§ Mr. Foulkes
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to be able to answer the letters of 23 February, 28 April and 17 May from the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, regarding Mr. King Obe Quoi and his family; what are the reasons for the delay in providing a reply; what is the usual time taken by his Department to reply to a Member about an urgent constituency case; what action he is taking to deal with such cases with greater expedition; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
A reply was sent to the hon. Member on 4 July. The delay in replying is a direct result of the tenfold increase in the number of applications for asylum being received by the asylum division since 1988 and the heavy workload of subsequent inquiries from applicants and hon. Members which has been generated. The Home Office would normally expect to provide hon. Members with a reply within 16 days. However, exceptional difficulties prevail in the asylum division. On 26 April my right hon. Friend announced our intention to increase the number of staff in the asylum division from about 120 to more than 500. This process has begun and should in due course improve the division's ability to respond more quickly to hon. Members' inquiries.