§ Sir Norman Fowler
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many current applicants for political asylum have been granted work permits pending consideration of their cases; and if he will make a statement; 438W
(2) how many applications for political asylum are currently pending; what is the average length of time for consideration of an application; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) what plans he has for speeding up the process of dealing with applications for political asylum; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Mike O'Brien
At the end of April 1998, there were 51,465 asylum applications awaiting an initial decision, a reduction on the previous year. Applications are currently estimated to be taking, on average, 14 months to reach an initial decision in cases lodged after the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, and 58 months for those lodged prior to that Act. Both these figures reflect the proportion of inherited old cases within the system. But figures for 1997 show that 38 per cent. of initial decisions on asylum applications were taken within six months, as against only 10 per cent. in 1992.
We are committed to bringing a fresh approach to asylum: one that is fairer, faster and firmer than the one we inherited. We will make announcements on the way ahead as soon as we can.
I regret that information on the number of asylum applicants granted permission to work is not available.