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Asylum Applications (Northern Ireland)

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons claimed asylum during each of the last three years in Northern Ireland. [78506]

Beverley Hughes: No statistics are kept of the numbers of asylum applicants in Northern Ireland, or any other geographic region in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what resources are available to the Immigration Service in dealing with asylum applications made on entry to Northern Ireland from Eire. [78728]

Beverley Hughes: Any person seeking asylum in Northern Ireland is directed to the UK Immigration Service staff at Belfast International airport, where arrangements are then made for their screening and interview in the same way as a person seeking asylum elsewhere in the UK.

The Belfast office currently has 11.5 staff, part of whose duties is to screen new asylum applicants identified in Northern Ireland.

Asylum Centres

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are being used in assessing the suitability of contractors for operating the proposed new centres for asylum seekers; and who will decide on the award of contracts. [78549]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: Tender documents for the design, build and operation of accommodation centres have not yet been issued to potential contractors.

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In due course, the criteria to be used in evaluating bids will involve project management; legal and financial responses; design and construction; and delivery of services and maintenance. Home Office Ministers will make decisions to award contracts.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made for a full year of the cost of the withdrawal of the work concession to asylum seekers in (a) added benefit and (b) payments to detainees; and what he estimates to be the net difference in the costs to each removal centre of employing contract and agency labour in place of detainees working in cleaning and kitchens. [78484]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: We do not have figures on the additional costs, if any, of providing support to asylum seekers who can no longer seek permission to work. Internal management Information indicates that during the financial year 2001–02 we made initial decisions on the vast majority of new substantive applications within the initial six months. The number who might have been able to benefit from the concession is therefore much reduced.

The percentage of new substantive cases in 2001–02 which were decided within six months will be available from 29 November 2002 on the Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate website at .html

The work concession for asylum seekers did not extend to asylum seekers in detention.

Immigration detainees held in Immigration Service removal centres have never been required to work nor are they expected to assist in the running of the centres.

Following their redesignation earlier this year as removal centres, the Prison Service detention facilities at Dover, Haslar and Lindholme ceased to operate under Prison Rules. As a consequence, detainees no longer had the opportunity to undertake paid employment in the centres and the practice of relying on such work for the provision of certain ancillary services came to an end. Work formerly undertaken by detainees at these centres has been contracted out or transferred to agency staff. For this year this has resulted in a net additional cost of #1.09 million. This will be met from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's budget.

Asylum Support

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) local authorities, (b) private sector contractors and (c) voluntary sector contractors are providing accommodation and support services for asylum seekers; and what the financial value is of tenders awarded to each sector. [78544]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: The information is as follows:

ContractsGrant agreements
Private sector11
Local authorities11
Voluntary sector6

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Information on the financial value of contracts is not available in the form requested.

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what geographical areas are covered in each region in the regional breakdown used by NASS; and what powers and responsibilities have been delegated to the individual regions. [78545]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: The areas covered by each region are as follows:

East of EnglandNorfolk
East MidlandsDerbyshire
Greater LondonLondon
South Central and EastDorset
West Sussex
East Sussex
North EastNorthumberland
Tyne and Wear
North WestGreater Manchester
Northern IrelandCounty Antrim
County Down
County Armagh
County Tyrone
County Fermanagh
County Derry
ScotlandDumfries and Galloway
South WestCornwall
South Glamorgan
West Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
West MidlandsStaffordshire
West Midlands
Hereford and Worcester
Yorkshire and HumbersideNorth Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
South Yorkshire

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National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is planning to increase the number of its staff in each major region. It is expected that the regional infrastructure will be in place by the end of the current financial year. Under the regionalisation programme work related to investigations, outreach and housing contract management will be delegated, with the expectation that aspects of operations work will follow at a later date. Actual locations of individual offices within regions are still being finalised.

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many private contractors providing accommodation or support for asylum seekers have been dropped since 1997 because of dissatisfaction with their performance. [78546]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) became operational on 3 April 2000. Since that date NASS has not terminated any contracts with private sector contractors providing accommodation or support asylum seekers.

Chechens (Deportation)

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will postpone the deportation of Chechens to Russia. [78526]

Simon Hughes [holding answer 31 October 2002]: The Home Office, in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, closely monitors the situation in the Russian Federation, and in particular, the conflict in Chechnya. We are aware that the Russian authorities have intensified their security operations in the wake of the terrorist incident in Moscow, but the impact of this remains unclear thus far. Our deportation policy, however, is kept under constant review.


Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will reply to the letter to him dated 3 September from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Tabasum Raja and Asif Kamal. [78044]

Mr. Blunkett: I wrote to my right hon. Friend on 30 October 2002.

Criminal Records Bureau

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps the Government is taking to ensure that the Criminal Records Bureau delivers an effective service to its customers. [77742]

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Mr. Blunkett: The Government is committed to the delivery of an effective service for undertaking pre-employment criminal record checks for people working with children and vulnerable adults. The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has not so far been able to provide a satisfactory service.

A number of steps have already been taken to improve the CRB's performance. In May an initial service improvement plan was put in place. As a result the number of disclosures issued by the CRB has increased from an average of 24,500 per week in August to an average of 39,500 per week in the three weeks ending 26 October. The CRB has now issued 541,000 disclosures.

In addition, in September I announced the appointment of an independent team, led by Patrick Carter, to take a fundamental look at the strategy and operations of the CRB and its private-sector partner, Capita. The team will be looking to identify the longer-term changes in the way the CRB operates to ensure that it can meet the demand both for the standard and enhanced disclosures already in place and the basic disclosures to be introduced in due course.

I expect the independent team to report to me with their conclusions and recommendations by the end of the year. It is likely, however, to require a period of months before any system changes necessary to deliver the required step change in the CRB's output can be fully implemented. In the meantime it is expected that there will be a gradual improvement in performance through the ongoing service improvement plan.

In the interim, we need to take steps to ensure that the demand for disclosures is in line with the CRB's current ability to process the applications. I have therefore agreed with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Health, and for Education and Skills a number of measures to defer the existing or proposed requirement on certain occupations or office holders to obtain a CRB disclosure.

Persons caring for children and vulnerable adults will, as now, continue to be subject to rigorous pre-employment checks, including confirming previous employment history and taking up references, to ensure their suitability for the position in question. All those occupations which were subject to a criminal record check prior to the advent of the CRB will continue to be subject to such a check.

The details of the measures are set out as follows:

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