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21 Dec 2000 : Column WA73

Written Answers

Thursday, 21st December 2000.

Asylum Applicant Interviews, Liverpool

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many asylum applicants accommodated in the south-east of England have been required by the Immigration and Nationality Department to attend interviews in Liverpool; and in how many instances has:

    (a) the Nationality Asylum Support Service (NASS) had to provide a ticket, and at what cost;

    (b) the NASS had to provide overnight accommodation because of rail difficulties;

    (c) an applicant missed the appointment because of rail difficulties; and

    (d) the interview been scheduled so as to require full-priced travel as opposed to off-peak travel.[HL134]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The information available is that between 13 November and 4 December, 2,883 asylum interviews were booked for the Liverpool and Leeds offices of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) These include interviews for applicants from the South East as well as the North East, Scotland and South Wales. For the same period, the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) provided 20 travel warrants for travel from the South-East to Liverpool. NASS has provided overnight accommodation in a few instances where applicants encourtered rail difficulties. I regret that it is not possible to separate travel costs for interview purposes from overall NASS dispersal travel costs.

During the week commencing 13 November, 43 interviews were cancelled because of disruption to the rail network. This number has fallen subsequently, with five interviews being cancelled for this reason during the week commencing 4 December.

The majority of asylum interviews are held at the IND offices in Croydon. This is where the main casework operation is located. Effort is made to take account of the applicant's location when booking an asylum interview where possible, but consideration of the location and scheduled start time is very much based on facilities and optimising available resources. This is essential if IND is to deliver the White Paper target to take most initial asylum decisions within two months from April 2001.

Given the volume of interviews booked for the Liverpool and Leeds office, it is not always possible or practicable to book interviews later in the day for applicants travelling long distances. It is inevitable therefore that a proportion of applicants will be required to travel during peak travel periods at some stage of their journey.

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Asylum Seekers, Feltham Young Offenders Institution

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any asylum seekers are at present held in Feltham Young Offenders Institution; and, if so, how many. [HL164]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: There are currently three immigration detainees held in Feltham Young Offenders Institution, all of whom were initially detained in dedicated immigration detention accommodation. Whilst there, they were all involved in incidents which indicated that they were unsuitable to remain in immigration detention centres because of the risk they posed to safety and security.

Young persons aged between 18 and 21 are detained in Young Offenders Institutions only in circumstances where they pose a high risk to security and control.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give an undertaking not to detain asylum seekers in Feltham Young Offenders Institution in future. [HL165]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government accept that in a minority of cases it is necessary to detain immigration offenders in prisons because they present a high risk to security and control to a degree which is not appropriate to the current immigration detention estate. Occasionally, individuals requiring this additional security and control will be over 18 but under 21 and are more appropriately detained in young offenders institutions than in prisons. We are not therefore able to give the undertaking which is sought.

The ongoing strategic expansion of the dedicated immigration detention estate will see a gradual reduction in the need to use prisons and YOIs for this purpose.

Volunteers Working with Children: Criminal Record Checks

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether now that it has been decided that essential criminal records checks for volunteers working with children are to be free in Scotland, they will reconsider the decision not to make such checks free in England and Wales. [HL189]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We have noted with interest the decision which our Scottish colleagues have taken. We have yet to announce the precise arrangements which will apply to checks on volunteers in England and Wales, but when we do so we will certainly take into account the representations from noble Lords, honourable Members of the other place, and the voluntary sector.

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Football Disorder Prevention

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many hooligans have recieved football banning orders since the enactment of the Football (Disorder) Act 2000; what impact the Act is having on the behaviour of English football fans overseas; and when the working group on football disorder will report its findings. [HL269]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The courts have imposed 122 football banning orders under the measures contained in the 2000 Act. Whilst there are no grounds for complacency, there has been no significant disorder involving English football supporters overseas since the Act came into force. The early indications are that the new measures are helping to deter disorder and encouraging the vast majority of travelling supporters to rid English football of its hooligan reputation. A copy fo the interim report of the Working Group on Football Disorder has today been placed in the Library. It outlines the group's provisional findings and the work upon which it has embarked. The group has been tasked to produce by April of next year a collective and cohesive plan for improving the image of English football, the behaviour of its followers and the role of football at all levels in promoting social inclusion. Measures aimed at tackling the racist and xenophobic attitudes that so often prompt football violence and disorder will feature in the plan.

Supply Teaching by Working Holidaymakers

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to amend the policy in respect of working holidaymakers employed as supply teachers.[HL270]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The purpose of the working holidaymaker scheme is not to meet skills shortages, or enable teachers to secure employment in the United Kingdom, but as a concession to the normal arrangements working holidaymakers who are qualified teachers are allowed to undertake supply teaching during their stay. In keeping with the ethos of the scheme, any teaching work should be incidental to a holiday and they should not be working for the whole of their time here. For those non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who wish to engage in full-time teaching employment in the United Kingdom there are already provisions under the work permit scheme, and provisions in the Immigration Rules enabling approved exchange schemes for teachers and language assistants.

We have nonetheless considered representations about the particular staffing difficulties and disruption faced by schools when supply teachers in their employ leave during the course of a school term because their leave to enter or remain as working holidaymakers has expired. In the interests of schools and their pupils, and in the light of the unique considerations which

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apply to the completion of school terms, we have agreed to amend the policy instructions in respect of working holidaymakers. This change will enable a short extension of leave to remain in the United Kingdom to a working holidaymaker who is already employed as a supply teacher, and whom the school wishes to retain, to enable them to complete the school term during which their leave to remain as a working holidaymaker has expired. Such leave will be granted on an exceptional basis outside the Immigration Rules in order to benefit those whose leave will expire during the course of a term but will not permit extensions to cover a whole term or more. Schools wishing to employ working holidaymakers as supply teachers will be expected to take account of the date upon which such a teacher's leave to enter or remain is due to expire when planning the coverage of vacant posts over the school year.

HM Prison, Brixton: Chief Inspector's Report

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Home Office received the Report of the Chief Inspector of Prisons on HM Prison Brixton; and when it will be published.[HL215]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons sent the draft report to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on 27 September 2000. The report has been checked for factual accuracy and my right honourable friend the Minister of State wrote to the Chief Inspector on 18 December approving its publication. We expect the report to be published early in the new year.

Export of Works of Art Reviewing Committee: Annual Report

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the 1999-2000 Annual Report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art.[HL231]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Reviewing Committee's Annual Report for 1999-2000 was published yesterday and copies have been laid before Parliament.

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