|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today, arranged for copies of Mr Rowe's report to be placed in the Library. Mr Rowe recommends that the legislation should be renewed. A draft order is being laid before the House today which continues all those provisions of the Act which are currently in force.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Further to the reply of my right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office, Mrs Roche, in another place, (House of Commons Official Report, cols. 379-380W, on 6 December 1999), we propose to bring in the new support arrangements on Monday 3 April 2000 for asylum seekers who make their applications at a port of entry from that date. The entitlement of new port applicants to cash, social security and housing benefits will thereupon cease; in-country applicants do not have this entitlement.
My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office, Mrs Roche, will also make arrangements for asylum seekers who claim asylum and support from 3 April in Scotland or Northern Ireland and who are eligible for support to come on to the new support arrangements.
It is her intention to bring the new support arrangements on stream as soon as possible for other asylum seekers who make in-country applications for asylum in England and Wales and for those in England and Wales who claim asylum at their port of entry prior to 3 April 2000 who receive a negative decision and who then go on to appeal. Until then, responsibility for providing support will continue under the terms of Schedule 9 to the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
The new support arrangements comprehensively change the system by which asylum seekers are supported. A phased implementation of the kind described in this Answer is the sensible course, drawing on the lessons from previous experience in implementing major change. The arrangements have been tested in simulated trials. Bringing port applicants on to the scheme first will enable the National Asylum Support Service to deal with any teething difficulties before rolling out the scheme fully.
The new support arrangements provide that asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute may be supported by the National Asylum Support Service. Support will consist of the provision of accommodation on a no-choice basis in cluster areas in
The scheme is intended fully to meet the United Kingdom's international obligations in relation to those who are genuinely fleeing persecution while at the same time deterring those who are seeking to evade immigration control by using the asylum process.
During the passage of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, we gave an undertaking that new asylum applications from families with children would not be brought on to the new support arrangements in April 2000 unless we were satisfied that the targets of delivering most initial asylum decisions within two months and most appeals in a further four months could be met in such cases.
We have put in place arrangements to identify and deal promptly with new asylum applications from families with children: the arrangements are being closely monitored. As a result, provisional figures show that, of the new family applications made in the eight weeks after 1 November, over 70 per cent have received an initial decision within two months of receipt. At the end of January, the average waiting time for all asylum appeals to be dealt with by an adjudicator was 13 weeks. On this basis, my right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office, Mrs Roche, has decided that from 3 April, the new asylum support arrangements should apply to new applications from families with children as they apply to other applicants.
My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office, Mrs Roche, has also decided that some modification of the targets is necessary for applications which might be the responsibility of another European Union member state under the Dublin Convention. In these cases, the process of consulting other member states normally takes more than two months, but there is then no suspensive right of appeal if another country accepts responsibility for consideration of the substantive claim. For that reason, the target for reaching an initial decision in potential Dublin cases will be to resolve most cases within four months of receipt. The normal further four-month target for dealing with an appeal will apply in the event that the case is not transferred and there is a substantive refusal.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office, Mr Boateng, announced in another place (House of Commons Official Report, cols. 139-40W, on 14 December), that Martin Narey, the Director General of the Prison Service, had selected Electronic
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Mr O'Brien, has asked Gurbux Singh to conduct a review with the following terms of reference:
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The New Millennium Experience Company is committed to ensuring that all those who wish to visit the Dome at Greenwich are able to do so. While there are no pricing concessions specifically for disabled visitors other than the concessions applicable to all qualifying visitors--e.g. the Family 5 ticket for £57--those visitors who may need personal help or care during their visit to the Dome can bring a companion, who is given free entry. To further encourage visitors, a free wheelchair loan service and free Orange Badge car parking, both of which can be booked in advance, are available to any guest who requires them. The whole site is fully accessible via lifts, ramps, stairs and escalators and this, coupled with ticket concessions, provides an excellent and accessible day out.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): A quinquennial review of the NHS Pensions Agency completed in 1998 concluded that the agency had performed well since it was established and in particular had successfully implemented a major programme of change to improve efficiency and the quality of service to all its customers. We are placing a copy of the report in the Library today.
In the first instance we have decided to leave administration of the core NHS Superannuation Scheme within the agency but we have committed them to outsource, under one facilities management contract, the agency's support and ancillary services. This contract will cover at least 55 per cent of the agency's current running costs. We have tasked the agency in partnership with the supplier to secure further improvements in efficiency that approach the best returns forecast by the review for full contractorisation.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page