Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 10th October 2002.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 6:45 pm, 10th October 2002

My Lords, it is pleasant to have one's words quoted back at one. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for rehearsing part of my argument from Committee. I want to make it plain that the Government have no intention of frustrating or preventing those seeking asylum from seeking independent legal advice. I pointed out in Committee that that is made clear in the White Paper in paragraph 4.36, which says:

"While access to legal advice is not a pre-requisite to initial decision making, and should not hold up the decision-making process, the Government is committed to ensuring access to quality legal advice at that, and all later stages, for all asylum seekers whether or not they are in an Accommodation Centre".

I remind the House what happens in the induction programme. It is not part of the decision-making process. Let us be clear about that. At that stage no consideration will be given to the merits of an individual's asylum claim. The induction programme and process is aimed at giving asylum seekers information about the overall process and about their rights and responsibilities within that process. Our case is that at that stage there will be no need for legal advisers to be present when such information is being provided.

Information about legal advice will form an important part of the induction programme. Those seeking asylum will be advised on how they can best access legal advice and where it will be available. Before a person leaves the induction centre they will, for example, be given information about how they can access legal advice in the area in which they are likely to be living. They will also be given a date for when the interview on the substance of their asylum claim will be held. That will normally be two to three weeks from the date on which they leave the induction programme.

All asylum seekers will have the opportunity to discuss their claim before that interview if they wish. Applicants who spend longer in the induction centre will not be at a disadvantage compared with others since the timing of the substantive interview depends on when the person leaves the centre, not on when he or she arrives.

I entirely agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that there is little point in imposing a requirement that legal advice be provided at that stage.