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3 Mar 2003 : Column WA77

Written Answers

Monday, 3rd March 2003.

FCO Spring Supplementary Estimates

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give details of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's spring supplementary estimate.[HL1949]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, (Baroness Amos): Subject to parliamentary approval of any necessary supplementary estimate, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office departmental expenditure limit (DEL) will be increased by £5,611,000 from £1,463,838,000 to £1,469,449,000 and the administration costs limits will be increased by £60,097,000 from £678,042,000 to £738,139,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:

ResourcesCapital
Change82,706,000-77,095,000
New DEL1,401,303,00068,146,000
Of which:
Voted1,250,326,00062,346,000
Non-voted150,997,0005,800,000

The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from

i. A public expenditure survey (PES) transfer to the Department for Transport of £50,000 in respect of the setting up of a register of shipping by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for certain Caribbean overseas territories.

ii. A PES transfer to the Ministry of Defence of £183,000 in respect of business rates applicable to the Old Admiralty Building—Citadel formerly paid by the FCO and now the responsibility of the MoD.

iii. Reclassification of £62,410,000 from capital to resource (administration costs of £56,810,000, grants of £5,600,000) to improve budgetary flexibility.

iv. A decrease of £11,750,000 in respect of an adjustment for overseas price movements.

v. An increase in admin costs of £1,630,000 in respect of increases to consular services overseas.

vi. A transfer from BBC World Service capital to BBC World Service resource of £30,000,000 to facilitate effective management of BBC World Service budgets.

vii. A PES transfer from the Department of Trade and Industry of £100,000 in respect of Invest UK DTI funded overseas slots at the time of the winter supplementary estimate, details of which were not published at the time.

viii. A PES transfer to the Department for International Development (DfID) and Ministry of Defence of £2,000,000 and £4,884,000 respectively in respect of the remainder required to fund planned conflict prevention (CP) programme activity to the end of the FY.

ix. A PES transfer from the CP global programme pool to DfID and the Ministry of Defence of £250,000 and £572,000 respectively in respect of baseline repatriation to departments.

x. A PES transfer from DfID of £1,450,000 to fund payment to a military officer in Angola, a project management transfer and the FCO's one-third share of the existing CP Africa pool reserve.

xi. Take up of EYF if £11,531,000 from a combination of underspends on the 2001–02 CP DUP and DfID and FCO CP programme underspends.

xii. A PES transfer to DfID of £5,000,000 for planned CP programme activities at the time of the winter supplementary estimate, details of which were not published at the time.

xiii. A PES transfer to the security and intelligence agencies of £225,000 for CP activities at the time of the winter supplementary estimates, details of which were not published at the time.

xiv. An increase of £499,000 for additional security at posts in the Middle East.

The change in the capital element of the DEL arises from:

i. A PES transfer from the Home Office of £515,000 and £264,000 to defray the extra costs to the FCO of setting up visa regimes for Zimbabwe and Jamaica.

ii. Reclassification of £62,410,000 from capital to resource to improve budgetary flexibility.

iii. A decrease of £585,000 in respect of an adjustment for overseas price movements.

iv. A transfer from BBC World Service capital to BBC World Service resource of £30,000,000 to facilitate effective management of BBC World Service budgets.

v. An increase of £5,121,000 for additional security at posts in the Middle East.

vi. An increase of £10,000,000 to cover a shortfall in non-operating appropriation in aid in respect of asset recycling.


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Bermuda

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an Order in Council has been made to amend the constitution of Bermuda. [HL1950]

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Baroness Amos: On 27 February an Order in Council was made to amend the constitution of Bermuda. This amendment, which has received widespread political support in Bermuda, will change the system of elections to Bermuda's House of Assembly from 20 dual-seat constituencies to 36 single-seat constituencies, as recommended by the Bermuda Constituency Boundaries Commission in its 2002 report.

The consultation process adopted in deciding upon this amendment has highlighted concerns in Bermuda that there should be a clear and generally acceptable procedure for considering future proposals for constitutional amendment. The Secretary of State wishes to ensure that, subject to the sovereign rights of Her Majesty, the process of considering such proposals is as transparent as possible and that the citizens and political parties of Bermuda are consulted as widely as possible before changes are made. He has therefore asked the Governor to explore the issue locally to see whether interested parties in Bermuda can come forward with acceptable proposals for procedures to be followed in future, which can then be put to him for consideration. These proposals are to include the means by which the public is consulted over proposed constituency boundary changes when a future constituency boundaries commission is undertaking its work. The Secretary of State understands that the Governor plans to canvass suggestions from individuals, political parties and organisations.

Aisha Megrahi

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why Aisha Megrahi has been refused permission to stay in Britain, even though her husband is serving a life sentence in Barlinnie gaol; whether it is normal policy to refuse wives permission to stay in this country when their husbands are imprisoned here; and, if so, whether this is consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. [HL1717]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): There are no special arrangements for overseas nationals coming to the United Kingdom (UK) to visit a spouse or other family member who has been imprisoned here. Such applications are considered under the general provisions for visitors as set out in paragraphs 40 and 41 of the Immigration Rules (HC 395). To qualify for entry to the United Kingdom as a visitor an applicant must demonstrate that he or she is genuinely seeking entry as a visitor for the period stated, has sufficient funds for personal support and accommodation, holding any dependants without working or recourse to public funds, and that he or she will leave the United Kingdom at the end of the visit. The maximum period allowed for a visit is normally six months. We do not consider that this policy is inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights.

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Asylum Seekers: Government Policy

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 18 February, whether they can estimate the proportion of asylum seekers whose applications are susceptible to influence by government policy. [HL1738]

Lord Filkin: Government policy is aimed at ensuring we have a firm, fair, fast and effective system, which of course affects all asylum applicants, by dealing with those with genuine claims effectively and efficiently, while also deterring those who seek to abuse the system. We also help a number of those needing humanitarian assistance via specific schemes (e.g. Kosovans assisted under the HEP programme).

Current policy initiatives, such as juxtaposed controls in France and the deployment of detection technology at continental ports, are designed to prevent those who seek to circumvent our controls at specific ports of entry from doing so. The Government are confident that by September 2003 this will reduce significantly new asylum claims by around half compared with the number last October.

Oakington Asylum Centre

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many asylum seekers were accommodated at the Oakington Centre on each day of January. [HL1664]

Lord Filkin: In order to maximise the impact of the non-suspensive appeal provisions, Oakington took, from 7 November 2002, only claimants from the 10 EU accession states (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia) listed as safe in the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Claims from these countries will be refused and certified as clearly unfounded, generating a non-suspensive appeal (NSA) right, unless my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is satisfied they are not. In these cases, applicants are detained at Oakington for their decision and until removal, unless it is judged necessary to transfer them to secure detention. The daily intake at Oakington was then dependent upon claims from persons entitled to reside in these 10 countries and the impact on this daily intake of this new process was obviously not possible to predict. In fact, the process had an immediate and significant impact: numbers dropped significantly in December 2002 and were low in early January 2003.

As a result, from 12 January 2003, Oakington has resumed intake from the list of 40 previous nationalities from the Oakington-suitable list. This has enabled us to make best use of Oakington while retaining the flexibility to give absolute priority to the 10 nationalities at present covered by the NSA process, which is to be extended to include the further seven nationalities recently announced.

3 Mar 2003 : Column WA81

Figures for occupancy at Oakington are normally published on a quarterly basis and those for January are not yet available in publishable form. However, at 31 January 2003, locally-held management information shows there to have been 116 detained at the centre on that day.


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