Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Alton of Liverpool: Perhaps the Minister will deal a little further with his final point about the independence of the charities. One of the points made very powerfully to us last week by the groups which came here is that they feel that if they were increasingly dependent on income from the Home Office--and I understand that this is a rehearsal of a point that is often made to the Minister--and given that often they have an advocacy role on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees, that independence may be compromised and their ability to speak on behalf of these vulnerable groups of people may be neutered if they are effectively co-opted as an arm of the state to administer services.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I take that point. I think that the independence of the voluntary sector is, and remains, intact. I do not think that it is impossible. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and I recently spent a very interesting half day, if not more, at NACRO headquarters. It is my present belief that the Home Office provides some funding to NACRO. I never detected in my dealings with it any lack of independent professionalism. Indeed, quite the opposite was the case.

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1122

I single out that organisation merely as an illustration. Its benefit is that, first, it knows what it is talking about; and secondly, despite the fact that it receives some funding from the Government, it still feels it right--and I agree with that--to criticise us when we have different views. That has been the experience of the past few years; NACRO is not alone in that respect.

12.15 a.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: It being the witching hour, the Minister has suddenly turned part of the pumpkin into a fairy coach. It would be ungracious not to recognise that final miraculous moment of this long Committee stage. We thank him very much. There is a quotation from Max Weber that politics is the boring of hard boards. That seems to be an excellent description of the Committee stage of this Bill. We are most grateful to the Ministers for sticking it out and for showing such unending patience during what must have been a very hard day for them, and for the concessions that they have made, particularly with regard to victims of torture. They listened closely to what the Committee had to say. We are grateful and we should like to thank them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 163 not moved.]

Clause 86 agreed to.

Clause 87 [Supplemental]:

[Amendments Nos. 164 to 168 not moved.]

Clause 87 agreed to.

Clause 88 [Secretary of State's scheme]:

[Amendment No. 169 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 169A:


Page 58, leave out line 35.

The noble Earl said: To have to move the final amendment of the night is to draw the short straw. The only appropriate response to the short straw is the short speech. I shall try to oblige.

The words that I seek to delete appear in Clause 88(7) dealing with regulations relating to applications for support. The subsection gives a power for the regulations to prescribe the circumstances in which an application may not be entertained--in fact, to cut people out of the claim to support with no indication as to how those powers will be used, no limit on the vires. It seems to me a rather draconian power, to be exercised by regulations, which are very difficult to challenge in this place. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The noble Earl's amendment seeks to probe the circumstances in which regulations will be made that permit the body not to entertain an application. Perhaps I may give some examples. One example is where a person has made a previous application, it has been rejected by the asylum support directorate, and possibly by the support adjudicator, and there has been no material change in the applicant's circumstances. Processing an application, even when it is without merit, takes time. All the details have to be gone into. Where there is no reason for

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1123

collecting that information and going through it again, the asylum support directorate should not be required to go through it. One does occasionally receive reports of someone who vexatiously continues to reapply for some benefit in the hope of succeeding not on the basis of the merits of his case, but simply on the basis of wearing down the awarding body.

In making the regulations governing the support scheme, we may also want to rely on this power in stipulating that applications from people who are plainly not eligible for support should not be entertained; for example, because the applicant is not an asylum seeker.

In either of the instances that I have given, it would be open to the applicant to demonstrate that he is entitled to make an application, maintaining, for example, either that there has been a material change in circumstances, or that he is a genuine asylum seeker. If he made out that case, the application would have to be entertained. But it is perfectly sensible in a body of rules such as this that there are certain circumstances where a person should not be allowed to make either an application or another application. If he is allowed to do so, the system becomes clogged and those people who should be allowed to make applications will have to wait longer than they otherwise should.

Earl Russell: The noble and learned Lord's answers, like the fortunes of the fictional Bishop of Ipswich, could have been worse. I shall not argue with any of the circumstances that he took up, but he would be a little

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1124

optimistic to assume that the amendment is necessarily probing. I have considerable misgivings about the conferring of vires quite as sweeping as those entertained here. But, at this time of night, the amendment is probing. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 88 agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 170:


After Clause 88, insert the following new clause--

LEGAL ADVICE FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS

(" . In providing or arranging for the provision of support for persons under Part VI, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to make arrangements with a view to ensuring that those persons have access to legal advice from a representative chosen by the asylum seeker.").

The noble Lord said: Before the noble Lord, Lord Burlison, rises, it might be tidier if I refrained from moving Amendments Nos. 170 and 171.

[Amendments Nos. 170 and 171 not moved.]

Clauses 89, 90 and 91 agreed to.

Lord Burlison: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

        House adjourned at twenty-one minutes past midnight.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page