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Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 109:

Page 56, line 26, leave out (“order of the Court of Session") and insert (“extract registered decree arbitral bearing a warrant for execution issued by the sheriff court of any sheriffdom in Scotland").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 89 [Interpretation of Part VI]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 110:

Page 59, line 17, at end insert--
(““the Department" means the Department of Health and Social Services for Northern Ireland;").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, government Amendment No. 110 is a paving amendment to provide that in so far as Northern Ireland is concerned, the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Social Security may make regulations in connection with Part VI of the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 111, 112 and 113 provide for the definition of the term “dependant" in Clause 89 to apply in relation to a “supported person" rather than simply in relation to the asylum seeker. This puts it beyond doubt that the Secretary of State can support an asylum seeker's dependants independently of the asylum seeker himself; for example, if he were detained for some reason. As currently drafted, Clause 89 defines a supported person as being an asylum seeker or his dependant to whom support is given under Clause 90.

Amendment No. 114 simply amends this form of words so that it refers to a person for whom support is provided, thereby harmonising it with existing references elsewhere in Part VI.

Amendment No. 116 is a technical amendment which makes it clear that for the purposes of Part VI an asylum seeker's appeal against refusal of asylum is regarded as being disposed of when it is no longer pending for the purposes of the Immigration Acts or the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997. This would include appeals to the Court of Appeal and to the House of Lords.

This is important in terms of the termination of support because an asylum seeker being supported under Part VI whose appeal against refusal of asylum has been unsuccessful ceases to be entitled to support at the end of a prescribed period following notification of the outcome of that appeal.

There has to be a defined end to the asylum process at which point support provided under Part VI will be terminated. In essence, this is at the end of a prescribed period after the asylum seeker is notified of the decision on his asylum claim or, if he appeals, when he is notified of the decision on the final appeal. But given our concern for the welfare of children, Clause 89(5) disapplies that provision to families with children under the age of 18. They will receive support for as long as they remain in the United Kingdom.

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Amendment No. 117 clarifies that once the youngest child reaches his 18th birthday, the family will cease to continue to be entitled to support under subsection (5). It will be a wholly adult household and should be treated in the same way as other adult asylum seekers. This was always out intention and the amendment ensures that that is the case.

The purpose of Amendment No. 181 is slightly to broaden the powers of the Secretary of State with regard to the recovery of overpayments as provided under the clause. At present, the clause extends to payments made under the main support scheme. The amendment extends this so that erroneous overpayments made under the powers in Clause 94 would also be covered. Any use of these powers would be in respect of public monies disbursed in error. The power of recovery simply places the public purse back into the position in which it would have been had the payment not been made. The existing provisions make allowance for secondary legislation to prescribe exactly how the recovery is to be achieved other than through the courts. Clearly, efforts would be made to ensure that the recovery did not lead to untoward difficulties for innocent recipients of the unintended bounty. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 111 to 114:

Page 59, line 18, after (“asylum-seeker") insert (“or a supported person").
Page 59, line 20, leave out (“the asylum-seeker's") and insert (“his").
Page 59, line 21, leave out (“the asylum-seeker") and insert (“his").
Page 59, line 37, leave out (“to whom support is given") and insert (“for whom support is provided").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark moved Amendment No. 115:

Page 60, line 3, at end insert (“and shall in any event be extended--
(i) in the event that either party indicates an intention to bring judicial review proceedings in respect of an asylum claim or other aspect of an asylum seeker's immigration status, for a period reasonably long enough to enable him to do so, and
(ii) for so long as any such proceedings, and any further appeal or proceedings arising from them, remain pending, and
(iii) whether or not such proceedings are proposed or taken, for so long as the Secretary of State has under consideration further representations in respect of the claimant's immigration status, and
(iv) whenever and for so long as the Secretary of State does not or is for any reason unable to effect the removal of an asylum seeker and his dependants (if any) following rejection of an asylum claim").

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, Amendment No. 115 seeks to prevent support for an asylum seeker, with or without a family, being prematurely terminated. Its sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii)

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concern further proceedings which either the asylum seeker or the Secretary of State may have the right to bring with the leave of the court in question.

Obviously, hunger and homelessness should not be used to block access to justice to asylum seekers who may have good grounds to apply for judicial review. The rule of law is nullified if access to justice is denied to the most vulnerable, especially if they risk being starved out of their legal rights by the other party in the legal proceedings in question; in this case, the Government. As things stand, there is no power to extend support even when it is the Secretary of State who brings the challenge. That appears self-evidently to be wrong.

It will be no less wrong, and equally a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, to impose destitution in an attempt to prevent asylum seekers taking up their legal rights to seek to challenge unfavourable determinations. This aspect of the present proposals is perhaps especially worrying in the light of the 81 per cent success rate in immigration cases where leave to move for judicial review was granted in 1996-97. But the principle would be the same, whatever the statistics.

Sub-paragraph (iii) concerns the Secretary of State's power to reconsider cases. Surely, it would be wrong to fetter the duty and discretion of the Secretary of State to consider the adjudicator's recommendations or further recommendations and representations following a failed appeal by depriving the Secretary of State the power to extend support while he does so. There may be changes in family or other circumstances, or non-asylum humanitarian considerations, into which the Secretary of State would wish to make further inquiry. But as things stand, he may be effectively constrained from taking the necessary time to do so by the fact that the asylum seeker meanwhile has no means of feeding himself or herself.

Sub-paragraph (iv) concerns the various other circumstances in which unsuccessful asylum applicants may not be immediately removable from the United Kingdom. The asylum seeker may be in an advanced stage of pregnancy or otherwise unfit to travel; there may be problems and delays in travel documentation; or the circumstance in the country of origin may be such that removal to that destination is for the time being impossible or dangerous. For example, for the past year or more, UNHCR has advised that failed asylum seekers cannot safely be returned to Angola. That has resulted in some failed Angolan asylum seekers being on temporary admission for months following the dismissal of their appeals, with support where necessary being provided by their local authorities under the National Assistance Act and the Children Act.

What might happen to such people in the future if this part of the Bill is passed unamended? They could be removed from support scheme accommodation in whatever location they might have been dispersed, with no money or other means to feed or house themselves. As persons subject to immigration control,

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they would have no access to local authority assistance. What will they do? Will they beg, steal, and sleep in the streets?

In addition to all the other socially undesirable features of that scenario, how is it envisaged that the Immigration Service will find them when, and if, removal becomes feasible? It would be inhuman, not to mention prohibitively expensive, to detain indefinitely all those who, through no fault of their own, cannot yet be removed. The alternative, unless this amendment is passed, is the creation of a roaming vagabond class of unknown size and with no incentive whatever to maintain contact with the authorities.

The response of Mr O'Brien, the Minister in another place--that provision may be made for support through the voluntary sector--is not an adequate response. We in the voluntary sector seek to meet human need wherever necessary. Need often occurs through unforeseen circumstances or unforeseen consequences of otherwise enlightened legislation. We are more than happy to help to meet temporary needs in such circumstances. However, we are not happy to agree to provide a safety net in situations which are deliberately entered into. Without this amendment, it seems to me quite obvious that some people will be at risk of being made destitute. It is simply our duty to prevent that. I beg to move.

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