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HM Chief Inspectors

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department who has been appointed as the next HM chief inspector of prisons; and if he will make a statement. [160596]

Mr. Straw: Recruitment for the post of Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons has been run under Commissioner for Public Appointments guidelines following advertisements in the national press. The choice of candidates has been guided by an advisory panel including two independent assessors. As we announced on 6 April 2001, Official Report, column 357W, these were Baroness Stern, former director of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and now senior research fellow at the international centre for prison studies, and Lord Laming, former chief

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inspector of the social services inspectorate and author of the report "Modernising the Management of the Prison Service".

From the candidates selected by the advisory panel, I have recommended that Her Majesty the Queen should appoint Ms Anne Owers CBE, the director of the non-governmental organisation JUSTICE, as the next Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons. Her Majesty has consented to this appointment.

I am delighted that Ms Owers has accepted the appointment, which takes effect from 1 August this year. I am confident she will uphold the high standards of integrity, rigour and independence we expect from the inspection of this key public service.

Voluntary and Community Sector

Mr. Michael: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for the funding of mentoring organisations, for making the small grants programmes more integrated and accessible to community groups and for strengthening the infrastructure that builds the capacity of the voluntary and community sector. [160258]

Mr. Boateng: In working towards our goal of encouraging and supporting new mentors, I am today pleased to be able to announce the launch of a mentoring fund grants programme.

With up to £5.3 million available over three years, the mentoring fund will provide grants for mentoring organisations to:




This will enable more volunteer mentors to be available where they are needed, on the ground in local areas.

This Government also recognise the need for a national infrastructure to promote, develop and celebrate mentoring and to establish a framework of national quality standards for local mentoring schemes. I am therefore pleased to announce that we will be awarding the national mentoring network a grant of £1.05 million over three years to develop the infrastructure of mentoring. I am also pleased to announce that to team up new mentors with mentoring opportunities, we are investing a further £1.4 million into mentor points.

We also want to make it easier for people in community groups to apply for Government funds. So we are happy to announce the publication today of a consultation document on funding community groups. This sets out a number of proposals that aim to ensure that in future Government small grants programmes will be more integrated, and that application processes will be simpler and more accessible to local community groups. The document also explains how the Government plan to establish and operate the new neighbourhood renewal community chests, announced in the national strategy action plan in January 2001.

I have today placed a copy of the consultation document in the Library.

We recognise the independent role of the voluntary and community sector in building strong communities, and the need that organisations and groups, and the individuals

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involved, have for "capacity building" support to help them fulfil that role as effectively as possible. In addition to providing strategic funding to over 60 national infrastructure organisations, the Government have earmarked funds for:





The Government are also announcing today funding totalling £320,000 over three years to the Federation of Community Work Training Groups to develop the infrastructure for community development learning.

Police IT

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what procedures are in place to ensure there is fair and open competition for the provision of information technology systems and software to police services; and if he will make a statement. [159694]

Mr. Charles Clarke [holding answer 1 May 2001]: Government procurement procedures are followed to ensure that there is fair and open competition for the provision of information technology systems and software for the police. These procedures comply with the relevant European Directive on procurement.

Data Protection Act

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many alleged contraventions of the Data Protection Act 1998 are outstanding before the Information Commissioner; what the date is of the oldest complaint; what is (a) the average and (b) the mean age of outstanding complaints; and if he will make a statement; [160161]

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Mr. Mike O'Brien: These questions cover matters which fall within the operational responsibility of the Information Commissioner. The Commissioner administers and enforces the Data Protection Act 1998 independently of the Government.

I have noted the length of time taken to resolve the issue and I have written to the Commissioner asking when she will be in a position to resolve this matter and drawing her attention to the issues raised by my hon. Friend's questions. I understand she will reply directly to him.

The Commissioner publishes complaints statistics in her annual report to Parliament and a statement of her policy on the handling of assessments under section 42 of the 1998 Act is available on her website at www.dataprotection.gov.uk.

Overstayers

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of those applicants who applied for consideration under the regularisation scheme for overstayers had their cases (a) decided, (b) granted, (c) refused and (d) are still awaiting an initial assessment of eligibility; and if he will set a target date for the completion of consideration of these applications. [159997]

Mrs. Roche: In total 17,120 applications were received under the Overstayers Regularisation Scheme of the Immigration Appellate Authority 1999. Of the cases decided to date, 255 have resulted in grants of leave and three have been refused. There are 3,916 cases now under consideration and the remaining 12,946 cases are awaiting action. I am currently considering how best to invest our resources on tackling the Regularisation Scheme during this financial year.

Correspondence

Ms Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the reason was for the delay in transferring the letter from the hon. Member for Ilford, North of 24 July relating to the closure of Citizens Advice Bureaux in Redbridge from his Department to the DTI; and if he will make a statement. [160119]

Mr. Straw: I am sorry that there was such a serious delay in transferring my hon. Friend's letter of 24 July. Within two days of receipt of the letter my Private Office correspondence section identified that responsibility for the subject matter fell outside my Department. A number of attempts were made immediately and over the next few months to transfer the correspondence to the most appropriate Department. The Department of Trade and Industry accepted the letter on 8 February. I recognise fully that this is a quite unacceptable level of service and apologise to my hon. Friend and her constituents for this. My Department has now initiated measures to ensure that transfers of correspondence are effected within a reasonable period and in accordance with central guidance.


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