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Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Information on the nationality and destination of asylum seekers who leave the UK under the voluntary assisted returns programme is not available.

The Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP) is available to all nationalities, including Zimbabweans, throughout the asylum process including those who have received a negative decision on their asylum claim and are awaiting appeal. It is also open to those who have been granted time-limited leave to enter or remain.

SchlumbergerSema

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: SchlumbergerSema provides an occupational health service to the Home Office and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. It also provides some of the outsourced information and communications systems to the Metropolitan Police. The Prison Service has considered the occupational health services provided by a number of companies including SchlumbergerSema.

Asylum Legislation

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made it clear that we seek to tackle two remaining problems in the asylum system: applicants who lodge groundless appeals to delay removal and the problem of asylum seekers who deliberately destroy or dispose of their documents to make unfounded claims. On 27 October, my honourable friend the Minister of State for Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism announced specific new legislative proposals for asylum reform, including measures to tackle these two problems. We believe that these reforms should be in place as a matter of urgency and will introduce legislation to enact the measures as soon as parliamentary time allows. We consult the Attorney-General and other Ministers as necessary on all aspects of any future legislation including cost implications.

Extension of Leave to Remain: Costs

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in deciding the fees to be charged for applications for extensions of leave to remain by temporary residents in the United Kingdom they received representations regarding the level of these fees compared with those levied for initial visas.[HL5015]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The fees are set under Treasury rules to recover the full administrative cost entailed in considering applications and no more. This is calculated by taking the overall costs of processing applications divided by the number of decisions we expect to make.

A number of letters have been received from members of the public, bodies representing students and Members of Parliament with regard to the introduction of charging.

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism has replied to a number of these representations and officials at the Home Office continue to do so.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in deciding the fees to be charged for applications for extensions of leave to remain by temporary residents in the United Kingdom:


    (a) they calculated that the interval between the announcement of the new system of charges and the date when those charges came into effect was adequate to disseminate the information to those who needed to know; and


    (b) they were satisfied that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate will be be to provide a level of service to international students commensurate with the charges now being made.[HL5016]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The concept of charging has been in the public domain for some time since it was debated during the passage of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary further stated his intention to charge in the White Paper Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain published on 7 February 2002, and signalled that it was necessary and appropriate that applicants themselves paid for this service. The regulations were laid on 10 July and charging was introduced on 1 August.

Although the intention to introduce charging had been signalled in the White Paper, we accept that the implementation date gave little time before the start of the academic year. Our main concern now is to ensure that all international students and their advisers have the information they need about the new arrangements and services available. Home Office officials are working closely with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the British Council and UKCOSA to ensure that this information is disseminated as widely and quickly as possible.

Charging is vital to ensure we can continue providing the service many students and higher education establishments have come to enjoy recently, particularly under the batch scheme. We have already invested heavily to ensure that the improved service standards we have published are achievable and sustainable. The implementation of charges is necessary to enable the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) to bring its performance up to the best international standards.

Criminal Records Bureau

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many staff are employed by the Criminal Records Bureau in the United Kingdom; whether the bureau uses other agencies in the United Kingdom; and how many people are employed overseas on the bureau's work.[HL5050]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The number of staff employed by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in the United Kingdom is 923, comprising staff employed by the agency, Capita and sub-contractors. The bureau does not use any other agencies in the United Kingdom. Data processing work relating to CRB applications has been outsourced by Capita and is undertaken on the Indian sub-continent. I am unable to provide accurate details of the total number of people employed by the sub-contractor, the British company Hays plc. The precise number employed fluctuates significantly, according to the amount of processing work that is contracted out.

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Correctional Services Review

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a copy of the correctional services review, conducted by Mr Patrick Carter for the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, will be placed in the House.[HL5162]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Patrick Carter has not yet delivered his final report which will provide private advice on correctional services to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Chief Secretary. When they have received the report and considered it, Ministers will decide on any publication arrangements.

Sentence Planning

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for involving spouses and partners of prisoners in sentence planning.[HL5185]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are no plans to require Prison Service establishments in England and Wales to routinely involve spouses, partners, or other family members in sentence planning for offenders over the age of 18. A few establishments do involve families. This is good practice, though not a mandatory requirement.

In respect of offenders under the age of 18, and all those sentenced to the detention and training order, there is a mandatory requirement that governors must ensure that, where appropriate, families are given the opportunity to contribute to the sentence planning process throughout the custodial part of the sentence.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service is currently examining ways of allowing prisoners' spouses and partners to participate in resettlement planning.

Information relating to Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive.

Prisons: Visitors' Centres

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make the resettlement sections of prisons responsible for the administration of existing visitors' centres.[HL5187]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: In England and Wales it remains a matter for each governor to determine the management structure of their establishment and the location of responsibility for the visitors' centre. However, a recent strategic resettlement review in Northern Ireland concluded that it would be beneficial to have all resettlement and family services with the same functional responsibility.

Information relating to Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive.

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Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to take legal action against companies which exhibited arms and ammunition at the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition without first obtaining the required licences; and if not, why not.[HL5236]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I understand from the Metropolitan Police that no participants were allowed to exhibit without the necessary registration and authority. Nine exhibitors arrived without the necessary documentation to possess firearms. Arrangements were made for this to be rectified before they were allowed to exhibit. In the meantime the firearms were stored in a secure armory.


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