Asylum Seekers

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1996.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East 12:00 am, 23rd January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security to what extent his proposals for reducing the scope for asylum seekers to claim income support apply to the provision of free school meals to their children. [8800]

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

Only those entitled to income support are eligible for free school meals for their children.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East

Can the Secretary of State confirm that some asylum seekers will not be permitted to work, will not be able to claim any benefits, and will now not be able to claim free school meals for their children? How does he expect them to live?

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

That is not the situation. Asylum seekers are entitled to work—and they receive such an entitlement—after they have been in the country for six months. The responsibilities of local authorities under the Children Act 1989 will not change. Local authorities have a duty to ensure that children in their areas do not suffer hardship, and they must make financial provision to prevent that.

We hope that the vast majority of asylum seekers will either be genuine refugees who make that claim at the ports, and will therefore be entitled to benefit, or will have the means to support themselves, be able to demonstrate that fact and be able to support their children. The risk of hardship to which the hon. Gentleman refers therefore does not arise.