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Racial Discrimination: EC Legislation

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

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I refer the noble Lord to my Written Answer of 11 September 2003 (WA 143) in which I stated that the principles of the directive are applied to the Race Relations (RRA) Act 1976 in respect of claims brought in areas of the RRA that are within the scope of the directive. Therefore potential claims of unlawful discrimination which fall within the scope of the directive will be subject to the revised provisions—such as the amended definition of indirect discrimination, the new statutory definition of harassment (which corresponds to the existing case law definition), the new definition of "genuine occupational requirement", the provisions dealing with acts after a relationship has ended and with the burden of proof, and the repeal of some provisions which are contrary to the principle of equal treatment (as defined in the directive)—whereas claims which fall outside the scope of the directive will be subject to the Act's original provisions. It is our view—as reflected in the Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003—that claims brought on the grounds of colour fall outside the scope of the directive.

Immigration Detainees: HMP Maghaberry

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have no plans to open an immigration removal centre in Northern Ireland. Immigration detainees in Northern Ireland are accommodated in HMP Maghaberry. It is our policy to transfer persons detained in Northern Ireland to immigration removal centres on the mainland unless a specific request is made to stay in Northern Ireland, in which case the detainee in question will continue to be held at HMP Maghaberry.

The location of immigration detainees at HMP Maghaberry is separate from the main prison population and every effort is made to cater for their needs. These detainees are managed as untried prisoners with a more favourable regime, which is more akin to that of enhanced prisoners.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service seeks to provide for different pastoral needs of the immigration detainees as well as providing access to legal representation as required. Exercise is provided morning or afternoon and alternate evenings and a teacher attends two mornings each week to provide a basic English programme. Special diets are available, a fully equipped kitchen is provided and the detainees may use the prison tuck-shop without spending limits. There is unrestricted telephone access and various voluntary organisations provide support services including financial support to the extent of £5 each week for each detainee.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many persons who have applied for asylum, or intend to do so, are at present detained in prison in Northern Ireland; and what plans they have for providing alternative accommodation for such purposes.[HL4372]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The latest available information on those detained solely under the Immigration Act shows that at 28 June 2003 there were four people held at HMP Maghaberry who had claimed asylum at some stage.

Information on those people detained who may intend to claim asylum is not available.

There are currently no plans to provide alternative accommodation in Northern Ireland.

Asylum Seekers: Employment

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why asylum seekers are not allowed to work for the first six months of their stay in the United Kingdom, bearing in mind the national skills shortage.[HL4322]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The asylum process must be separate from measures taken to reduce the skills shortage in the United Kingdom. Generally speaking asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their claim for asylum is under consideration. Until 23 July 2002 there was a concession which allowed asylum seekers to seek permission to take employment if no decision had been made on their application within six months of it being lodged. The concession was abolished because, given the reduction in the backlog of asylum claims, there were fewer asylum seekers able to benefit.

The Government have introduced and developed a number of managed migration routes such as the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme as part of a programme to tackle skills shortages in the United Kingdom.

Illegal Immigrants

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the number of illegal immigrants now in the United Kingdom.[HL4325]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is currently no official estimate of the number of immigrants unlawfully present in the United Kingdom. Estimating the numbers entering Britain illegally is difficult because illegal migrants, by definition, fall outside of official statistics. Illegal migrants are motivated to ensure they remain hidden, which is a challenge to conducting research.

The Home Office has commissioned a review of methods used in other countries to estimate the size of their illegal populations. The research was commissioned in order to help to define methods appropriate for the United Kingdom. On the basis of this information and the likely sources of United Kingdom information we will consider our next steps.

Voluntary and Community Sector Infrastructure

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have on the development and funding of the voluntary and community sector infrastructure. [HL4550]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: A Home Office consultation document on the development and funding of voluntary and community sector (VCS) infrastructure in England is being published today. The Government's aim is to help to build a VCS, including social enterprise, which is fully engaged in shaping and delivering public services, underpinned by a high quality sustainable infrastructure that enables this to happen. Such support must meet the needs of a diverse sector and should complement support services available from the small business service and others.

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As part of the spending review 2002, the Treasury undertook a cross-cutting review of the role of the VCS in service delivery, published in September 2002. The review identified that VCS infrastructure was patchy in distribution and in quality and that this was a barrier to increasing VCS involvement in service delivery. It recommended that "Government and the VCS should develop a coherent shared strategy to underpin capacity in the sector". Consultation with voluntary and community organisations, and others interested in an effective sector, will inform a final strategy to be published early next year. This will include proposals to guide the investment of approximately £80 million of SR2002 funds.

The aim is to put a strategy in place which ensures:

    high quality support for voluntary and community organisations delivered as close to the point of need as is economically viable;

    the existence of effective infrastructure locally, regionally and nationally. This may be supplemented by activity at a sub-regional level particularly activities that cannot be afforded more locally;

    accessible, high quality support available across the VCS, including to support volunteering, black and minority ethnic and other diversity issues, social and community enterprise, community development, rural needs, and to support VCS use of information and communications technology; and

    strengthened specialist infrastructure organisations operating nationally—and regionally where needed—covering thematic areas of VCS activity and service delivery such as youth work, childcare, and vocational training.

Copies of the consultation document are available in the House Library and on the Home Office website. We would welcome views on the proposals and questions outlined in the paper by Monday 22 December 2003. A draft regulatory impact assessment is included with the consultation document.

Elite Sports: Funding

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in line with their commitment to fund elite sportsmen and sportswomen with additional Exchequer funding to the value of £10 million per annum for financial year 2001–02 to 2004–05, they have fulfilled this pledge to date. [HL4338]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): The Government have committed to fund our elite athletes at the same level in the four-year cycle leading up to the Athens Olympics in 2004, as in the four-year cycle leading up to the Sydney Olympics 2000 and will meet this commitment.

The Government did not commit to fund elite sportsmen and sportswomen with additional

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Exchequer funding to the value of £10 million per annum.

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