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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 160:

Page 64, line 19, at end insert--
(“( ) A local authority may incur reasonable expenditure in connection with the preparation of proposals for entering into arrangements under section 90.
( ) The powers conferred on a local authority by this section include power to--
(a) provide services outside their area,
(b) provide services jointly with one or more bodies who are not local authorities;
(c) form a company for the purpose of providing services;
(d) tender for contracts (whether alone or with any other person).").

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1218

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 97 [Reception zones]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 161 to 167:

Page 65, line 23, at end insert--
(“( ) The Secretary of State's power to give a direction under subsection (3) in respect of a particular reception zone must be exercised by reference to criteria specified for the purposes of this subsection in the order designating that zone.
( ) The Secretary of State may not give a direction under subsection (3) in respect of a local authority in Scotland unless the Scottish Ministers have confirmed to him that the criteria specified in the designation order concerned are in their opinion met in relation to that authority.").
Page 65, line 30, at end insert--
(“( ) If housing accommodation for which a direction under this section is, for the time being, in force--
(a) is not appropriate for the accommodation of persons supported under this Part, but
(b) is capable of being made so with minor work,
the direction may require the body to whom it is given to secure that that work is done without delay.").
Page 65, line 35, leave out (“for the calculation of") and insert (“as to the method to be used in determining").
Page 65, line 42, at end insert--
(“( ) with respect to the condition in which the accommodation is to be returned when the direction ceases to have effect.").
Page 65, line 42, at end insert--
(“(8A) Regulations under subsection (7) may, in particular, include provision--
(a) for the cost, or part of the cost, of minor work required by a direction under this section to be met by the Secretary of State in prescribed circumstances;
(b) as to the maximum amount of expenditure which a body may be required to incur as a result of a direction under this section.").
Page 65, line 42, at end insert--
(“(8B) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision (“the dispute resolution procedure") for resolving disputes arising in connection with the operation of any regulations made under subsection (7).
(8C) Regulations under subsection (8B) must include provision--
(a) requiring a dispute to be resolved in accordance with the dispute resolution procedure;
(b) requiring the parties to a dispute to comply with obligations imposed on them by the procedure; and
(c) for the decision of the person resolving a dispute in accordance with the procedure to be final and binding on the parties.").
Page 65, line 43, after (“Britain") insert--
(“(b) determining the criteria to be included in the order designating the zone, or
(c) making regulations under subsection (8B),").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 168 and 169 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 170:

Page 66, line 1, after (“zone") insert (“, or
(b) determining the criteria to be included in the order designating Northern Ireland,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1219

10.30 p.m.

Clause 99 [Appeals]:

Lord Alton of Liverpool moved Amendment No. 171:

Page 66, line 23, at end insert--
(“( ) If the Secretary of State provides or offers to provide support which the applicant contends is not adequate for his needs and the needs of his dependants (if any), the applicant may appeal to an adjudicator.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Members of your Lordships' House will recall that in Committee we had a debate about exactly the same amendment. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to rehearse the arguments again at length this evening, but other noble Lords and I indicated then that we would return to the question on Report.

The amendment provides for a right of appeal against the offer of inadequate or unsuitable support. Rather than using the judges dealing with the Crown Office, and those hearing judicial reviews, the amendment instead seeks to utilise the asylum support adjudicators. It seems to me on the face of it a more sensible and efficient configuration of duties.

Without the amendment, there are likely to be many more judicial reviews, something the Government say they hope that their legislation will prevent in the future. However, I suspect that there will be more judicial reviews on issues such as levels of support.

Where people are housed in unsuitable or unsafe accommodation or where there are special needs--for example, those relating to disability, an issue we have discussed at some length tonight--or where they have not been adequately provided for, it will be unsafe for them to continue being supported at the inadequate level.

I recognise that in Amendment No. 175 which is grouped with this, the Government have tried to come some way in our direction. It would be churlish not to recognise that and not to express my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord. I know that he was receptive to the arguments when we discussed them in Committee.

The amendment provides for the possibility of extending the adjudicator's jurisdiction, specifically only on the issue of location. I do not believe location is the only issue at stake here. The Government have taken powers to extend the jurisdiction of the adjudicator, presumably in response to the debate in your Lordships' House, and to prevent a deluge of judicial reviews on the subject. They have not extended it outright. It seems to me that it would be sensible for them to take powers at the least to enable them to extend the provision further in the future, if they thought it appropriate. The judicial reviews might turn out to be less about location and far more about levels of support.

My amendment, therefore, provides for the appeal process, if extended, to be modified in the future on the basis of experience. Rights in connection with such reviews need to cover matters such as the equality of the parties, rights to a hearing and other fundamental issues.

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1220

When we considered the detailed schedules to the Bill devoted to the asylum support adjudication process, we could see how flawed the process was and the need to ensure that there are proper systems of appeal for those who might feel that they have been hardly done by. The matter should at the least be considered by the Delegated Powers Select Committee. I hope that when the noble and learned Lord comes to reply to the debate he will consider that point. I beg to move.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, this is an excellent amendment. I support what was clearly stated by my noble friend. We all know that the new system will be based on a whole array of central government regulations, most of which are not yet even in draft. We cannot, in the nature of things, be certain that the new system will be adequate to meet all needs.

It is also reasonably certain that there will be the widest possible variety of different circumstances applying to different single individuals and different families dispersed throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. On those grounds, I am pleased to support the amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, I believe that this is an important amendment, particularly in relation to the needs of families with children, for two reasons. First, it is possible that the needs of particular dependent children may not be sufficiently comprehended for them to be adequately met in the initial provision of support for such children. Surely, it is important that there should be grounds for appeal to an adjudicator in such circumstances in order to prevent any harm coming to the child.

Secondly, we all know that the needs of children change over time, sometimes quite dramatically. The Government's objectives to reduce the time taken for asylum claims and appeals to be determined are welcome, but they may not be met as early as intended. Even if they are, the needs of a child can change significantly in the course of six months. I strongly support the amendment and hope that the Government will give it favourable consideration.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I should like to relate Amendment No. 171 to Amendment No. 175. I strongly support the comments of the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Hylton, on Amendment No. 171. However, we also recognise, as did the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that Amendment No. 175 goes some way to meet the point, and for that we are grateful. Having been up to now rather sceptical about regulations, this is perhaps one of the few areas of the Bill in which I believe it would be very helpful if regulations could be made as quickly as possible in order that the adjudicator could deal with the issues relevant to Amendment No. 175. That would go some way to meeting the concerns of noble Lords in relation to Amendment No. 171. With those few words, I give my support to the amendment.

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