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Lancashire Police Force

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish the latest data available to his Department in relation to the Lancashire police force on the numbers of police officers who (a) are on the establishment of the force, (b) are on sick leave, (c) are undertaking light duties and (d) represent a full complement of officers for the force. [153711]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I understand from the Chief Constable that Lancashire Constabulary does not maintain a target establishment of officers for the force. I am told that on 13 March, 153 officers were on sick leave. On 28 February, the latest date for which information is available from the force, 158 officers were on restricted/recuperative duties. These figures are for actual persons and are not full-time equivalent numbers.

I also understand that on 13 March Lancashire Constabulary had 3,261 full-time equivalent police officers.

Policy Pay

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list in respect of police constables (a) average earnings on 1 April 1997, (b) average earnings on 1 April 2001, (c) the percentage annual pay increase for each of the last five years and (d) the percentage pay increase between 1 April 1997 and 1 April 2001. [153199]

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Mr. Charles Clarke [holding answer 14 March 2001]: The Survey of Pay, Hours and Length of Service, conducted annually by statisticians from the Office of Manpower Economics for the Police Negotiating Board (PNB), provides figures on the average earnings of police constables, including pay, allowances and overtime. The November 1997 survey showed that the average earnings of a police constable in the United Kingdom were £516.28 per week (or £26,933 per annum). The most recent data available are from the PNB survey undertaken in November 1999 and this showed that the average earnings of a police constable were £550.03 per week (equivalent to £28,693 per annum).

The PNB makes recommendations to the Home Secretary on all matters concerning police pay and allowances. Police pay is increased every September through a pay award based on the median percentage of the Manpower Index for non-manual workers, a formula introduced in 1994. In 1996 and 1997 the increase was 3.5 per cent; in 1998, 4.0 per cent; in 1999, 3.6 per cent. and in 2000, 3.0 per cent. The pay scale for constables at 1 April 1997, the current pay scale and the percentage increases are detailed in the table (the length of the pay scale was reduced in September 1997).

Annual salary (£) from:
Pay point1 September 19961 September 2000Percentage pay increase
On commencing service
On completion of initial training
On completion of two years' satisfactory service

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of detaining all new asylum applicants in secure conditions for (a) the period covering initial decisions and appeals and (b) the period following refusal of asylum and removal in the current financial year; [153823]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 15 March 2001]: The answer to these questions depends on a number of variables, in particular the number of asylum applicants and the length of time taken to complete the process to removal. Based on forecast asylum intakes, and detention

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of up to six months, the cost could be more than £2 billion in start-up costs and annual running costs of over £1 billion. It is estimated that a further 32,000 detention spaces would be required. This would equate to a further 64 detention centres each with 500 beds. None of the costs quoted take account of the management overheads of running this size of detention estate. No estimate has been made of the cost of detaining asylum applicants in the period between refusal of asylum and removal.

Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the practical difficulties of returning failed asylum seekers to (a) Iran, (b) Iraq, (c) Somalia, (d) Sri Lanka and (e) Afghanistan. [153829]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 15 March 2001]: For all nationalities there are the practical difficulties of locating those who have absconded.

There are also the practical difficulties of arranging flights, the handling of last minute representations and legal challenges.

Many asylum seekers arrive without a valid passport. In order to effect their return it is necessary to obtain a passport or other travel document from their national authorities. This can be a lengthy and difficult process as it is often necessary to provide detailed evidence of the applicant's identity and nationality before a travel document can be issued.

We are not currently seeking to return failed asylum seekers where country conditions are not conducive. In addition returns to three of these countries (Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan) are complicated by the absence of direct international flights from the United Kingdom to those countries. Thus removals to those countries require the agreement of third party states to enable transit through their territory. We are currently investigating the potential for reaching such agreements with appropriate states. For some nationalities we are unable to effect removals without having first obtained a travel document from that country's Embassy or High Commission.

Hunting Bill

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if it is his policy that members of the Government should not brief in favour of particular options within the Hunting Bill. [154241]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Government are neutral on the issue of hunting with dogs. Individual members of the Government are free to express their own views on the three options in the Hunting Bill.

Bajram Zeqiri

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the implications for Government policy of the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Bajram Zeqiri. [153993]

Mrs. Roche: The Court of Appeal allowed this appeal challenging the Government's decision to maintain the certificates issued under Section 2 of the Asylum and

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Immigration Act 1996 to return Kosovar Albanian asylum applicants to Germany under the Dublin Convention. The appeal was allowed on the basis of an assertion by the Court that the applicants had formed a legitimate expectation that their claims for asylum would be substantively determined in the United Kingdom. The Government are considering whether to petition the House of Lords for leave to appeal against the judgment.

The Court of Appeal found in favour of the Government regarding their powers to review and maintain such certification decisions. It also found that the Dublin Convention conferred rights upon member states rather than upon individuals. This case related to decisions made before 25 March 1999 under provisions of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 which have subsequently been repealed. Its effect is limited to a small number of cases. For these reasons the judgment does not affect the general policy of the Government regarding the transfer of asylum seekers to safe third countries under the Dublin Convention; nor does the judgment affect the operation of Section 11 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Immigration (Carrier Penalties)

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 5 March 2001, Official Report, column 37W, under which circumstances the civil penalty provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 are pursued against the operator of a hired vehicle used by persons seeking to enter the United Kingdom clandestinely. [154244]

Mrs. Roche: The civil penalty provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (the 1999 Act) are pursued against the operators of hired vehicles, be they the owners, hirers or drivers of vehicles found to have carried clandestine entrants if the operators fail to establish a defence as set out in Section 34 of the 1999 Act. Section 34 (2) of the 1999 Act allows for a defence of duress and Section 34 (3) provides for a defence that the operator did not know or suspect the carriage of a clandestine entrant, had an effective system for preventing the carriage of clandestine entrants (having regard to the code of practice issued in accordance with Section 33 of the legislation) and that on the occasion in question the effective system was operated properly.

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