HL Deb 02 November 1998 vol 594 cc31-2WA
Lord Avebury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will publish on the Home Office website the comments received from various representative organisations on their Country Information and Policy Unit's country assessments; whether they consider that any other assessments should be withdrawn; in the light of those comments, other than Turkey, which has already been withdrawn; and, in the light of the criticisms made of them, whether they consider that the Country Information and Policy Unit is taking advice from a sufficiently wide circle of experts before going to press with these assessments. [HL3557]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

It is for the organisations concerned to decide whether to publish their comments. The Government have transformed the arrangements for producing the country assessments which assist caseworkers responsible for deciding asylum applications. For the first time, there is a dedicated unit in the Home Office doing this work; and a systematic and transparent programme for publishing the assessments and for regularly updating and revising them in the light of new information and of comments received from others with expertise or an interest in this field of work. We have set up a consultative group to help us develop effective approaches to this work, and have asked the group in addition to advise on the costs and benefits of an independent documentation centre.

None of the assessments produced by the Country Information and Policy Unit has been withdrawn. The assessment of Turkey has been delayed so that important issues can be worked through, but it will be published shortly, as will for the first time an assessment of Ethiopia.

The Country Information and Policy Unit has access to a very wide range of information and expertise and is continually developing and expanding its contacts.