To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action is taken to inform asylum seekers of hard cases support. 
No specific information is currently given to failed asylum seekers about the possible provision of accommodation under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, as amended.The Home Office communicates information about hard case support with the Refugee Council in the first instance. Asylum seekers can also seek advice from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate helpline. The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is in the process of publishing more detailed guidance on eligibility for the provision of accommodation under section 4.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much has been paid (a) in total, (b) to private sector contractors and (c) to public sector contractors for accommodation provided for asylum seekers by the National Asylum Support Service in each year since the establishment of the service. 
[holding answer 3 April 2003]: The information is reproduced in the table. Figures for the private sector include two non-profit making organisations. Figures for the financial year 2002–03 are not yet available.
|1 Including non-profit making organisations.|
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers the Home Office has placed through Clearsprings Ltd. in the last two years. 
The statistical information requested is not available.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the level of employment of asylum seekers is in the UK. 
The information requested is not available. Statistics on employment are not broken down by immigration status. Asylum seekers who had not applied for permission to work prior to 23 July 2002 are not entitled to work.Information is not available on the numbers who previously sought asylum and were granted permission to work under the employment concession (which was abolished on 23 July 2002), and could be produced only at disproportionate cost. The concession allowed asylum seekers who had waited at least six months for an initial decision on their claim to apply for permission to work.The concession was established when widespread delays occurred in the asylum system, and we always made it clear that we would review its operation in light of our on-going reforms to the asylum system. By the time I announced its abolition in July, it had become largely irrelevant and applicable to only a minority of applicants. In 2002 the number of asylum seekers awaiting an initial decision fell to the lowest level for more than 10 years.Provisional data shows that 60 per cent. of applications (excluding withdrawals and third country cases) received in 2001–02 had initial decisions reached and served within two months, 78 per cent. within four months and 84 per cent. within six months. We are committed, with our programme of increased resources and on-going legislative reforms, to further improving the speed of the system for new applicants.We also believe that while we continued to operate the concession, an incorrect perception existed that all asylum seekers had permission to work while their cases were considered.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the ethnic background will be of asylum seekers the Home Office plans to place in Sedgmoor. 
The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) bases its dispersal policy around the language groups that a cluster area is able to accommodate and for which there are local support services available. Dispersal to cluster areas does not take place solely on the ethnic background of an asylum seeker. The language groups for the Taunton and Bridgwater cluster area of which Sedgmoor is a part are still being finalised at present following consultation between NASS and the local consortia.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on the number of asylum seekers that should be placed in towns in relation to the population of those towns. 
The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is committed to a full consultation process with the regional consortia on dispersal strategy. NASS consults with the consortia as to the number of asylum seekers that each cluster or region can successfully accommodate both from the integration angle and without causing/increasing racial tension in an area. The aim is to achieve a proportionate dispersal of asylum seekers both within cluster areas and across the United Kingdom.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 31 March 2003, Official Report, column 572W, on asylum seekers, which district council wards fall within the Taunton and Bridgwater cluster; and what the total population is of the area covered by the wards. 
[holding answer 7 April 2003]: The following list shows the district council wards that fall within the Taunton and Bridgwater cluster area. The population estimate for Taunton and Bridgwater cluster area is 99,700.
- Bishops Hull
- Bradford on Tone
- Killams and Mountfield
- Manor and Wilton
- Milverton and North Deane
- North Curry
- Norton Fitzwarren
- Pyrland and Rowbarton
- Ruishton and Creeche
- Staple Grove
- Stoke St. Gregory
- Wellington East
- Wellington North
- Wellington Rockwell Green and West
- West Monkton
- Wiveliscombe and West Deane
- Bridgwater Bower
- Bridgwater Eastover
- Bridgwater Hamp
- Bridgwater Quantock
- Bridgwater Sydenham
- Bridgwater Victoria