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Bob Spink (Castle Point): The hon. Lady speaks eloquently and rightly because time is of the essence, particularly for children in the accommodation centres. Does she think that it might be advantageous for appeals to be heard in those centres, since that would considerably speed up the process?

Julie Morgan: The appeals should be heard as quickly as possible. We do not know how the accommodation centres will work out, but given everything that has been said about how they will operate, I do not think that they will be suitable places for families with children, and they will be even more unsuitable if the children cannot enter mainstream education.

I hope that those issues will be considered in Committee, including the size and concept of accommodation centres. Cardiff has only a small number of dispersed asylum seekers and the system there is working relatively well. If we were to have an accommodation centre as planned just 10 miles outside Cardiff, it would cause problems.

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9.1 pm

Mr. Mohammad Sarwar (Glasgow, Govan): I broadly welcome key aspects of the Bill, but I must raise some issues of concern. My constituency has the highest ethnic minority population of any in Scotland, but it has also become home to an increasing number of asylum seekers.

Hon. Members will be familiar with Sighthill in Mr. Speaker's constituency, but Govan, Ibrox, and particularly Pollokshaws on Glasgow southside, are also home to hundreds of people fleeing persecution.

The Bill recognises that Britain is changing dramatically, with diverse cultures enriching life for us all. I welcome the shift of emphasis from discriminatory immigration policy in the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts and the Immigration Acts. We must look ahead to what our country and our communities will need in future.

I also recognise the genuine measures to maintain our status as a decent and fair country in protecting individuals and families threatened by brutal intimidation and terrible violence in their own homes overseas.

Clearly our borders cannot be open without restrictions, placing undue strain on the economy and way of life, but we must ensure that all those who wish to enter the United Kingdom are treated humanely and with dignity.

I support the Government's measures for a fast-track system for applications. That will discourage those who wish to make false and bogus claims. For that reason, we must concentrate on newcomers with this approach.

Old applications for those who have been settled in Britain for eight to 10 years, are married with children and contribute productively to our economy should not be a priority. Considerable time, effort and resources would be saved for our Government and our courts if we diverted attention from those who would be allowed to live here on compassionate grounds as British citizens.

I have made representations on behalf of a number of constituents who could be deported at any time, breaking up committed couples and dedicated parents, taking hard-working people out of work and forcing families out of their homes. These people are model citizens.

I largely welcome the part 1 measures on nationality and citizenship. It is vital for people hoping to live in the United Kingdom to grasp and understand life in Britain. Language skills are vital. Can the Minister assure me that resources will be made available to implement that aspect of the Bill and allow applicants to play an active role in our society? I am concerned about the nature of the language test and would appreciate some guidance from her on the form that it will take. I also wonder what the results of the same evaluation would be if it were applied to all sections of our communities throughout the United Kingdom.

I must express reservations about deprivation of citizenship. What status would that give those affected who live in Britain, especially if their country of origin also denied them citizenship rights?

I am also troubled by extension of the probationary period on marriages to two years, which will place added strain on couples. Unfortunately, I disagree with my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, West (Mr. Singh) and for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) on the issue. I believe that negative decisions for many women—especially those from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan—would leave their lives ruined, as they would never be in a position to

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marry again. Very few applicants have used the domestic violence concessions to explain why they have left the matrimonial home.

I am concerned about the couples who have a family and have to leave. If families are not granted an indefinite stay within a year, it can be an added strain on their social life. I agree with the view of the Immigration Advisory Service that


The part 2 measures on accommodation centres must be considered alongside the commitment made by Lord Rooker. In another place on 7 February, he said:


Can the Minister assure me that legal advice will be provided in the centres? Many problems arise for asylum seekers because of bad advice from agents.

Angela Eagle: I can assure my hon. Friend that legal advice will be available in accommodation centres.

Mr. Sarwar: I thank my hon. Friend very much for that assurance.

Lord Rooker also stated:


I very much appreciate that statement, although I hope that the Government will not aim for six months, but look to enforce a shorter maximum period of three months for such children.

I must confess that I do not see the distinction between detention centres and removal centres—their new name in the Bill. I hope that the Government will ensure that asylum seekers will not be detained in removal centres if they are not going to be removed at the final stage. Many of my constituents have expressed genuine concerns about the Dungavel removal centre in Scotland that are shared by community groups, local churches and voluntary bodies. Families with children have been detained in an environment that does not seem suitable.

Last week, in a written answer to a question that I had tabled, the Minister confirmed that last Monday


She stated that there were


including


I am greatly concerned for the children in Dungavel. With all respect to the staff, and the best intentions in the world, I cannot see how the centre can offer adequate care for children with special needs. I also hope that the Minister will assess the modular education provided at Dungavel for all school-age children. I welcome the recent visit to the centre by the Minister of State, Scotland Office. I recognise his real commitment, and that of other

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Ministers, and their active partnership with colleagues in the Scottish Executive to support asylum seekers in Scotland.

The issue of arranged marriages has been raised in the House and in the media over many years. We must draw a distinction between arranged marriages and forced marriages. In arranged marriages, parents consult their children, and take their views on board. I can assure the House that the vast majority of people in ethnic minority communities value the views of their children. Unfortunately, a few believe that they know what is best for their children, and their actions are damning their families and communities, and our society. We must oppose forced marriages. Community leaders in Scotland took the view that we must do so, and they are now less of a problem in Scotland than in England.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West mentioned global poverty. If we want to deal with economic migrants, it is important to deal with global poverty. It is unfortunate that there is only one superpower in the world. Although it is the richest country in the world, it contributes only 0.1 per cent. of its gross domestic product to help the developing countries. Under the United Nations charter, that country—or any developed country—should contribute 0.7 per cent. of GDP. I am glad that, under the Labour Government, we have increased our share to 0.36 per cent., and I hope that, in the near future, we will achieve our obligation under the United Nations charter.

9.12 pm

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): I am glad that the hon. Member for Perth (Annabelle Ewing) has returned to the Chamber, because my first few references will be to Scotland. When I heard that this was the fourth Bill of this kind in 10 years, I was reminded of Bruce's spider. Robert the Bruce, who eventually defeated the English, saw a spider try six times to get out of the cave where it was hiding; it succeeded only on the seventh try. I am glad that the Government are trying again, because it would be a terrible thing if errors had been made in previous Bills and the Government had buried their head in the sand and tried to make those provisions work.

I have no expertise comparable to that of my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, West (Mr. Singh) and for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard), or of other hon. Members whose constituencies have large ethnic populations and who have had to deal with immigration and asylum issues to the extent that they have done. My constituency has, however, a small ethnic community, and my brushes with the immigration service have been just as appalling, long drawn out and illogical as they have obviously been for Members in constituencies in England with large ethnic communities.

On the point raised by the hon. Member for Perth about nationality, I went to seek the words of the oath and pledge that citizens will be asked to take. The oath is very similar to the oath that we take here, and which the hon. Lady herself took when she first came here. The pledge states:


I would have thought that the hon. Lady, as a member of the smallest party from Scotland in this place, would have accepted the democratic will of the Scottish people—

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as well as the people of the United Kingdom—that we should be part of the United Kingdom. Despite all the polls, and everything that we see in the newspapers, the reality is that there is no progress on her party's long trail to tear Scotland out of the United Kingdom and to damage its people and its economy.


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