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Fair Trade

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 16 November 2001, Official Report, column 970W, on fair trade goods, if he will review and increase the amount of fairly traded goods purchased by her Department during Fair Trade Fortnight. [35922]

Angela Eagle: We fully support ethical trading in mainstream business and fair trade products will be purchased where they meet the criteria on Procurement of Goods and Services.

The Home Department will be raising awareness of fair trade products through:

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what fairly traded products, other than tea and coffee, have been purchased by his Department in each of the last five years; and what was their value.[17563]

Angela Eagle: The Home Department is not aware of any other fairly traded products purchased in the past five years. 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 XPurchasing Matters", an internal periodical for all procurement staff which will help raise awareness of fair trade products. In addition the Home Office will be holding a purchasing

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symposium on the issue of Fair Trade in April 2002. I hope these measures will enable greater purchasing of fair trade products.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what procedures are in place to take account, when deciding asylum claims, of (a) an applicant's treatment in detention abroad and (b) medical evidence of torture; and in what proportion of cases such information is actively sought at interview by interviewing officers. [44254]

Angela Eagle: All information provided by an asylum applicant is fully considered in light of the known country situation in the country from which the applicant is claiming asylum. Any claim to have been maltreated whilst in detention abroad is fully considered by the caseworker. Caseworkers have access to various sources of information, including country assessments prepared by the Country Information and Policy Unit (CIPU) of the Home Office which often provide information on the prison conditions in a particular country. CIPU have access to a wide variety of further information and have links with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as other organisations who are able to assist with specific requests.

If, during the course of an interview or in other written representations, an applicant claims to have been tortured, caseworkers ask the applicant whether a medical examination has taken place. If so, the applicant is asked to submit a copy of the report. Where the applicant has raised torture and the caseworker feels it would be useful, the applicant may be invited to submit a medical report.

However, it is for the applicant to decide whether they wish to undertake a medical examination to establish that torture has taken place. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate does not insist that a medical report is submitted when torture has been alleged. Not all forms of torture result in physical scars or injuries which could be identified during a medical examination.

Any medical report provided is fully considered in the light of the country situation and alongside any other information provided by the applicant. Information on the number of medical reports sought is not routinely collected.

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, when an applicant for asylum has provided evidence of torture, he will ensure that any letter of refusal states whether the evidence has been accepted. [44256]

Angela Eagle: The Immigration and Nationality Directorate's Asylum Policy Instructions state that where a caseworker has decided to refuse an application for which a medical report has been submitted, the Reasons for Refusal Letter (RFRL) should explain how the medical report has been considered, and whether this evidence has been accepted or not.

Any other evidence of torture which might be provided by the applicant would be considered in accordance with guidance issued to caseworkers which states that, following the Court of Appeal case of

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Karanakaran, caseworkers are generally expected to set out in any RFRL what they accept as true, what they reject as untrue and what elements of a persons claim they are uncertain about.

These instructions were issued in July 2001 and are available on the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate website.

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time taken from application to the final decision for asylum applications has been in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [44729]

Angela Eagle: The average time between application and initial decision was 13 months for initial decisions made in the 12 months to December 2001, compared with 20 months for April 1997. This has been calculated using all cases for which data are available, including older cases decided as part of the reduction of the backlog, as well as new cases (see table).

Average time1 between application and initial decision, for cases decided in 2001

Average time in months 2 Number of cases 2 3
All Applications13119,190
of which
Application pre 19964871,835
Application 1996591,685
Application 1997463,015
Application 1998329,975
Application 19992121,715
Application 2000932,335
Application 2001248,630

1 Calculated using all available data from the date the application is lodged to the date of the initial decision.

2 These data are still subject to revision following quality checking.

3 Figures are provisional and rounded to the nearest five. The number of cases quoted differs from published figures due to uncertainty concerning date of application in a small minority of cases.

4 Cases decided as part of the backlog clearance exercise, as part of measures outlined in the July 1998 White Paper entitled XFairer, Faster and Firmer—A Modern Approach to Immigration and Asylum".

Information on final decisions is not readily available and would only be obtained by examination of individual case files to obtain information on the outcomes of inital decisions, of subsequent appeals to the Immigration Appellate Authority and the Tribunal, and of cases which have been reconsidered, which would incur disproportionate cost.

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase the numbers of asylum-seeking families and children in detention; and if he will make a statement. [45476]

Angela Eagle: Our White Paper XSecure Borders, Safe Haven" made it clear that there are occasions when it is necessary to hold families, including those with children, in removal centres. As part of our expansion programme for removal centres we shall consider what additional provision for family accommodation might be needed. No decisions have been taken as yet.

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Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions about the suitability of siting an Accommodation Centre on the A631. [44640]

Angela Eagle: We have had no discussions with the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions about the suitability of any potential accommodation centre sites. Site specific issues are local issues which we will take into account as part of the planning process. At every site a range of factors, including transport links, will be taken into account before final decisions are made.

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consultations took place with the relevant local authorities, the Intervention Board the

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Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Defence before the announcement that Hemswell Cliff was a proposed site for an Asylum Seekers Accommodation Centre. [44650]

Angela Eagle: No consultation took place with these bodies prior to the announcement of the potential sites for trial Accommodation Centres. A range of factors, including environmental, health and safety issues, will be taken into account at every site before final decisions are made.

Yarl's Wood

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Riot Act 1881 was read at Yarl's Wood Remand Centre on the evening of 14 February. [38780]

Angela Eagle: I understand that it was not read.