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Care of the Elderly

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with members of the Scottish Executive since 3 May on free care for the elderly in Scotland; and what was the outcome of such discussions. [21629]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Discussions take place on occasion between the Treasury and the Scottish Executive on a number of issues. Free care for the elderly in Scotland is a devolved matter which the Scottish Executive are responsible for taking forward.

Barnett Formula

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Barnett formula was last reviewed as regards Northern Ireland funding, with particular reference to regeneration in areas of civil disturbance; and if he will make a statement. [21681]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The funding arrangements for the devolved Administrations, including the Barnett formula, were published in the updated Statement of Funding Policy in July 2000. It is for the Northern Ireland Executive to decide how to allocate their assigned budget.

VAT (Education)

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the reasons underlying his policy on charging VAT on the operations of (a) further education colleges and (b) schools. [19619]

Mr. Boateng: VAT is not charged on the educational operations of further education colleges and schools.

Parliamentary Questions

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of parliamentary questions replied to by his Department were the subject of a holding answer in the last three sessions of Parliament. [22018]

Mr. Boateng: The proportion of named day written questions answered substantively on the nominated day is as follows:


(44) To date

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Customs Union

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which areas within the European Union are not part of the Customs Union. [21443]

Mr. Boateng: The treaty establishing the European Community applies to the 15 member states and their territories as set out in Article 299. The extent of the customs territory of the Community is set out in Article 3 of the Community Customs Code (Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2913/92).

Article 3 lists the following exclusions from the customs territory:

In addition, the Customs Code does not apply to territories for whose external relations a member state is responsible, such as Gibraltar.

Sport Clubs

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when HM Customs and Excise intends to issue revised guidance on the implications of VAT for sport clubs and associations. [21714]

Mr. Boateng: Customs and Excise are currently modernising their external guidance and making it available on the internet. A new version of the VAT Notice for sports clubs will be published early in 2002.


Mr. Burns: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many, and what proportion of letters received by the Department from hon. and right hon. Members between 20 June and 20 July were replied to in (a) under 15, (b) under 20, (c) under 30, (d) under 40 and (e) over 40 working days. [21993]

Mr. Boateng: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 3 December 2001, Official Report, column 63W.

London Underground

Tom Brake: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations the Treasury has made to (a) London Underground and (b) the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions on the incentive regime for public-private partnership in the last three months. [21742]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Treasury, DTLR and London Underground officials are in regular contact about various aspects of the PPP. London Underground is responsible for negotiating the PPP contracts.


Mr. Howard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the annual volume of (a) cigarettes,

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(b) cigars and (c) rolling tobacco legally brought into the United Kingdom by other EU nationals for their personal use on short-stay visits in the UK. [22040]

Mr. Boateng: Customs does not produce estimates of the annual volumes of tobacco products legally brought into the UK by other EU nationals on short-stay visits.


Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer where the debts of Railtrack will appear in the national accounts if Railtrack is in administration next April. [21060]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Railtrack is a private sector company. During administration it will continue to be classified to the private sector in national accounts. Its debts will be recorded as a financial liability in the balance sheet of the private corporations sector.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what representations he has received from (a) British and (b) foreign public sector investors regarding the administration of Railtrack; [15041]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Treasury Ministers receive representations from organisations outside the Government on a regular basis. DTLR has lead responsibility for matters relating to Railtrack.


Asylum Seekers

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the decision was taken to place all HIV positive applicants for (a) leave to remain and (b) asylum in a group awaiting policy guidance; and how many such cases there now are (i) in total and (ii) in each category of applicants. [20901]

Angela Eagle: The policy on handling applications for leave to remain by overseas nationals on the basis of being HIV positive or suffering from AIDS was reviewed last year in the light of recent developments in drug therapy and to take account of developments in European Convention on Human Rights case law. A decision was taken in September 2000 to stockpile about 80 cases pending clarification of the new policy. These have now been considered and a further 258 applications have been received.

There are no parallel arrangements to deal with asylum applicants who may be HIV positive.

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Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures are in place to ensure that applicants for asylum who are refused permission to stay and who disappear from the system are (a) caught and (b) deported. [19951]

Angela Eagle: We are taking a range of measures to apprehend and remove failed asylum seekers. These include a substantial increase in the number of caseworkers and immigration officers engaged on removals work, expansion of the detention estate, creation of additional immigration arrest teams and development of a network of reporting centres.

Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many sites for accommodation centres for asylum seekers have now been identified; where they are located; and when the location of the others will be secured. [19112]

Angela Eagle: Further to the Home Secretary's statement to the House on 29 October, the Home Office plans to establish a number of accommodation centres for asylum seekers with a total capacity of 3,000. My officials are currently looking at a number of potential sites, but no decisions have yet been taken.

Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many of his Department's preferred providers of accommodation for asylum seekers there are; and what conditions they must (a) fulfil and (b) maintain in order to qualify for their status. [19113]

Angela Eagle: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) has 21 contracted accommodation providers. All contractors are expected to fulfil the terms of their contract. Contracted accommodation must meet a strict specification laid down by NASS in consultation with others including the Refugee Council. The NASS Housing Management Team conducts random inspections of properties throughout the country on a weekly basis. In addition NASS Contract Managers are responsible for ensuring that contractual obligations are met.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers were held in Wandsworth Prison on 26 November. [20438]

Angela Eagle: The latest available information on the number of persons detained under Immigration Act powers relates to 30 September 2001. As at that date, 60 persons (to the nearest five) who are recorded as having claimed asylum at some stage were being held in Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth, which includes 15 persons detained under dual Immigration Act and other powers.

Under the withdrawal plan, no new cases have been sent to Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth since 12 November, and it is currently planned to withdraw totally from the prison by 15 December.

Information on Immigration Act detainees as at 31 December 2001 will be published on 28 February 2002 on the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate web site at rds/immigration1.html.

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the average time for processing a visa for indefinite stay in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and

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(d) 2000 and (e) 2001 to date; and how many staff were employed processing visa applications other than for asylum seekers in each year from 1997 to 2001. [18403]

Angela Eagle: The average time, in days, to decide applications for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom was 53 in 1997 and 72 in 1998. The average time excludes those cases where indefinite leave to remain is refused but limited leave is granted in some capacity. Comparable data for later years are not available.

The number of staff in post, full-time equivalent, to process after entry applications, excluding asylum applications, was 402 in 2000 and 462 in 2001. Earlier figures are not available as the casework functions were not broken down to enable identification of work.

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