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Asylum Seekers

Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what action he intends to take in respect of solicitors and agents who fail properly to advise clients in respect of asylum cases; [110673](2) what action he

(a) has taken and (b) intends to take in respect of solicitors and agents who charge asylum seekers for writing letters to hon. Members. [110674]

Anyone in the United Kingdom dissatisfied with the advice or services provided by their immigration adviser may complain to the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), which was established under Part V of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Unnecessary letters to hon. Members and overcharging for writing them can be the basis of a complaint to the OISC.If the adviser is regulated by the Commissioner and the complaint is upheld, the Commissioner may take disciplinary action. If the adviser is a solicitor the Commissioner will refer the complaint to the relevant designated professional body (DPB); any subsequent disciplinary action is a matter for that body.Complaints may also be submitted direct to a solicitor's professional body or, for publicly funded cases in England and Wales, direct to the Legal Services Commission (LSC). The LSC can withdraw funding from solicitors who do not meet their required standards and refuse to pay for the writing of unnecessary letters.The Commissioner reports annually to the Secretary of State as to the effectiveness of each DPB in regulating its members regarding the provision of immigration advice or immigration services. The Commissioner's first such report was incorporated in his Annual Report for 2001–2002 which the Secretary of State presented to Parliament on 23 July 2002.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the number of asylum seekers last averaged 4,500 per month over a 12-month period; and what the total annual cost to the Exchequer was of the asylum system in that year. [110792]

[holding answer 1 May 2003]: The most recent 12-month period when applications for asylum averaged 4,500 per month was between May 1998 and April 1999, when the total number was 53,020, an average of 4,420 per month.

For the financial year 1998–99 (April 1998 to March 1999), asylum seeker support payments made by the then Department of Social Security and Department of Health totalled £475 million.