HC Deb 19 November 2001 vol 375 cc3-4
2. Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

What future role he envisages for the Oakington detention centre. [13340]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett)

Subject to the outcome of the appeal to the House of Lords, we intend that Oakington will continue to operate on the basis of detention in order to maintain our capacity to make speedy decisions in about seven to 10 days. We therefore propose no changes to its purpose or operation.

Mrs. Campbell

May I take this opportunity to welcome my right hon. Friend's review of asylum, immigration and the voucher system? Will the change of name, from detention centre to secure removal centre, change the nature of what happens at Oakington? Will the jobs of the people from the refugee legal centre who work at Oakington be safeguarded under the changes?

Mr. Blunkett

It is not our intention to redesignate the Oakington facility as a removal centre. It is our intention to maintain the legal services, which were, incidentally, responsible for taking us to court in the first place. I congratulate those concerned on nearly, but not quite, doing away with their jobs. Their jobs will remain and will follow the same pattern as at the moment, which has helped us enormously in providing speed and clarity in dealing with applications. Some 99 per cent. of initial claims are refused and, after adjudication and the initial appeal, only 5 per cent. are found to have been justified. The legal provision is helping us to achieve credibility and speed in dealing with applicants.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking)

Does the Home Secretary agree that the first 10 days of any asylum application are the most critical? Will he therefore confirm that the best possible legal advice and help will be made available at each and every induction centre?

Mr. Blunkett

As the hon. Member is aware, support and advice are given immediately through the voluntary organisations. We have taken steps to ensure that those giving advice are properly registered, so that checks are made on the quality and nature of the advice. That ensures that the money provided from the public purse, as well as that provided by those seeking asylum, is not abused.