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9 May 2001 : Column WA191

Written Answers

Wednesday, 9th May 2001.

Local Authorities: Broadband Data Transmission

Lord Tanlaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of local authorities use broadband data transmission services in Scotland, England and Wales.[HL1971]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The department does not collect details about the percentage of local authorities that use broadband data transmission services. The issue of the percentage of local authorities which use broadband data transmission services in Scotland and Wales is a matter for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

Prime Minister's Adviser on Crime

Lord Northbrook asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement by the Prime Minister on 24 July 2000 that Lord Birt would be working closely with a number of Ministers, on how many occasions since then Lord Birt has met (a) the Home Secretary, (b) the Lord Chancellor and (c) the Attorney-General to discuss crime.[HL1856]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): As part of his work, Lord Birt has met the Attorney-General once, the Home Secretary twice and other Home Office Ministers of State.

Lord Northbrook asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Lord Birt has received any pay or expenses for his service as the Prime Minister's adviser on crime.[HL1890]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Lord Birt is an unpaid adviser. He has received just over £300 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Lord Northbrook asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the cost of any office accommodation or office support provided to the Prime Minister's adviser on crime, Lord Birt. [HL1891]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Lord Birt has made periodic use of meeting rooms in the Cabinet Office and 10 Downing Street to see criminal justice organisations. One member of Cabinet Office staff has been employed part-time providing administrative support to Lord Birt's work. It is not possible to calculate the marginal attributable costs of this support.

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Lord Northbrook asked Her Majesty's Government:

    From which departments the Prime Minister's adviser on crime, Lord Birt, has had access to government papers; and whether they included papers submitted to the Prime Minister or calculated by, or within, the Prime Minister's office, on any subjects other than crime. [HL1892]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Lord Birt has had access to papers from the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Crown Prosecution Service and Customs and Excise. He has not seen papers on subjects outside his brief.

Police Stations: Broadband Data Transmission Services

Lord Tanlaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of police stations have access to broadband data transmission services and have computer literate officers to operate them in Scotland, England and Wales.[HL1970]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Our understanding of a broadband service is one which provides the capacity for multiple users to transmit and receive simultaneously. The broader the band, the greater the number of users and data capacity which individuals can use. Using that definition, it is possible to say that 40 per cent of police force or divisional headquarters in England and Wales currently have access to broadband data transmission services through the Criminal Justice Extranet (CJX). The plans are to extend the service to 100 per cent of forces in England and Wales by March 2002. None of the Scottish forces has CJX access yet but they plan to take the service when their funding is in place. The staff who access CJX services are or will be trained and computer literate.

The CJX broadband service provides the potential to access the Internet. Forces will decide themselves whether to take this facility and whether to extend the facility to police stations or to individual police officers. The degree of access will also depend on the capability of their own force systems and networks.

The Airwave project is currently piloting a digital radio network service which will be capable of handling data transmissions within the next three months. Airwave will make data accessible by individual police officers through their radio handsets or vehicle terminals, as well as through control rooms. Officers will be fully trained in the use of Airwave.

Asylum Decisions

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people who applied for asylum before 1 July 1996 and between 1 July 1996 and 31 December 1998 have not yet had a decision.[HL1973]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The information is not readily available and could be obtained only by examination of individual case records and is, therefore, available only at disproportionate cost.

Information on the total number of applications awaiting an initial decision is published monthly on the webpage: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html. The provisional number of applications awaiting an initial decision at the end of March 2001 was 36,390.

Crime Strategy: Lord Birt's Role

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 28th March (WA 42) to a Question tabled by Lord Tebbit did not answer that Question; and [HL2010]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 28 March (WA 42), whether it is no longer their intention to fulfil the undertaking given by Lord Bassam on 31 January (H.L. Deb., col. 686) that the advice given and conclusions reached by Lord Birt in his role as adviser on crime would be reported to Parliament.[HL2011]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: As my previous Answer of 28 March made clear, Lord Birt's advice and conclusions were one of the inputs reflected in the Government's strategy document Criminal Justice: The Way Ahead (Cm 5074). That document was published and placed before Parliament on 26 February 2001.

