HC Deb 17 September 2004 vol 424 cc1903-5W
Mr. Goodman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent consultations have been carried out by his Department with representatives of faith communities; and if he will make a statement. [188596]

Fiona Mactaggart

[holding answer 13 September 2004]: Outlined as follows are details of recent consultations conducted by the Home Office in which representatives of faith communities have been consulted:

Counter Terrorism Powers: Reconciling Security and Liberty in an Open Society

A discussion paper was published the 25 February 2004 entitled "Counter Terrorism Powers: Reconciling Security and Liberty in an Open Society" which launched a six-month consultation process on the future of counter terrorist powers. Representatives of faith community groups have played an active and important part in this consultation process both by submitting written responses and in attending consultation events.

Needs of Faith Communities in Major Disasters

Work is currently under way to update a document originally produced by the Church of England entitled Needs of Faith Communities in Major Disasters'. The Cabinet Office and the Home Office, who are jointly funding the update, worked with representatives from the nine main faith communities and the British Humanist Association to update their individual entries. The document is currently out with emergency planners for consultation and will be issued in the autumn.

Strength in Diversity

The Strength in Diversity pamphlet was published on 19 May 2004 and forms the framework for a robust debate on issues such as citizenship and identity, eradicating racism, tackling inequality and building cohesive communities.

The 'Strength in Diversity' pamphlet was sent to a wide range of faith representatives including the main faith umbrella bodies and a meeting was held with faith representatives to discuss the consultation pamphlet. The consultation period ends on 17 September and the recommendations will form the basis of the Community Cohesion and Race Equality Strategy to be published in the autumn.

Burial Law and Policy in the 21st Century

A six month consultation exercise on burial law and policy in the 21st Century concluded on 31 August 2004. This gave a unique opportunity to consult with members of the public, professionals and faith representatives to establish burial legislation and policy which is streamlined, accessible and inclusive.

A number of faith representatives were included in the consultation process, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Office of the Chief Rabbi, National Council of Hindu Temples, Sikh Council for Inter-faith Relations, the Muslim College and the Muslim Council of Britain.

Ministers of Religion from Abroad: consultation on the English Language Requirement

In June 2004 representatives of all the major faith communities were consulted on a proposal by the government to introduce an amendment to the Immigration Rules in which individuals applying for leave to enter the United Kingdom as Ministers of Religion would be required to demonstrate that they were competent in the use of spoken and written English—proposed at level 6 of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

After listening to the views and concerns of faith groups at round table meetings the proposal was modified so that for the time being Ministers of Religion will only be required to have a basic grasp of spoken English before coming to the UK (level 4). It is intended to raise this to level 6—a competent speaker and writer—after two years. The rule change is now in effect.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS)

The introduction of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has been subjected to two formal written consultations in which over 400 responses have been received. Many of these have been from representatives of faith communities. All responses have been analysed and continue to be used to inform the development of the new structure.

Domestic Violence Consultation Paper: 'Safety and Justice'

The Domestic Violence Consultation Paper Safety and Justice was published in June 2003. Representatives of all the major faith communities were consulted (for a full list of organisations consulted see answer to written PQ 151654–30 January). In addition, the Home Office produced—and made available in both paper and electronic format—a summary leaflet, which was also translated into Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Somali, Urdu. Vietnamese and Welsh.

The Home Office received a total of 470 responses to Safety and Justice. A list of organisations that responded can be found at Annex A of the 'Summary of Responses to "Safety and Justice: the Governments Proposal on Domestic Violence", copies of which are available in the Library and at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crimepol/crimreduc/domviolence/publist.html.

The Prison Service Chaplaincy Council

The Prison Service Chaplaincy Council is made up of representatives from all the major faith traditions. It meets six times each year, and provides both a forum for consultation on a broad range of prison issues (policy and practice) and advice and guidance on all matters relating to prisoner faith issues.