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Disability Rights Commission

18. Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he next expects to meet the Disability Rights Commission to discuss disability rights in Northern Ireland. [159634]

Mr. George Howarth: The Disability Rights Commission's remit does not extend to Northern Ireland and anti-discrimination legislation there is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland deals with disability and other equality issues in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State met with members of the Equality Commission on 24 April to discuss their work on the statutory equality duty set out in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Victims of Violence

22. John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps his Department is taking to support the victims of violence in Northern Ireland. [159638]

Mr. Ingram: In 1998 the Victims Liaison Unit was established to implement measures to support victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. To date over £18.25 million has been allocated to support victims, and measures including the establishment of a Family Trauma Centre, the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund, a review of Criminal Injuries Compensation, and funding for groups working with victims have been introduced. Further measures will be announced in the coming months.

RUC Reforms

23. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the progress made in the reforms of the RUC. [159639]

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Mr. Ingram: The Government are committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland. The Government and the police are pressing on with a wide range of changes to improve the effectiveness of the service and bring it ever closer to the vision set out in the Commission's report.

A representative Policing Board is a key component of the report's proposals and the Government want to see such a board established as soon as possible so that the changes dependent upon its creation can also be progressed.

Drug Trafficking

26. Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many RUC officers in each of the last three years have been assigned to combating drug trafficking in Northern Ireland. [159642]

Mr. Ingram: All officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary are drugs aware and capable of combating drugs trafficking. However, there are dedicated units in the Drugs Squad and in District Command Units, previously in Sub-Divisions.

While figures are not readily available for the number of officers assigned to duties outside the Drugs Squad, over the last three years it has had an approved complement of 44. It is headed by a Detective Superintendent who reports to the Assistant Chief Constable, Crime Department.


Asylum Seekers

Mr. Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers have (a) been lost and (b) disappeared from the system since the introduction of the national dispersal and integration policy. [158801]

Mrs. Roche: If an asylum seeker who is supported by the National Asylum Support Service is found to have left their accommodation, support is withdrawn. We do not, however, keep statistics on the number of such cases.

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers are located in Essex while awaiting determination of their application or appeal; and what estimate he has made of their total cost to (a) central Government and (b) local government funds. [159952]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 1 May 2001]: The available information comes from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), which began supporting destitute asylum seekers entering the United Kingdom on or after 3 April 2000. NASS records information on the location of NASS supported asylum seekers by region and cluster area but not by county. Statistics from NASS, for the end of February 2001, show that for asylum seekers located in the east of England (which includes Essex) 40 asylum seekers (including dependants) had been allocated accommodation and 810 asylum seekers (including dependants) had been allocated voucher only support.

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These figures may include some asylum seeker families who have received a final negative decision because families of asylum seekers are eligible to remain supported by NASS until removal.

Information is not available centrally on the location of asylum seekers not supported by NASS. Asylum seekers who entered the United Kingdom before 3 April 2000 are supported by local authorities.

Estimated expenditure on asylum support, including unaccompanied asylum seeking minors, in 2000-01 was £751 million (estimated final outturn)

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact on local authority housing services of the maximum 14 day notice period within which people housed under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 must leave their accommodation after they receive a positive decision on their asylum claims; what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues about the Audit Commission's recommendation that this period should be reviewed; and if he will make a statement. [160663]

Mrs. Roche: No ministerial discussions have taken place about the 14 day period laid down in the Asylum Support Regulations 2000 during which asylum seekers remain eligible for National Asylum Support Service (NASS) support. This period was discussed and agreed with the Benefits Agency prior to the implementation of the legislation. However talks are currently taking place between NASS officials, the Benefits Agency and interested voluntary bodies about this period.

Mr. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment his Department has made of the effect asylum seekers opting for support by voucher only are having on the housing shortage in London. [160794]

Mrs. Roche: No assessment of this sort has been made since where an asylum seeker applies for voucher only support he should already have accommodation, possibly with family or friends, available to him.

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected cannot be traced; and if he will make a statement. [159442]

Mrs. Roche: This information has never been collected centrally on a systematic basis, and could be obtained only by a special exercise to examine individual case files at a disproportionate cost.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what additional financial provision is made for (a) health service provision, (b) education provision and (c) local government services in areas designated as cluster areas for asylum seekers. [159748]

Mrs. Roche: Health authority baseline allocations are intended to cover the health costs of local populations and these include asylum seekers coming into an area. For England, £600 million of additional funding was

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announced on 28 March 2000, which meant health authorities received average increases of 8.9 per cent. for the financial year 2000-01 (the minimum increase was 8.2 per cent). Separate arrangements apply for Scotland and Wales which each receive a consequential share of funding.

On 30 June 2000 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment announced that additional funding, up to £500 per pupil, would be available in the financial year 2000-01 to support the educational needs of children of asylum seekers in receipt of support from the National Asylum Support Service who have been dispersed to cluster areas. In 2000-01 a total of £1.3 million was allocated to schools who have received children of asylum seekers.

The grant in England is distributed to local authorities through standard spending assessments which take account of factors such as the size of the population and the number of children needing school places. The grant to a particular local authority will reflect an increase in the size of the population due to asylum seekers moving into that area.

Community Police Officers

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what evaluation his Department has made of the impact of community police officers on the number of anti-social behaviour offences. [160294]

Mr. Charles Clarke [holding answer 8 May 2001]: Anti-social behaviour offences are not recorded as a separate category, so an evaluation of the effect on them of any specific policing strategy is not possible.

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many community police officers there are in each police area of Greater Manchester; and how many are (a) full-time and (b) part-time; [160292]

Mr. Charles Clarke [holding answer 8 May 2001]: The information requested for Greater Manchester has been provided by the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester police and is set out in the table.

Greater Manchester police--Community police officers by division

A Division (North Manchester)52052
C Division (South Manchester)(1)94296
F Division (Salford)71071
G Division (Tameside)38038
J Division (Stockport)44246
K Division (Bolton)57057
L Division (Wigan)59261
M Division (Trafford)34236
N Division (Bury)34236
P Division (Rochdale)(1)34438
Q Division (Oldham)44044

(1) South Manchester and Rochdale Divisions are considering increasing their numbers of Community Police Officers by two and one respectively

There is no single definition for community policing and many officers carry out some sort of community policing function. The term can cover the assignment of named officers to patrol neighbourhoods, community beat officers and community liaison officers. They are at the forefront of delivering many of our crime reduction policies on the ground, campaigning to reduce burglary and vehicle crime, and gathering intelligence at street level. All these provide visible reassurance and improve the quality of life in the area, not least through reducing the fear of crime among the most vulnerable members of society.

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All Chief Constables have agreed that from this year they will report to their constituencies the measures they are taking to increase visibility and accessibility in every ward and parish in their police authority area.

The precise deployment and number of officers for community policing is a matter for the chief officers to decide in accordance with the nature of the areas policed.

I understand from the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester police that Community Police Officers form a key part of the force's operational policing strategy. They are specifically expected to build effective working relationships with key community members through group meetings such as Police Community Consultative Groups and to provide reassurance through high profile foot patrol. Community based police officers should not under ordinary circumstances be diverted away from their normal duties.

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