scheme came into operation in 2004–05. Under the scheme Essex police received £29,387 on the basis of its performance in that year. Incentive payments based on performance in 2005–06 will be made in 2006–07. In addition, in 2004–05 two Essex based community groups received around £20,000 from the Connected Fund for anti-gun crime and knife crime initiatives. The Connected Fund was funded from confiscated proceeds of crime.

Sex Abuse Claims

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the use of polygraph tests in historical sex abuse investigations. [16479]

Paul Goggins: Evidence relating to the credibility of a witness from a lie-detector has not been admitted in the courts. The main reason is that there have been concerns about the accuracy of such tests. This led the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure to conclude in 1981 that the machine's

told against its introduction in this country.

However, since 2003 the probation service has been piloting the use of polygraph examination with convicted sex offenders. The purpose is to test compliance with license conditions, risk management plans and treatment. Information from the examination can be shared with the police and other agencies. To date over 200 offenders have volunteered to be tested. During the course of examination many offenders have disclosed further information which has been useful in confirming the risk assessment or revising the risk management plan. If information were to be divulged in a polygraph test that could help in the investigation of an unsolved crime, this would, of course, be passed to the police.

Substance Abuse

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment his Department has made of the level of (a) alcohol misuse and (b) abuse of illegal drugs in 2004–05. [16731]

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Paul Goggins: The Home Office has not made any recent comparative analysis between drug and alcohol misuse.

However, the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England and accompanying Interim Analysis set out a broad assessment of the scope and extent of harms caused by alcohol.


Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions since 1 May 1997 visas have been granted to religious representatives; what mechanisms are in place for the co-ordination of information between countries in this matter; and if he will make a statement. [16074]

Dr. Howells: I have been asked to reply.

Figures are not available for Minister of Religion visa applications prior to 1998. The number of visas issued under the entry clearance category 'Ministers of Religion' from 1998 on an annual basis is as follows:
2005 (January to August)500271210

While every effort is made to ensure that statistics are correct, the complexity of UKvisas global business, including technical failures and inconsistencies in data means 100 per cent. accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

The total number of applications issued and refused may not always equal the total of applications received. This can be caused by a variety of reasons. Applications can be carried forward from one year to another before being resolved. They may be withdrawn during processing, but still count as an application received. In these circumstances, delays can and do occur between the application being received and the decision being taken.

There are no specific mechanisms to share data on visa applicants with foreign governments or law enforcement agencies in any particular category of the Immigration Rules. However, if the need to share data or information arises on individual applications, UKvisas will consider doing so if such action complies with the principles and terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998.


Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to deal with (a) gun and (b) knife crime. [16717]

Hazel Blears: We are working with communities, other Government Departments, local authorities and law enforcement agencies to combat gun and knife crime.
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We are supporting local initiatives through funding from recycled criminal assets. £2 million was allocated to support work related to gun crime for 2004–05 and a further £2 million for 2005–06. Some of this is being allocated to small community initiatives through our connected fund. To date, 119 projects have been supported in two rounds of the fund, with a third currently under way.

We are working with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and other agencies to improve intelligence-gathering, examine links between drugs and gun crime, reduce the supply and availability of firearms, develop effective police operations, and expand the use of the national firearms forensic intelligence database .

On knife crime, the Government support the work of the police for example through dedicated, intelligence-led operations, such as Operation Blunt in London, and we are developing proposals with the Association of Chief Police Officers for a nation-wide knife amnesty similar to some campaigns currently being run by the Metropolitan police.

The Department of Education and Skills introduced the Safer Schools Partnerships scheme in spring 2002. More than 400 police officers are now based in schools to reduce victimisation, criminality and antisocial behaviour.

We are introducing new measures on gun and knife crime in the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, currently before Parliament, which will raise the age for purchasing a knife to 18, ban the sale, manufacture and import of realistic imitation firearms, give head teachers powers to search pupils for weapons, and introduce a new offence of using another person to hide or carry a gun or knife.



Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the occasions in 2004–05, when an unpaid adviser undertook travel on public business and claimed expenses, broken down by (a) name of adviser, (b) dates and destinations of travel and (c) cost to public funds. [17282]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my noble Friend the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 2 February 2005, Official Report, House of Lords, column WA54.

Ministerial Travel

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the occasions since 1 January 2004 when Ministers wishing to be absent from the UK have sought his written approval; and whether his approval was given in each case. [17280]

The Prime Minister: Correspondence between Ministers relates to internal discussion and advice and is therefore not disclosed.
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Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions a Minister's spouse or partner accompanied a Minister on (a) domestic and (b) overseas official duties during 2004–05, broken down by (i) name of Minister, (ii) dates of travel and (iii) cost to public funds. [17281]

The Prime Minister: The information requested is not held centrally. The cost of spouses or partners accompanying Ministers on overseas visits is included in the overall cost of Ministers' visits overseas, which is published on an annual basis. Copies are available in the Library of the House.

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