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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): In July 2000 we announced that we would not be recording postal claims for asylum from persons living in any of the London boroughs and that they would be required to attend for screening before their claim was recorded and processed. Postal applications have also not been accepted in other parts of the country and alternative screening arrangements have been established. Postal claims have, however, continued to be made from some parts of the country: in 200102 they accounted for 7 per cent of all asylum claims, and so far in 200203 they have accounted for 8.9 per cent.
As from 8 February, anyone wishing to make an asylum claim will need to do so in person, and postal applications for asylum will no longer be accepted. We expect individuals to make their claim at a port of entry, where they will be screened and any request for support will be considered. Where a person in-country writes in by post, their purported claim will not be recorded. They will instead be advised to apply in person at Croydon or Liverpool. In the very exceptional case where a person is genuinely unable to attend one of these sites, alternative arrangements will be made to ensure that person can be screened and their claim processed.
Lord Filkin: The Government are fully committed to maintaining effective immigration control and ensuring that access to the asylum process is restricted to those who are in need of protection, as demonstrated by the series of fundamental reforms to the immigration, asylum and nationality system over the past 12 months.
Intelligence has shown that an increasing number of people who have been accepted as refugees elsewhere in the world are coming to the United Kingdom and making asylum applications in false identities. This undermines the integrity of the asylum process, places an unacceptable burden on the system and diverts valuable resources from those in genuine need. This abuse of the system is made easier as under the provisions of the Council of Europe Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees the holders of refugee travel documents issued by some 21 countries may travel to the United Kingdom without a visa. We have therefore decided to suspend the operation of that agreement. This will mean that from 00.01 hours on Tuesday 11 February all holders of refugee travel documents will require a visa before coming to the United Kingdom.
This measure will bring the holders of refugee documents issued by the 21 countries into line with those who hold refugee documents issued by all other countries. This change will not prevent refugees who are settled in other countries and who genuinely wish to visit the United Kingdom from doing so. They will simply be required to obtain a visa before coming here. What it will do is act as a deterrent to those whose sole purpose in coming to the United Kingdom is to abuse our asylum system.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The regime for managing financial failure will safeguard the Secretary of State for Health's overriding prioritythat National Health Service patients continue to have access to the healthcare they need, free at the point of delivery. The regime will not underwrite institutions that have failed to deliver under the terms of their service agreements and/or licence. There are no plans to introduce legislation on this matter.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Following publication of A Guide to NHS Foundation Trusts on 11 December 2002, applications to become NHS Foundation Trusts have been invited from acute and specialist National Health Service trusts that achieved three-star status in the NHS performance ratings published in July 2002. The application process has now begun and the closing date for preliminary applications is 28 February 2003.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The policy on the disposal of assets is set out in paragraphs 3.18 and 3.19 in A Guide to NHS Foundation Trusts. The consent of the regulator will be required prior to any proposed disposal of regulated assets.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Arrangements for the Prudential Code for NHS Foundation Trusts are set out in paragraph 5.17 of A Guide to NHS Foundation Trusts. Under (a) the NHS foundation trust would not be able to enter into any new borrowing arrangements until its total borrowing fell within its new prudential limits. Under (b) investment plans that required future borrowing have to be deferred until it was prudent to do so.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The first wave of NHS foundation trust applicants have been invited from acute and specialist National Health Service trusts that achieved three-star status in the NHS performance ratings published in July 2002. Powers set out in the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 (Schedule 3, paragraph 5A) enable the Secretary of State for Health to make a payment to an NHS trust if he considers it appropriate to do so.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The £100 million mutual fund for 200203 has been made available in grant form to the strategic health authorities. The strategic health authorities are responsible for agreeing amounts for individual primary care trusts/National Health Service trusts.
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