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Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment his Department has made of allegations of persecution of repatriated asylum seekers by the authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo; 
We are aware of allegations such as those raised by the BBC in late 2005 that failed asylum seekers are subject to mistreatment on return. However, we have found that there is no objective evidence to support allegations outside of sources known to be sympathetic to the plight of asylum seekers or who specifically provide assistance to individual Congolese claimants. While it is impossible to rule out the potential for individual officials to act on their own account, we have seen no corroborated evidence that
they do so, nor that the Democratic Republic of Congo authorities have a policy of deliberately targeting failed asylum seekers for special attention.
In early 2006, the UNHCRs Kinshasa Office consulted a number of domestic and international human rights organisations and other relevant NGOs based in the capital about the authorities treatment of returning failed asylum seekers. The UNHCR inquiries found that apart from encountering questioning and possibly temporary detention, there is no evidence to suggest that returning Congolese nationals face systematic mistreatment or that returning failed asylum seekers are at greater risk of scrutiny by the authorities than any other profile of Congolese national returning home.
Mr. McNulty: The number of asylum seekers supported by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) are published on a quarterly and annual basis, broken down by Government office region and local authority. The next publication covering the first quarter of 2006 will be published on 23 May 2006, and will be available on the Home Office Research Development and Statistics website at:
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers who claim to be fleeing persecution on the grounds of their sexual orientation have been (a) refused and (b) granted asylum in the UK in the last 10 years. 
Mr. Byrne: Information on the number of asylum claims deemed to be unfounded is available from 2004 and has been published as part of the public performance target: removing more failed asylum seekers than new anticipated unfounded applications. Copies of this report are available at the IND website:
As part of the Prolific and other Priority Offender Programme, launched by the Prime Minister in 2004, the criminal justice agencies are all operating a Premium Service to ensure that those offenders are prioritised through every stage of the criminal justice system.
The National Premium Service Specification provides guidance that there should be a presumption against use of police bail for prolific and other priority offenders, and that remand or conditional bail should be sought for all such cases. It is, of course, a matter for the court to decide on the remand status of the defendant, based on all the circumstances of the case.
When a defendant is released on conditional bail, the National Premium Service Specification also requires that the defendant be carefully monitored and that any breach of bail be dealt with robustly.
Andy Burnham: There are currently no plans to introduce payment by instalments for biometric passports and there has been no pressure from customers to date to do so. In terms of the future fees strategy we will explore all aspects of charging including methods of fee collection but any changes will need to be focussed in terms of efficiency and minimising administrative costs.
Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate his Department has made of the number of crimes committed against under 16-year-olds which may have been omitted from the British Crime Survey due to it interviewing only those aged 16 years and over; and if he will make statement. 
Mr. McNulty [holding answer 7 September 2006]: Information on the extent and nature of personal victimisation of young people, including those aged 10 to 15, is published in the Home Office Statistical bulletin 20/05 Young people and crime: findings from the 2004 Offending, Crime and Justice Survey (Appendix D), and in Home Office Findings 246 The victimisation of young people: findings from the 2003 Crime and Justice Survey, copies of which are available from the Library and from the Home Office website at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/offending_survey.html
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what funding has been allocated to the British Retail Consortium to enable it to run the Action Against Business Crime Group beyond August 2006. 
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much has been spent on cannabis education programmes since the reclassification of cannabis; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Coaker: The Government takes an integrated approach to educating young people on the harms of all illegal drugs, for example through the Frank campaign. However, since the reclassification of cannabis in 2004 a total of £1.5 million has been spent on specific cannabis communications.
Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what costs were incurred by his Department as a result of sending civil servants on overseas visits in each of the last 10 years. 
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Mrs. Dean: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment has been made of the pilot schemes on withholding benefits from persons who are in breach of a community order; and whether the results will be published. 
The Home Office and DWP jointly undertook to pilot a scheme to apply a benefits sanction to offenders found to be in breach of their community sentence. The scheme was piloted in four probation areasDerbyshire, Hertfordshire, West Midlands, and Teesside from October 2001. An
evaluation report published in February 2004 concluded the policy had a small impact on compliance (1.8 per cent.) suggesting that for every 50 community sentences given, one less resulted in breach initiation as a result of the policy. The results of a further monitoring period proved inconclusive with regards to improvement of offender compliance. This is because the period coincided with other initiatives to improve compliance some of which gave significantly higher improvement than the benefits sanctions pilot.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many public consultations his Department undertook in 2005; and what the cost was (a) in total and (b) of each consultation. 
Mr. Byrne: Over the year 2005 the Home Office undertook 18 formal public consultations in order to inform the Department's policy development. Information on the cost of each consultation and the total cost of all consultations could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will to reply to the letter to him dated 15 June from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to Mr. Faiz Mohamed Choudry. 
John Reid: My Department has no record of receiving your previous correspondence dated 15 June 2005. However, on 10 August 2006 I wrote a full reply to the right hon. Member regarding Mr. Choudrys wife, Ms Nusrat Bibi.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time taken to respond to hon. Members correspondence to (a) the immigration and nationality directorate (IND) and (b) the IND removals correspondence team was in the last period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
John Reid: As of the first of January the average response time for letters received from Members during 2005 on immigration and nationality directorate (IND) related matters was 36 working days in respect of correspondence on enforcement and removals matters and 24 days for correspondence on IND matters as a whole. The final figure for the average response time to letters received in 2005 will not be available until all those letters have been answered.
Volumes of Members letters on IND matters have grown considerably in recent years. In 2003 there were 24,700 letters and in 2004 35,800. The figure for 2005 will be reported shortly by the Cabinet Office in its annual report on performance on correspondence handling by all Government Departments. This will show a further substantial increase in letters for the IND.
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