|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Annabelle Ewing (Perth): The hon. Gentleman mentioned, as an aside, that he had concerns about the use of the private sector for prisons and the like. Perhaps he is not aware that his colleagues in the Scots Parliament who sit in coalition with Labour are pursuing a private prison route.
Mr. Allan: I certainly am aware of that. In the wonderful federation that is my party, the Scottish party makes its own decisions which reflect its political circumstances. I know that the Minister for Justice has been faced with some difficult decisions as regards prison accommodation in Scotland.
Amendments Nos. 40, 166, 167 and 168 attempt to tease out how the facilities will be provided. We want to consider two forms specifically. The first is what must be providedlike the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) we have included legal advice. We, too, feel strongly that access to good legal advice speeds up the asylum determination process and is not something that the Government, or anyone, should fearit can facilitate the process and ensure that there are fewer legal errors that could lead to an appeal. The amendment would distinguish between facilities that "shall" or "may" be provided.
Amendment No. 42 relates to our concern about how cash is given to asylum seekers. We understand that the Secretary of State will make regulations governing the handling of cash. It is important for an individual's
We are concerned that currently there is dual provision. The Secretary of State may by regulation determine the amount of cash given to an individual, but the accommodation centre manager may also have that power. The amendment would limit that power to the Secretary of State alone.
Amendment No. 43 would establish the extent to which the powers to require an individual physically to be present at the accommodation centre might be widened to create, in effect, a form of detention. The amendment would limit to 15 the number of hours that an individual was required to be present. We seek an assurance from the Minister that there is no intention that people should remain in the centre for 24 hours, for examplethat would clearly move us into the realm of detention.
Amendment No. 44 revisits a subject that we considered in Committee, but about which we are still uncomfortablethe relationship between behaviour in an accommodation centre and the actual asylum claim, which can be a matter of life or death for an individual. We understand that the Government may require an individual to be present in an accommodation centre as part of the terms of their immigration statusthey would be allowed into the country on condition that they resided at the centre.
Under clause 27, the Government would take powers, in effect, to evict an individual from an accommodation centre because of their behaviour, and such evictionas we heard from the hon. Member for Wokingwould also apply to their dependants. There is a lack of clarity in the provision, in that a condition of immigration law may require a person to remain at the centre, yet their behaviour might lead to their removal. That could give rise to conflict, especially if the individual was pursuing an asylum claim, as they might find that they were in breach of their immigration conditions, thus prejudicing their claim. If an individual has done something wrong, sanctions need to be taken, but if those sanctions force an individual to breach their immigration conditions because they are required to leave the accommodation specified under those conditions, that is a matter for concern.
Sir Michael Spicer: As we have already heard, no one likes the Bill's provisions for accommodation centresneither the Refugee Council, nor the Transport and General Workers Union. The Government seem to be the only people who are pressing them.
One of the reasons for that dislike is the cavalier way in which the Government are discussing the resources required and the provision of facilities. Amendment No. 3 is much more important than meets the eye because it would put a duty on the Government to be much more specific.
There have been several examples of the Government's cavalier approach to the assessment of facilities at a proposed accommodation unit adjoining my constituency. I recently asked the Secretary of State for Health what
Earlier today, the former Under-Secretary at the Home Office, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle), made a dignified apology about misinformation on figures that she had given the House. We are not dealing with size at present but it is obviously relevant to the provision of facilities; it is certainly relevant to information.
On this occasion, I do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, who was incompletely briefed on the matter. However, I am seriously worried about the poor information from the Home Office on the provision of facilities. That is why it is so important that the Government accept amendment No. 3.
The planning inquiry constitutes a specific reason for the Government to be less muddled about the facts and information they give about the provision of facilities and services in respect of their proposals. I understand that there will be a proper planning system, so if the Government continue to be muddled and misinformed when they provide information to the planning inspectors, it will be serious for two reasons. First, the result could be a judicial reviewbut that is for the Government to worry about. Secondly, however, the acceptability of the planning system could be undermined.
If people think that the planning arrangements are a fix, with the Government providing false information about the facilities and the local requirements for the fulfilment of the policy, that could have a serious effect on the credibility of the planning procedure. Above all, the process must be fair. I tell my constituents not only that the planning procedure is a good thing but that it will make a fair judgment as to whether the proposals are right.
If the Government continue to give false, bad or muddled information about facilities, the results for the planning procedure could be serious, so I hope that they will consider amendment No. 3 carefully. It imposes a duty on them to provide proper, clear information about facilities.
Tony Baldry: I shall be brief. No one could argue with the proposals for visiting committees, but such committees would, in essence, be concerned with the welfare of asylum seekers. As the accommodation centres will be sited in remote, rural areas, will the Government consider setting up liaison committees?
When I was first elected, there was a big United States Air Force base in my constituency where about 750 young men were stationed. Even with 750 disciplined service men, it was necessary to set up an ad hoc liaison committee, organised and operated by the district council, which provided the secretariat. Representatives of the parish council could hold regular meetings with the personnel who ran the base.
Such concerns must be addressed, but given that none of the centres will be sited in the constituencies of Labour Members, no Labour Member will be able to express those concerns in the Division Lobby. As no Minister has taken the trouble to visit one of the sites or visit or talk to representatives of local communities, the least that they could do is give the House their attention for the very short period that the Government have deigned to give Members to discuss their concerns this evening.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) raised the issue of resources, and was echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Sir Michael Spicer). I reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire said, and I want to ask a further question. The Bill makes it clear, in many instances, that if people misbehave in accommodation centres they will be expelled. What will happen to them? Where will they go? Moreover, what local police resources will be used in relation to such people? If someone decides not to return to the Bicester accommodation centre, will Thames Valley police be notified? If they are notified, will they be expected to find and apprehend those individuals? If so, what assessment, if any, has the Home Office madeafter all, the matter is one for that Departmentof the effect on the resources of Thames Valley police?
My information is that, as yet, not only has the Home Office not consulted other Departments or organisations such as the health service or education or social services in Oxfordshire, but there has been little if any consultation with Thames Valley police on the likely impact that the accommodation centre will have on their resources.