Previous Section Index Home Page


Sir Richard Body: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what advice and guidance he has given in the last 12 months to chief constables about the treatment of travellers. [146678]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Last August, the Government announced and published revisions to the Joint Home Office and Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions guidance on managing unauthorised camping. The revised version removed the term "toleration" in relation to the decision as to whether to take action to evict travellers. It also clarified the guidance on eviction, setting out the statutory powers and taking into account court rulings on the use of those powers. I understand that the Association of Chief Police Officers has revised its operational guidelines to reflect these changes.


Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list those persons who have been jailed in the last 10 years as a result of (a) a conviction for rape and (b) a charge of rape and who were released as a result of withdrawal of the accusation by the alleged victim. [144925]

Mr. Charles Clarke: It is not possible to answer this question on the basis of routinely collected data. A special data collection exercise would involve disproportionate cost. Police and magistrates court records indicate that in 1999 just over 40 per cent. of those charged or referred to court on a rape charge were held or remanded in custody, although these data are of poor quality. Of those committed to the Crown court, more than half (53 per cent.) were held in custody. Due to the seriousness of the offence, those bailed would invariably be subject to conditions--36 per cent. in recent Home Office research. Home Office research also suggests that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) discontinues very few rape cases after charge on the basis of a withdrawal by the alleged victim. Where victims withdraw, this usually occurs while the case is still under investigation by the police, leading either to the categorisation of the case as a "no crime" or to no further police action.

No information is available about the number of convicted and jailed rape offenders who are released following a withdrawal by the alleged victim. In such cases, release would usually follow a reference of the case back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Commission does not maintain statistics on a basis which would enable the question to be answered.

23 Jan 2001 : Column: 544W

The CPS Inspectorate and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary are due to begin a thematic review of the investigation and prosecution of rape cases in April, reporting in September. Among other issues, the review will examine to what extent cases are dropped after charge or overturned following conviction on the basis of withdrawal by the alleged victim.

We fully recognise the need for the law to be both effective in prosecuting the guilty but also fair to the accused. That is why the review on sex offences we set up was tasked with providing clear and coherent sex offences which will be fair and non-discriminatory in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. We published the recommendations to Government of the Review--contained in "Setting The Boundaries"--in July last year. The consultation period closes on 1 March.

Policing Performance League Table

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what response his Department has made to the publication by Channel 4 Television of the policing performance league table; and if he will make a statement. [146994]

Mr. Charles Clarke: No response has been made.

Criminal Cases Review Commission

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cases have been referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in each year since its establishment; how many cases have been fully dealt with in each year; how many outstanding cases at the end of each year and on the last date for which figures are available there were; and if he will make a statement. [145711]

Mr. Charles Clarke: In its first year of operation (April 1997-March 1998), the Criminal Cases Review Commission received 1,383 applications (including 248 cases referred to the Commission from the Home Office and Northern Ireland Office), decided 311, and had 1,072 outstanding. In its second year of operation (April 1998-March 1999), it received 1,037 applications, completed 492, and had 1,620 outstanding. In its third year of operation (April 1999-March 2000), it received 774 applications, completed 1,010, and had 1,381 outstanding. In the nine-month period April to December 2000, it received 599 cases, completed 744, and had 1,236 outstanding.

Computer and Mobile Phone Theft

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many recorded crimes involving theft of (a) computers and (b) mobile phones took place in (i) 1979, (ii) 1997 and (iii) 2000. [146989]

Mr. Charles Clarke: This information is not collected centrally.

Harlan UK Ltd.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent investigations he has commissioned into operating conditions at Harlan UK Ltd. and if he will make a statement. [146612]

23 Jan 2001 : Column: 545W

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I refer the hon. Member to my answers of 8 March 2000, Official Report, column 661W and 30 March 2000, Official Report, column 213W. An investigation by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate was commissioned following allegations about Harlan which were made available to the Home Office by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) on 29 June 1999.

I received the Chief Inspector's report on 17 December after a thorough investigation into a complex series of allegations. Generally, the establishment was found to be well-run and the level of compliance good. One breach of a condition of certification was confirmed--two animal rooms were not identified in the documentation as having been checked as required on two dates during the last two years. The Certificate holder received an admonition, and reassurances from the management about staffing levels were sought and received.

Copies of the final version of the Home Office instigative report, from which only those sections containing commercially sensitive information and details of individuals and third parties are withheld, were laid in the Library on 20 March 2000.

