HC Deb 14 February 2000 vol 344 cc403-4W
30. Mr. Gordon Marsden

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what minimum arrangements for social, welfare and cultural support he will require from agencies and local authority consortia wishing to place asylum seekers before agreeing to their dispersal. [108264]

Mrs. Roche

Contracts with providers for accommodation specify that the provider will facilitate access for asylum seekers to health and education services. The need for wider social and welfare provision to be available will be taken into account in discussion with local authorities about appropriate cluster areas for asylum seekers.

Voluntary sector bodies funded under Section 111 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 will be required to provide a range of services as part of the one stop services for asylum seekers envisaged under the new asylum support scheme.

33. Miss Kirkbride

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans the Government have to restrict the number of asylum seekers entering the United Kingdom. [108267]

Mrs. Roche

The Government will continue to honour their obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees to consider all applications for asylum made in the United Kingdom or at our ports. But we are taking tough measures to curb abuse of the asylum process. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 introduces fundamental changes, including measures to discourage unfounded asylum applications, while continuing to provide protection for those who need it.

34. Mr. Whittingdale

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received concerning the dispersal of asylum seekers. [108268]

Mrs. Roche

I and my officials have received numerous representations concerning the dispersal of asylum seekers, in response to proposals which we published last year as part of our consultation process. Some have been from voluntary bodies and local authorities by way of formal response to the original Asylum Seeker Support document published in March last year and to the consultation document on the regulations for the scheme published last November. Others have been received in the form of letters to Ministers from Members of Parliament, voluntary bodies and local authorities.

The representations have been concerned with a range of matters including the minimum standards of accommodation to be provided to asylum seekers and access to legal representatives in dispersal areas.

The National Asylum Support Service has also been in extensive talks with the Local Government Association about the operation of the dispersal scheme.

37. Fiona Mactaggart

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the average length of time for applications from asylum seekers(a) with children and (b) without children to be decided in the last month for which figures are available. [108271]

Mrs. Roche

Of the total asylum decisions made in December 1999, the average length of time since the application had been made was 13 months. A breakdown for asylum seekers with and without children is not available in this format. Of families with children who applied for asylum in November 1999, most had a decision made on their application within two months.