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Staff Travel

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the (a) percentage and number of rail journeys undertaken on first class tickets, (b) average cost of a first class journey by rail and (c) total cost of rail travel in each of the past four years broken down by grade of civil servant. [37511]

Angela Eagle: Section 8 of the Civil Service Management Code, Paragraph 8.2.1 requires Departments and agencies to ensure that staff use the most efficient and economic means of travel in the circumstances, taking into account any management benefit or the needs of staff with disabilities.

The Home Office is committed to ensuring staff use the most efficient and economic means of travel commensurate with meeting their operational needs.

In 2001–02 (to the end of January 2002), 15,659 first class rail journeys have been taken, representing 30.9 per cent. of all rail journeys. The average cost of each journey was £133. Total costs for all rail journeys for the year are estimated at £4.8 million.

Both costs for previous years, and any analysis by grade, are not readily identifiable from the accounting system and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to reply to the letters of 9 May 2001, 26 June 2001 and 28 August 2001 from the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South about Mr. David Stevenson of Irvine, Ref: C/W3/1306/RB/ BHD. [37066]

Mr. Keith Bradley: My hon. Friend's letter of 9 May 2001, concerning his constituent Mr. David Stevenson, was certainly received in the Home Office, although no record has been found of the follow-up letters dated 26 June 2001 and 28 August 2001. It is unfortunate that the follow-up letters did not come to light as this would have made it clear that my hon. Friend had not received the reply to his original letter.

In fact a full reply was dispatched on 25 June 2001.

In light, now, of that letter not being received by my hon. Friend copies have been sent direct to his offices.


Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to allow the courts to award stiffer sentences for persons convicted of assaulting pensioners. [38650]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The courts already have robust sentencing powers for offences of assault. The maximum penalty for causing grievous bodily harm or wounding with intent to cause such harm is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for the offences of causing grievous bodily harm in the absence of intent to do so and the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is five years' imprisonment. Common assault attracts a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment.

Specific sentencing provisions for vulnerable groups would not only make criminal law more complex but contradict the important principle that the law is there to protect all members of our society. However, in passing

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sentence, the courts, as a matter of general principle, regard the fact that an offence has been committed against a vulnerable person as an aggravating factor that would ordinarily be persuasive of a more severe sentence.

There is no room for complacency. However, the Government are uncompromising in their response to serious and dangerous offenders. We believe that prison sentences must be as long as is necessary to punish and to protect the public. And where release eventually occurs, supervision must ensure that the risks are rigorously managed in the community for as long as necessary.

That is why we are looking seriously at the Halliday proposal for tougher determinate sentences for sex and violent offenders that will ensure they stay in prison, up to the full term if necessary, so long as they continue to present a risk of harm to our communities and that they are subject to strict and extended supervision on release.

We are also considering a requirement that where a life sentence is an option judges should not shy away from using it if the professional evidence shows that there is a clear risk that the offender will commit further sex offences. We want greater clarity and transparency, with indeterminate sentences given to serious offenders where appropriate.

The Government are also taking forward work to create a set of sentencing guidelines which are easily accessible and which command the respect of the judiciary, practitioners and the wider public.

Homicide Index Statistics

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the outcome has been of the review of the Homicide Index aimed at increasing the accuracy of data on homicide; what reforms and changes are being implemented as a consequence; and if he will make a statement. [38996]

Mr. Denham: "A Review of Information on Homicide: A Discussion Document" was published on 28 December 2001 on the Research, Development and Statistics (RDS) Home Office web site for consultation. The purpose of publishing the proposals at this stage is to open them to a wider process of consultation before the report is finalised and decisions taken as to how best to take forward its recommendations.

The review is also on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) National Statistics crime and justice theme web page: yourviews/crime.asp. The closing date for the consultation is 5 April 2002.

Wolvercote Clinic

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether a new site has been identified for the Wolvercote Clinic; if the move of the Wolvercote Clinic to Chertsey remains a possibility; and whether there is a final date beyond which the Wolvercote Clinic's tenure of its site at Horton Hospital cannot be extended. [39015]

Beverley Hughes: No decision has been made on the relocation of the Wolvercote Clinic as the relocation project team has yet to complete its work and report

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to Ministers. A number of potential sites have been identified, including the one in Chertsey, and these are in the final stage of evaluation.

The clinic's tenure of its present site at Horton Hospital, Epsom, is currently the subject of discussions between the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

Special Urgency Provisions

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how often the Department has applied the special urgency provisions in paragraph 22 of Circular 18/84 (Development by Government Departments) to a development by the department; and if he will make a statement. [38716]

Angela Eagle: The Home Department has applied the special urgency provisions of Circular 18–84 26 times in the period since 1995. The procedure was used mainly in connection with urgent prisons and detention centre projects.

European Immigration Policy

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his policy towards participating in the Action Programme for Co-operation in the fields of borders, visas, asylum and immigration. [39657]

Angela Eagle: The Spanish Presidency's action plan on illegal immigration was adopted at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council on 28 February 2002. The action plan responded to the conclusions of the European Council meeting held in Laeken. It calls for action in the following areas: visa policy, information exchange and analysis, pre-frontier measures, border management, improvement of cooperation and coordination at operational level, the work of Europol, aliens and criminals law and readmission/return.

The United Kingdom (UK) welcomes the action plan as a basis for the European Union's future policy on illegal immigration. The UK will decide whether to participate in measures arising from this plan.


Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many members of his staff in each of the past two years have been granted a day's paid leave to work as a volunteer; and if he will make a statement. [39734]

Angela Eagle: A survey of Home Office staff for the year ending 31 April 2001 showed that 78 staff had taken paid leave to volunteer.

The Home Office is the lead Government Department for the active community initiative. Staff can take paid leave for volunteering in certain public capacities, for example school governors up to six days, magistrates up to 18 days. Staff can also take up to five days paid leave a year for any other voluntary activity.

A Volunteering Manager has recently been appointed, seconded from the voluntary sector, to actively promote volunteering among Home Office staff, ensure that a wide

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range of opportunities are available, monitor participation and evaluate the benefits to the individual and the Department.

Fair Trade Products

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether fair trade products are sold in his Department. [39838]

Angela Eagle: Fair trade products are not currently sold in the Home Office. However the Department fully supports ethical trading in mainstream business and Fair Trade products will be purchased where they meet the criteria of value for money principles, which includes quality, fitness for purpose and delivery against price.

The Home Office will be publishing an article on fair trade in the next edition of 'Purchasing Matters', an internal periodical for all procurement staff. In the near future the Home Office will be holding a purchasing symposium on the issue of Fair Trade in April 2002.

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