Clause 17

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 13th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:15 pm, 13th March 2007

I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling his probing amendment. It would perhaps be useful if I were to explain the situation to the Committee for the purposes of clarity and scrutiny.

The hon. Gentleman knows that the clause seeks to maintain the status quo, whereby we can make available asylum support for those individuals who have had an initial decision refused and are awaiting their appeal. Previously, that was always the case, but it has been called into question in the courts and it is currently stayed in the House of Lords while we are seeking to legislate in order to clarify the position.

If we cannot continue to pay asylum support during that period, we would have to consider making available support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which is accommodation and a voucher method of payment. It has never been our intention that we should move towards that situation while someone is still in the process of an asylum application. That support is aimed at those who have exhausted all means of appeal in the asylum process, but are not able to be removed at that point in time. Clearly, we would not wish for those individuals to be destitute and therefore there is the provision of support under section 4 of the 1999 Act. That support should not apply to people who are between the point of initial application and appeal.

The reason that the amendment is worded as it is, and also with reference to Government amendment No. 109—a technical amendment—is related to the fact that we do not only provide support under  section 95 of the 1999 Act. It is also in relation to those who would be covered by schedule 3 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which does not only cover asylum applicants.

Our problem, and the reason for the wording, is that those who are refused at the initial decision have a grace period within which to apply for appeal. That grace period is 10 working days, and if they put their appeal in within that period there is not an issue. We wish to ensure that that applies also to those covered by schedule 3. If it does not, there will be a gap in the system for some who do not put in their appeal. Even if they make an appeal immediately it will take some days to process, so there will still be a gap during which they have no means of support. One can imagine the cost to the system of people having to go through a process of applying for section 4 support for a week before going back on section 95 support. It would be expensive and chaotic and certainly would not provide people with the support that they need on a timely basis.

We need to ensure not only that people apply within the 10 days and that we apply the same 10-day period to schedule 3, under which there is no grace period, but that those awaiting appeal can still be defined as asylum seekers for the purpose of support and that both those receiving section 95 support and those covered by schedule 3 have the grace period of10 working days within which to make their applications. If we were to extend that to out-of-time applications beyond the 10 working days, there could be an indefinite period in which we would be paying asylum support while somebody considered whether to make an application.