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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord mentioned “substantial sums". Will he give the House a rough idea of what is meant by that and whether the voluntary sector has been consulted on whether it wants that burden?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not have the precise figure at my fingertips. I shall write to the noble Lord in relation to that. The question of whether the voluntary sector has been consulted was also raised

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1136

in Committee. The answer is yes, it has been consulted. I acknowledge that the voluntary sector said in many cases that it preferred the matter not to be dealt with in this way. Of course, for obvious reasons, any sensible voluntary sector organisation would say from its point of view that it is far better that the state bears that burden. However, we do not believe that that is the right approach as a matter of policy.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I respect the arrangements which the Government seek to make for what the Minister has called “hard cases". However, with respect, such hard cases sometimes end up on the streets or on our doorsteps and I prefer not to see more of them.

I feel that this matter involves an important legal and moral principle. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

5.25 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 115) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 74; Not-Contents, 122.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Ackner, L.
Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Avebury, L.
Bath and Wells, Bp.
Bradshaw, L.
Brentford, V.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Clancarty, E.
Clement-Jones, L.
Davidson, V.
Dholakia, L.
Elton, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Gage, V.
Geraint, L.
Glanusk, L.
Goodhart, L.
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Hemphill, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hylton, L.
Jakobovits, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Kenilworth, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kinnoull, E.
Kintore, E.
Lauderdale, E.
Lichfield, Bp.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Merrivale, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Newall, L.
Newby, L.
Noel-Buxton, L.
Nunburnholme, L.
Ogmore, L.
Palmer, L.
Patel, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E. [Teller]
Sandwich, E.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Southwark, Bp. [Teller]
Suffield, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Hacking, L.
Hanworth, V.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Leathers, V.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Northbourne, L.
Orme, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thornton, B.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1137

5.35 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 116:


Page 60, line 5, leave out (“Part IV") and insert (“the Immigration Acts or the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997").

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1138

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 117:


Page 60, line 8, after (“while") insert (“--
(a) the child is under 18; and
(b)")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark moved Amendment No. 118:


After Clause 89, insert the following new clause--

ELIGIBILITY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

(“. An asylum-seeker, and his dependants (if any), shall be eligible for any social security benefits to which they would have been entitled if neither Part VI of this Act or Schedule 1 to the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 had been in force, until such time as the Secretary of State has placed a report in the Library of the House of Commons giving details of the average process times in the determination of--
(a) initial asylum decisions; and
(b) appeals to adjudicators against initial asylum decisions,
and certifying that the average time from the lodging of the application for asylum to the determination of an adjudicator of the appeal against the initial asylum decisions is less than six months.").

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, it is no secret that those of us in the voluntary sector involved in the day-to-day care of asylum seekers do not like the system of vouchers proposed in the Bill; nor do we like the overall level of the support package. Nevertheless, we have been slightly comforted by the Government's constant assurance that the care package is simply for a matter of months while an asylum application is swiftly decided, after which a successful applicant would fall within the normal benefit system. So there will be an inadequate and harsh system of care imposed for a matter of months.

The problem is that there are grave doubts that cases will be decided in a matter of months. The Home Office computer at Croydon lies within my diocese and I am not at all comforted by the stories from those working there. The figures are not too bright: a little over 2,000 decisions made in July; 4,680 in June and 4,185 in May. Furthermore, the July figure included speedier Yugoslavian cases for which less casework was required.

The Government's aim of fairer, faster, firmer decision-making is thoroughly laudable. The aim of reducing the average time for processing applications to six months is a noble one. However, if that target is not reached in the short or the medium term, it is not right for asylum seekers to exist for years on an inadequate care package which was designed to see them through a few months.

Of course, we understand the politics of the matter. The Government do not want to be seen to be a soft touch for asylum seekers with weak cases, which is why vouchers, not cash, are given. I am also sure that the Government do not want to appear to be harsh and unjust to those who prove to be genuine in their search for sanctuary in this humane country of ours.

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1139

Amendment No. 118 takes the Government at their word and would provide that the support system shall not come into force until the Government have met their own targets for processing and that, in the mean time, benefits shall be restored to all asylum seekers who qualify for them. The Government have issued a consultation paper laying out new interim arrangements to be operated by local authorities from the coming into force of the Bill to the coming into force of the support arrangements to be operated by the proposed asylum support directive. It seems that those interim arrangements will, to a large extent, mirror the support arrangements under the Bill.

I may well have misunderstood these matters as they are complex and complicated. It appears that these proposals for interim arrangements constitute a breach of a commitment not to bring families into the support system until the time targets are met, as the interim arrangements would mean that they would be living under virtually the same scheme.

Amendment No. 118 would supersede all of that by restoring benefits for an interim period until the Government's targets are met. It keeps matters straightforward and just. I hope that your Lordships will support it. I beg to move.


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