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Written Answers

Wednesday, 22nd October 2003.

Television Licences: Penalties for Non-payment

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners are serving sentences for non-payment of television licences.[HL4532]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): On 30 April 2003, the number of males and females in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales for defaulting on the payment of a fine for using television without a licence was one.

Police Service: Paperwork

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are undertaking a review of the paperwork required of police officers when making an arrest.[HL4750]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The report of the Policing Bureaucracy Taskforce, established as part of the Government's police reform programme, highlighted ways to free up significant amounts of officers' time. The work of the taskforce is being taken forward by a steering group, co-chaired by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office. Among the achievements so far is the establishment of a police forms editorial board to streamline, simplify or withdraw from use unnecessary forms. This includes the paperwork required of police officers when making an arrest.

In addition, the manual of guidance editorial board reviews the forms for use in the completion of prosecution cases. The aim of the manual is to ensure that case files contain sufficient evidence for the case to reach a successful conclusion. The manual is reviewed annually against changes in legislation, policy, practice and procedure and aims to ensure that police officers avoid duplicating information unnecessarily or completing forms which are not required.

Police Performance Monitors

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the second set of police performance monitors.[HL4989]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Today we have published the second set of police performance monitors for individual forces in England and Wales. The first set of performance monitors was published in February 2003. The performance monitor diagrams provide a quick, visual summary representation of the

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balance of performance for a force. Although the diagrams are simple to look at, they contain a lot of information and have the capacity to reflect performance in a number of separate areas of policing responsibility.

The forthcoming national policing plan 2004–07, to be published in November 2003, describes in more detail the ongoing work to develop a set of national measures of policing performance and an associated assessment system. While this is being developed, we are continuing to monitor the performance of police forces across a set of interim indicators of policing performance, as well as through other relevant information.

The publication of the second set of performance monitors will enable the public to gauge the performance of their local force across a range of policing responsibilities. The ability to make this assessment has been considerably improved by the addition of bar charts to the original monitor diagrams, giving a more detailed breakdown of the comparison of forces with their peers. This is further enhanced by the inclusion of two years' worth of performance information, which indicates changes in police performance since last year.

Asylum Applicants: Language Analysis

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to announce the outcome of the pilot testing of language analysis in determining selected asylum applications. [HL4990]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are pleased to announce the outcome of the pilot testing of language analysis to help determine asylum claims from selected applicants who claimed to be nationals of Afghanistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. The pilot was established in the light of concerns that some asylum seekers were posing falsely as nationals of these three countries. Its purpose was to assess the potential value of language analysis in providing expert evidence to identify the place of origin of asylum seekers, and to detect and deter abuse of the asylum system.

Evaluation of the decisions and appeals outcomes for cases in the three-country pilot to the end of July this year has shown that language analysis is a valuable aid in detecting false nationals (9 per cent of the total number of applicants selected for the pilot and 21 per cent of claimed Somali nationals) and in delivering robust and effective decisions. The percentage of outright refusal decisions was 78 per cent compared with 51 per cent for the pilot nationalities as a whole in 2002. In cases where appeal rights have been exhausted the percentage of decisions upheld (86 per cent) was also higher than the norm (68 per cent for these nationalities, in 2002).

In order to address continuing concerns about abuse of the asylum system and in the light of the initial and similarly encouraging results from the subsequent Iraqi language analysis pilot, we have decided to commission further work to take forward the wider

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introduction of language analysis. To achieve maximum benefit, this will form part of the asylum screening process, and will be targeted on cases where claiming a false nationality would give rise to a greater likelihood of being granted asylum, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave.

The evaluation of the appeals outcomes for cases in the three-country pilot found that challenges to the reports have focused on the credentials of individual language analysts. It is of course essential that the reports are accepted as credible evidence at appeal and that failed applicants are removed from the UK. This demonstrates the need to ensure that the credentials of the language analysis bureau and their analysts meet the requirements of the Immigration Appellate Authority. Among other options, we will be considering the feasibility of establishing a language analysis bureau in the UK to address this issue.

The Race Monitor, Mary Coussey, who reports to Parliament via the Secretary of State, will exercise independent scrutiny of the operation of language analysis.

A copy of the summary of findings of the three-country language analysis pilot has been placed in the Library of the House.

Campsfield House

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the future of the Campsfield House immigration centre. [HL5035]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Campsfield House opened as an immigration centre in November 1993 following its closure as a young offenders institution. In February 2002 the Home Secretary expressed concerns about the quality of the accommodation and it was concluded it should close. However Campsfield has proved invaluable in recent months in holding short-term detainees. Furthermore, during the refurbishment of Harmondsworth, its south-east location makes the establishment strategically important.

Consequently, and as part of a wider review of the removal estate, we have examined the possibility of maintaining Campsfield. We now propose to modernise and develop the centre, bringing the facilities up to an acceptable standard so as to maximise the capacity of the removals estate and retain a valuable resource.

Millennium Dome

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 6 October (WA 14–15) concerning the sale of the Dome, whether they will explain the term "should go unconditional in spring 2004". [HL4649]

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The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The contracts signed between English Partnerships and Meridian Delta Limited were subject to a number of conditions, primarily the securing of acceptable planning permission. It is anticipated that all of these conditions will be satisfied by spring 2004, at which point legal responsibility for the future use of the Dome and the long-term regeneration of the land included in the transaction transfers to Anschutz Entertainment Group and Meridian Delta Limited respectively.

NHS Patient and Public Involvement: Government Response to Select Committee

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their response to the seventh report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Health, on patient and public involvement in the National Health Service.[HL5036]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The Government's response to the seventh report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Health, on patient and public involvement in the NHS, Cm 6005, has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.

Magistrates' Courts: IT Contracts

Lord Dixon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current position on the provision of IT to magistrates' courts.[HL5034]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): It was announced in July 2002 that the Libra project would be delivered by way of three separate contracts. The delivery of the infrastructure underpinning the system was contracted to Fujitsu Services until 2006–07 at the time of that announcement. I can inform the House that the remaining contracts are now in place. Accenture (UK) Ltd, has today been awarded a five-year, £38.5 million, contract to deliver a service using specialised software for case management and tracking, payment of fines and court administration to the magistrates' courts in England and Wales. Case management seeks to speed up the courts process by implementing better ways of working. The contract to develop and support the special software was awarded in January 2003 to STL Technologies, part of the Technology Group. That five-year contract is worth £35 million.

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