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Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has invited the Health and Safety Executive to advise on the health and safety implications for police officers of using Airwave equipment; and if he will make a statement. [155809]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are aware of the issue. It is conducting its own independent assessment based on available information.

I have asked both the Defence Evaluation Research Agency and the National Radiological Protection Board to conduct reviews of the relevant science. The result of these two exercises will be published. If, during the course of these exercises, any issue arises which suggests a risk to health, it will be made public without awaiting the publication of final reports.

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In addition, I anticipate that further research in areas that are directly relevant to the technology used in Airwave, will be undertaken within the independent Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme. The Health Research Programme has been initiated by the Government in response to the Stewart Report on mobile phone health issues and is focusing on emerging technologies.

Hinduja Brothers

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) told (a) him, (b) Ministers and (c) officials in his Department that the telephone conversation about Mr. S. P. Hinduja's naturalisation application between the right hon. Member and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), which took place in June 1998 was private. [155819]

Mr. Straw: I refer the hon. Member to paragraphs 5.77-5.83 and paragraph 5.209 of Sir Anthony Hammond's report "Review of the Circumstances Surrounding an Application for naturalisation by Mr. S. P. Hinduja in 1998" (HC287) which was published on 9 March 2001.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) for what reasons Mr. S. P. Hinduja's naturalisation application was prioritised in 1998; and if he will make a statement; [155821]

Mrs. Roche: The full circumstances of Mr. S. P. Hinduja's naturalisation application are detailed in Sir Anthony Hammond's review which was published on 9 March 2001.

The detail of the priority afforded to the application is given at paragraphs 5.166 to 5.177 of the review.

The general guidance for handling requests for priority treatment of citizenship applications is given at Annexe D of the review.

Hammond Inquiry

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action his Department has taken on the recommendations of the Hammond report (HC 287). [155815]

Mr. Straw: Chapter 9 of Sir Anthony Hammond's report recommends that Departments review their Private Office working practices on the monitoring and recording of telephone calls and general record keeping. My Department has put in hand such a review in order to ensure that consistent arrangements are in place across Private Office.

In paragraph 5.191 of the report, Sir Anthony Hammond notes that a number of measures have been put in place since 1998-99 to improve the working practices of the nationality group of the Integrated Casework Directorate. Caseworkers have been reminded of the need fully to document action and decisions in all cases.

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Parliamentary Candidates (Credentials)

Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what contact his Department has had with the British National Party concerning the verification of the credentials of their parliamentary candidates and their access to party election broadcasts; [155483]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Subject to sections 11 and 37 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, the allocation of party election broadcasts is a matter for the broadcasting authorities (that is, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Independent Television Commission, Radio Authority and Sianel Pedwar Cymru). Section 11 of the Act requires the broadcasting authorities, in determining their policy on party political broadcasts (including party election broadcasts), to have regard to the views of the Electoral Commission. Section 37 of the Act provides that only parties registered under Part II of the Act may qualify for such broadcasts.

We have held no discussions with electoral administrators concerning the British National Party's eligibility to qualify for an election broadcast. We have had no discussions with the British National Party and would not be disposed toward having any.

In response to concerns that unscrupulous candidates had in the past misled electors into supporting their nomination, the Representation of the People Act 2000 made it an offence for a person to include in his nomination paper any fraudulent or fraudulently obtained signatures of persons purporting to act as a candidate's seconder or assentor.

Replica Guns

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the availability of replica guns, with special reference to those which fire ballbearings. [155635]

Mr. Charles Clarke: There is a range of different types of replica firearms available in this country, some of which are capable of discharging projectiles and some of which are not.

As regards the first category, controls will depend on whether any projectile which is expelled is capable of inflicting a lethal injury. For example, fully functioning replicas of historic guns, whether breech loading or muzzle loading, are subject to the full control of the firearms legislation. Replica breech loading cartridge firing pistols are prohibited weapons which may only be held with the express authority of the Secretary of State. The possession of replica air weapons capable of lethal performance is governed by the wider provisions of the Firearms Act 1968 as amended and such weapons cannot be sold to a person under 17 or given to a person under 14. They are also subject to the provisions of the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969.

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Replicas which fire small plastic pellets or, in some cases, steel ball bearings with insufficient energy to penetrate the skin are not regarded as lethal barrelled weapons. Nor are blank firing replicas which cannot readily be converted to fire a live round, and realistic non-firing replicas. Such guns do not fall under the controls of the Firearms Act 1968 as amended and may freely be bought by anyone.

Under the Toys (Safety) Regulations 1989 any toy gun which discharges a hard projectile must not have an energy level in excess of 0.08 joule.

The Government recognise the concerns which have been expressed in relation to the misuse and ready availability of realistic replica guns and are looking carefully at the possibility of introducing additional controls. This is a difficult and complex matter, not least because of difficulties of definition, and the Firearms Consultative Committee have been asked to consider the detailed implications of any changes and to report back.


Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the hon. Member for Walsall, North will receive a reply to his letter of 31 January regarding a constituent, Ref. 2093/1. [155811]

Mrs. Roche: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 26 March 2001, Official Report, column 488W.

Porton Down

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received a report from the Operation Antler team of the Wiltshire police regarding its inquiries into allegations relating to experiments on NHS patients for biological warfare purposes during the 1960s at the chemical and biological defence establishment at Porton Down; and if he will make a statement. [154763]

Mr. Charles Clarke: No, but I have received oral briefings on Operation Antler itself during a visit to Wiltshire Constabulary and from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. In addition officials and members of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary have from time to time discussed matters arising from it with Wiltshire Constabulary.

Asylum Support

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his Department's forecast is for the average cost of asylum support, expressed as a figure per asylum seeker, in the financial year 2000-01; and if he will make a statement. [152873]

Mrs. Roche: Asylum seekers are currently supported either by payments under arrangements put in place following the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 from the Department of Social Security, or by local authorities, or for newer applicants following the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, directly by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). The costs of all three methods of support are met from the Home Office budget, subject, in the case of local authorities, to agreed unit cost limits. Based on current forecasts of cost and estimates of the average number of asylum seekers supported for the year,

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the average forecast cost in 2000-01 of supporting an asylum seeker (ie an applicant for asylum or a dependant of one) who has requested support, is £6,100 for the whole year. These costs include accommodation or Housing Benefit where provided.

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