Clause 16

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 13th March 2007.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Transport 12:15 pm, 13th March 2007

Much of what we have been doing has been because a lot is left unsaid in the Bill. Being reasonable about the operation of the Bill, we have attempted to specify matters. We are attempting here to make it clear that the Bill will comply with the treaty obligations that this country has entered into. No hon. Member should have a problem with that, because they are policies to which this Government have signed up.

Amendment No. 129 relates to any restrictions placed on someone under the age of 18. I am concerned about children being subject to stringent conditions. Will the Under-Secretary explain why she feels that to be necessary? The bulk of the young people concerned will be in full-time education. We had debates earlier about who the right people are to deal with young people, and I do not see the point of someone under the age of 18 having their education disrupted and having to travel long distances, perhaps with their parents, to travel to a detention or immigration centre. That would be disruptive and  could be quite unsettling to a young person. I therefore hope that we can make a distinction for the reporting rights for young people, given that they are highly unlikely to abscond if their parents are subject to reporting.

The final amendment actually tries to take the purpose of this clause further. I am greatly concerned that as the law is currently framed, asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their appeal is progressing. That is expensive and unnecessary; given that many asylum seekers are in this country for a considerable time, and at considerable cost to this country, it would reduce the costs to the Exchequer if they were able to gain employment. It is also good, from a human point of view, for any individual to have self-worth and to demonstrate that by employment.

So, the purpose of amendment No. 130 is to grant permission to any person who is granted limited right to remain,

“to seek employment from two months after an appeal has been lodged”

I do not want to see that being used as an excuse or reason for appeals to be delayed further. We need to ensure that the appeal process is firm, fair and expedited. While this is not an excuse to prolong the appeal, if that person is involved in one then they ought to have the right to work—with any income that they receive being offset against any benefits received. I hope that the Minister can give us the assurances that we seek on the first part of clause 16, and that he will consider extending it to allow asylum seekers to gain employment.