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17 Jul 2001 : Column WA111

Written Answers

Tuesday, 17th July 2001.

Immigration Detainees: Religious Needs

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will issue instructions to the managers of Immigration Acts detention centres to consult appropriate authorities of each religion when appointing visiting ministers.[HL254]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): The Detention Centre Rules 2001 require the appointment of a religious affairs manager at every Immigration Service detention centre, whose task it will be to ensure that arrangements are made to provide for the various religious needs of those in detention, including access to appropriate ministers of religion. In addition, where the Secretary of State considers that the number of persons of a particular religion in a detention centre is such as to require the appointment to the centre of a minister of that religion, he may appoint such a minister. Separately, we have set up a Religious Affairs Advisory Group comprised of representatives of the main religions likely to be found in detention centres. This group will be available to offer advice on religious affairs issues within detention centres, including guidance on appropriate religious bodies or organisations to approach in connection with the appointment of ministers of religion.

Highdown Prison: Late Arrival of Prisoners at Court

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What inquiries they have made into the repeated late arrival of prisoners from Highdown prison at Guildford Crown Court; and whether the degree of co-operation between the prison authorities and Premier Custodial Services (the firm contracted to transport prisoners between the prison and court) is satisfactory.[HL255]

Lord Rooker: The Prison Service accepts that the delivery of prisoners from Highdown prison to Guildford Crown Court has been unsatisfactory and is determined to solve the problem. It has therefore set up a working party to examine the causes and make recommendations for their resolution. Membership comprises representatives of Highdown prison, the local escort contractor, Premier Prison Services, and the courts. The accepted recommendations of the working party will be implemented as quickly as possible.

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Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: Redress

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What legal redress and physical protection are available to women in the United Kingdom who have been "trafficked" or trapped into prostitution; and whether they are always permitted to remain in this country to give evidence while their cases are considered.[HL279]

Lord Rooker: There is currently no specific offence of trafficking in human beings but there are legislative provisions which may be used to prosecute those involved in trafficking into the United Kingdom for the purposes of prostitution. Setting the Boundaries, the report of a review of sexual offences, recommends that a specific offence of trafficking in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation should be created. The responses to consultation on that review's recommendations are currently being analysed.

Existing legislation deals with many of the individual elements which constitute trafficking. In bringing any criminal prosecution, the evidential contribution of witnesses is crucial and this Government are keen to ensure that a safe environment exists in which potential witnesses can feel confident to come forward and give evidence against traffickers. There is no automatic right to temporary or permanent residence for those witnesses whose presence in the United Kingdom is unlawful. The Immigration Act 1971 (as amended), however, makes provision for the Secretary of State to exercise his discretion in appropriate circumstances to grant exceptional leave to enter or remain outside the normal provisions of the Immigration Rules. If the Police and/or Crown Prosecution Service identify a potential witness whose presence at court they wish to secure and who would otherwise fall to be removed from the United Kingdom, an application is made to the Secretary of State to consider whether to exercise his discretion to treat them outside the Immigration Rules in order to allow them to remain during the course of judicial proceedings. Each application is considered individually on its merits.

We are also considering what needs to be done to create the circumstances in which a non-governmental organisation could be formed which would provide support and advice to the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Prison Service: Environmental Performance

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress the Prison Service has made towards improving its environmental performance.[HL350]

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Lord Rooker: The Prison Service is making good progress in this area. A formal greening operations policy was introduced in March 2000, the implementation of which is being overseen by a headquarter's working group chaired by a member of the Prison Service Management Board.

During the last year there have been many developments in areas such as biodiversity, energy efficiency, procurement, transport and waste management. These are described in the service's first annual environmental report, which was published yesterday, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

The Director General of the Prison Service has made clear his personal commitment to improving the environmental performance of the service and a challenging programme of further work, detailed in the report, has been set for the current year.

Prison Estate: Women and Immigration Detainees

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to restructure the prison estate to accommodate the number of women being given custodial sentences and those people being detained for reasons of immigration.[HL400]

Lord Rooker: The use of the prison estate is kept under constant review by the Prison Service Management Board and I have endorsed its decision to change the function of Downview male closed prison to become a female closed prison; to remove immigration detainees from Rochester making the whole of that establishment a young offender institution; and for Dover young offender institution to become an establishment dedicated to immigration detainees.

Foreign Nationals: Application for Leave to Remain

Baroness Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to replace the current application forms for foreign nationals wishing to apply for leave to remain in the United Kingdom.[HL401]

Lord Rooker: The current application forms are valid for use only until 14 October 2001. Revised forms will be prescribed before then and should be available by the end of September. From the time they are issued until 14 October 2001, applications may be made on either the newly prescribed forms or the present versions. Only the new forms may be used for applications made on or after 15 October 2001. Copies will be placed in the Library when they are available.

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Public Trust Office

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the Public Trust Office's annual report and accounts for 2000-01.[HL348]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Public Trust Office's annual report and accounts for 2000-01 have been published today and copies have been laid in the Libraries of both Houses.

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are registered with the United Nations RWA (Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East); what is their estimate of the actual numbers in individual camps; and what is the present United Kingdom contribution to the UNRWA programme.[HL206]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): According to UNRWA, there are 373,000 registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, of whom 208,000 live in refugee camps. However, it is widely believed that the actual number of Palestinian refugees remaining in Lebanon is considerably lower than the official figures and that the actual figure is around 150,000 to 200,000. The UK has contributed £10 million to UNRWA's General Fund for 2001. In June, we agreed to provide a further £5 million, of which £3 million was to support the General Fund budget deficit and £2 million for the UNRWA emergency appeal. This brings the UK's total contribution to the emergency appeals to £10 million since November 2000.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will be fully consulted in any final peace settlement under United Nations Resolution 194; and what actions they are taking to achieve this.[HL207]

Baroness Amos: We support UN General Assembly Resolution 194 which calls for the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees. A permanent solution to their plight can only be achieved as part of an agreement on final status. We continue to encourage and support the parties in their search for a negotiated agreement. Though this at present seems a remote prospect, there is no alternative vision that can provide lasting security, peace with justice and prosperity for all peoples in the region. In this process it is primarily for the Palestinian negotiators to take due account of the refugees themselves in Lebanon and elsewhere. We maintain regular contact with Palestinians throughout the region, as with all the other parties.

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