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The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): As at the end of February 1996, there were 13,909 asylum appeals with the immigration appellate authorities waiting to be heard. Appeals by detained appellants are normally determined within six weeks of their receipt. For other cases, due to the concentration of asylum appeals in the south east, it currently takes 13 to 14 months for a case to be heard at the Hatton Cross and Thanet House centres. However, cases can be transferred to regional centres, where waiting times are between one to three months. In February 1996, there was an 8 per cent. increase in the backlog of appeals compared to the previous month.
The Lord Chancellor: Eight cases identified by the Hetherington Chalmers inquiry remain under investigation by the Metropolitan Police. The conduct of the investigations is an operational matter for the police.
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): No. While every attempt is made to identify direct implications for other departments arising from public expenditure decisions, it is not feasible to take account of every potential second-order effect, still less to quantify it. Many factors bear on social outcomes, and it is seldom possible to identify singular causes.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Information about the full cost of liable relatives work since 1985 is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. It would not, in any event, be possible to determine the proportion of that cost that applied to income support beneficiaries with dependent children.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): It is not possible to forecast the likely impact of this legislation on asylum intake, and hence on decision times, since these are also affected by many external factors. But the Government's policy includes a range of measures designed to improve throughout at both the initial decision and the appeal stages.
Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that the provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination be taken into full account in the drafting of comprehensive race relations legislation for Northern Ireland, and that a Bill be promulgated as soon as possible;
Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that an effort be made to make available in the principal minority languages important public information particularly concerning health care;
Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that the Government regularly collect and analyse data relating to the academic progress of children, broken down by ethnicity, to develop policies and programmes with a view to eliminating disadvantages based on race; and,
Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that investigations into deaths in custody be carried out expeditiously by independent inquiry mechanisms.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade has now issued the consultation document: Tackling Cartels and the Abuse of Market Power: Implementing the Government's Policy for Competition Law reform. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
Viscount Goschen: The UK-France air services agreement would permit an airline designated by France to operate a service to Morocco via Gibraltar picking up passengers in Gibraltar en route. The French carrier would also require permission from the Moroccan authorities under the France-Morocco air services arrangements, the full details of which are not publicly available.
The Council also reached a common position on three separate directives concerning market liberalisation, state aid rules and a vessel scrapping scheme in the inland waterways sector. The United Kingdom voted against the scrapping scheme because of our opposition in principle to Community funding for such schemes. The two other proposals were agreed without a vote.
The Council discussed the Commission proposal for a mandate to negotiate an air transport agreement between the European Community and the United States. The United Kingdom made clear its view that the Commission had not demonstrated that this would add value to the present bilateral arrangements. However a majority of Member States were in favour of the principle of limited Community-level negotiations and the proposal was referred back to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) for further work.
The Council also discussed the European Parliament's second reading opinion on the proposed Council/EP Decision on a trans-European transport network. It was agreed that the Presidency should work to reach agreement with the Parliament on a compromise text as soon as possible.
Following a general discussion, the Presidency concluded that a regulation concerning the collection of aviation statistics should be reconsidered at the next Transport Council to allow time for further consideration of a number of outstanding issues, including the application of the regulation to Gibraltar.
Other issues raised at the Council included Commission Green Papers on the citizens' network and external costs in transport and a Commission White Paper on air traffic management. There was also an intervention by the German delegation on air traffic safety and a French intervention on ferry safety.
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