Immigration Controls

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 1 May (WA 258-59), how they and the Immigration Service will define and identify a member of the Roma ethnic group for the purpose of the authorisation permitting the Immigration Service to discriminate against members of this ethnic group; and[HL2062]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 1 May (WA 258-59), how they and the Immigration Service intend to define and identify whether a person is a ''Tamil'' for the purpose of the authorisation permitting the Immigration Service to discriminate against members of this ethnic group; and whether they include in this definition Tamils from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere; and[HL2061]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 1 May (WA 258-59), what are the particular adverse consequences for members of each ethnic group identified in the authorisation permitting the Immigration Service to discriminate on the grounds of ethnic or national origin in the examination of passengers made on 1 May; and[HL2060]

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    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 1 May (WA 258-59), what is the precise nature of the discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin by the Immigration Service in the examination of passengers which is permitted by authorisation made on 1 May; and[HL2059]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 1 May (WA 258-59), whether they will identify the particular risks posed to the effective operation of immigration controls by each of the following: Tamils, Kurds, Pontic Greeks, Roma, Somalis, Albanians, Afgans and ethnic Chinese presenting a Malaysian or Japanese passport or any other travel document issued by Malaysia or Japan.[HL2058]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Immigration Service staff will take into account a combination of different indicators in identifying relevant ethnic or national groups for the purpose of operating the immigration control in accordance with the authorisation announced on 1 May. These will include language or dialect spoken, geographical origin, pattern of travel and, where relevant, the passenger's apparent lineage. In some cases, the passenger's ethnic or national origin will be known from intelligence received or from statements made by the passenger. In other cases it may become apparent from answers to routine questions posed at the control or on the landing card. The authorisation will be used by officials responsibly and with due care. The authorisation applies to passengers of Tamil ethnic or national origin, irrespective of their nationality, because of the wide range of national travel documents used in attempted illegal entry by some members of this group and because of the attempted abuse of asylum provisions by those persons purporting to be fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka who are in fact nationals of other countries.

The particular adverse consequences for passengers in the groups covered by the authorisation are that they may be delayed at the immigration control longer than other persons in the same circumstances and may have conditions attached to their leave to enter or temporary admission. Where a passenger in one of the groups concerned meets the requirements of the Immigration Rules, this delay might only be a matter of minutes or there may be no delay at all if the immigration officer does not consider that a closer examination is necessary.

The authorisation provides that an immigration officer may, in respect of the groups covered by the authorisation, by reason of a passenger's ethnic or national origin subject them to a more rigorous examination than other person in the same circumstances. The officer may exercise powers under Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971, namely: requiring someone to submit to further examination; requiring them to furnish information and documents; examining and detaining their documents; searching them; detaining them pending further examination; and granting temporary admission.

The officer may impose a condition or restriction on someone's leave to enter or their temporary admission.

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They may also decline to give someone notice of grant or refusal of leave to enter in a form permitted by Part III of the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order 2000.

In assessing the risk to the control posed by the groups listed in the authorisation, my honourable friend the Home Office Minister of State (Mrs Roche) has taken into account statistical evidence and other intelligence material. Statistical data are not held on Tamils as an ethnic group, but Sri Lankans of non-Tamil ethnic origin do not constitute a significant threat to the immigration control. In 2000, there were 3,592 inadequately documented arrivals by Sri Lankans in the United Kingdom: 91 of these cases involved false passports, 44 cases involved false or no visa and 39 cases involved impersonation. In 2000, there were 1,733 and 3,086 inadequately documented arrivals from Iraq and Turkey respectively. Asylum statistics confirm that Kurds comprise the vast majority of irregular migrants arriving in the United Kingdom from those countries. In 2000, the Immigration Service encountered 204 cases of Greek passport abuse, many involving nationals of the Former Soviet Union. In 2000, the Immigration Service detected 223 attempts to enter the United Kingdom using forged or counterfeit passports by nationals of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. Asylum statistics confirm that Roma comprise the vast majority of irregular migrants arriving in the United Kingdom from those countries. In 2000, there were 1,099 inadequately documented arrivals from Somalia and 2,654 the previous year. In 1999, there were 1,993 inadequately documented Albanian arrivals, although the figure declined in 2000. In 2000, the Immigration Service detected 92 cases involving abuse of Japanese travel documents and 84 cases involving abuse of Malaysian travel documents in total. Chinese nationals seeking to circumvent the immigration control have been most commonly identified using these and, to a lesser degree, other documents.


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