Like all licensed establishments, Harlan remains subject to regular scrutiny by the Inspectorate. I am informed that appropriate action has been taken to correct the weaknesses and deficiencies identified in the Chief Inspector's report.

Gun Crime

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to reduce gun crime; and if he will make a statement. [146615]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The use of firearms in crime in this country is low in relation to overall national crime figures and international standards. Nevertheless; the Government fully understand public concerns about the criminal misuse of guns and are committed to supporting the police and Her Majesty's Customs in their work to combat this problem through a range of measures which include:

The Government are also supporting international efforts to negotiate a United Nations protocol against the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in firearms.

23 Jan 2001 : Column: 546W

Armed crime cannot be tackled in isolation from other criminal activities, in particular wider violent crime. Our strategy for tackling violent crime through a wide-ranging action programme was published earlier this month.

Asylum Support

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the number of supported asylum seekers in each category of support system in each district in the county of Tyne and Wear, distinguishing between those placed by the National Asylum Support Service partnership and those placed by NASS outside the partnership. [146384]

Mrs. Roche: As at the end of December 2000, the number of bedspaces in National Asylum Support Service accommodation in the county of Tyne and Wear allocated to asylum seekers and their dependants was as follows:

AreaAllocated bedspaces
Newcastle Upon Tyne(13)1,120
North Tyneside(13)200
South Tyneside(13)60

(13) Figures rounded to the nearest ten

Additionally at the end of December there were 20 1 asylum seekers (including dependants) who were allocated voucher-only support and were located in the north-east region which includes Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Cleveland. Information on the number of these who were staying in the county of Tyne and Wear is not available.

Information on the number of asylum seekers accommodated by the Regional Consortium and the number accommodated by private sector companies is not available. Information on the number of asylum seekers dispersed to the county of Tyne and Wear by local authorities under the voluntary dispersal scheme is not held centrally.

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if it is his policy to allow NASS dispersal partnership partners to issue vouchers to asylum seekers directly. [146385]

Mrs. Roche: It is not currently National Asylum Support Service (NASS) policy to allow our partners in dispersal areas to issue vouchers directly to NASS- supported asylum seekers. At present, vouchers are issued by NASS and by Post Office Counters Ltd. NASS issues initial emergency vouchers directly to asylum seekers, until arrangements can be made for them to receive regular vouchers via the voucher supplier, Sodexho Pass UK. Post Office Counters Ltd., under contract to Sodexho Pass UK, provides a network of post offices where asylum seekers can collect their regular vouchers.

In the interest of expanding the voucher distribution network and improving the service to asylum seekers, NASS officials are currently exploring with interested local authorities, including those in Tyne and Wear, the prospect of piloting local authority distribution of regular vouchers. NASS has also been approached by private

23 Jan 2001 : Column: 547W

sector providers wishing to discuss the scope for local distribution of vouchers in emergencies. We will be giving this proposal careful consideration.

In addition, Glasgow city council is exceptionally issuing Sodexho Pass vouchers to asylum seekers as part of a special exercise instigated by NASS. These vouchers are the property of Glasgow city council. They are being issued to asylum seekers who have yet to be accepted for NASS support as an alternative to the full board arrangements normally provided for asylum seekers in emergency accommodation.

There are also a number of local authority schemes under the interim arrangements that make use of Sodexho Pass vouchers.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much his Department has made available to the National Asylum Support Service to date. [146114]

Mrs. Roche: The National Asylum Support Service became operational on 3 April 2000 as part of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office. For its first year of operation, to 31 March 2001, it has been allocated the following moneys: a budget of £20 million for its staffing and related administration costs and £22 million for grants to voluntary organisations working with asylum seekers.

It also has responsibility for administration of the Asylum Support budget of £664 million. This funds payments to the Department of Social Security and local authorities for the support of asylum seekers (including unaccompanied asylum seeking children) and support provided by the National Asylum Support Service.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total cost of the issuing of asylum vouchers was in the last 12 months. [145426]

Mrs. Roche: Vouchers were introduced on 3 April 2000 when the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) became responsible for providing support to destitute asylum seekers.

The total value of vouchers issued in the first nine months of this financial year (2000-01) was £15.1 million.

Total staffing and related administrative costs of the National Asylum Support Service for the same period, including the costs of processing application forms, allocating accommodation and administering the voucher scheme was £9.2 million. This includes payments made under the voucher contract. However, vouchers are printed and distributed by third-party providers under contract to the Home Office and the costs of this service are commercially confidential. The figure excludes the face value of the vouchers and the costs of providing accommodation and travel.

Next Section Index Home Page