Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:29 pm on 24th October 2002.

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Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 3:29 pm, 24th October 2002

My Lords, this matter was discussed at some length during recommitment last week. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, which have been tabled by us with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is to ameliorate the Government's proposal to withdraw subsistence-only support. Amendment No. 2 would remove the Secretary of State's power to remove subsistence-only support from all asylum seekers in one fell swoop. Amendment No. 3 would oblige the Secretary of State to take into account personal circumstances of asylum seekers when deciding to withdraw subsistence-only support. Amendment No. 4 would ensure that those in receipt of subsistence-only support before the coming into force of the order would retain it. Thus, the Secretary of State could provide only that new cases were not to receive subsistence-only support.

My purpose in moving the amendment is to seek some broad assurances from the Government that they will not bring the provision into force to place people in National Asylum Support Service accommodation but that they intend to use it only when accommodation centres are up and running in which they can place people. Secondly, the Government must accept that families provide not only material but also practical and emotional support to asylum seekers and must respect the principle of family unity. The third assurance that we seek is that the Government will respect the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in implementing the provision and will not separate children from carers.

We also want the Government, before Third Reading, if possible, to place in the Library details of the number of people—especially principal applicants and dependants—claiming subsistence-only support for the week ending 13th October 2002. That would give us an indication of what expenditure the Government will incur under the provision.

Among those who have expressed concern about the provision is the Greater London Assembly. The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux has recently produced a report entitled Distant Voices, referred to during the previous debate, which identifies serious and systematic concerns. It states that,

"more than 400 social policy evidence reports received by NACAB from CABx since 1 March 2002", demonstrate,

"that the Government's stated perception of the current performance of NASS is far from reality".

I hope that the Government will not impose extra responsibilities on that body, the performance of which is questionable. I hope that the Minister can give the assurances for which I have asked. I beg to move.