Asylum and Immigration

Scottish Ambulance Service – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 7 February 2002.

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Photo of Kate Maclean Kate Maclean Labour 2:30, 7 February 2002

To ask the Scottish Executive when it last met Her Majesty's Government in order to discuss issues relating to asylum and immigration. (S1O-4646)

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I met with George Foulkes, Minister of State at the Scotland Office, and Lord Rooker, Minister of State at the Home Office on Monday 4 February, as part of on-going dialogue, to discuss asylum seekers and refugees.

Photo of Kate Maclean Kate Maclean Labour

The minister will be aware that the white paper on immigration and asylum that was published today contains proposals to require asylum seekers to pass an English language and citizenship test. As refugee integration is fully devolved, does the minister accept that it is likely that local councils will have the responsibility for preparations to meet the criteria, in addition to their other responsibilities for asylum seekers? Are there plans in the local government finance settlement to examine provision to cover the additional costs for councils that are already strapped for cash?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The detailed arrangements that follow on from the white paper, in this area as well as in others, are under discussion and form part of the discussion to which I referred in my first answer. Provision of support for English language skills and funding arrangements were part of those discussions.

Any changes in support would complement three things. First, councils will receive £0.5 billion more grant in 2002-03 than in 2001-02, which means that additional resources are being made available. Secondly, where particular burdens arise, including in Glasgow, which is involved in the asylum seekers dispersal programme, additional funds have been provided through social inclusion partnerships for host communities as a whole. Some of those moneys have been used for language services and improving access. Thirdly, there will be additional support and the freeing-up of rules for further education colleges to enable them to undertake that type of work. In addressing the burdens that might flow from the white paper, there has to be a combination of those three things.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

When the minister next meets his colleagues in the Home Office, will he tell them that it is unacceptable for ladies and gentlemen from churches in my constituency region of Central Scotland to be fingerprinted and photographed routinely when they choose to visit Dungavel detention centre residents?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The administration of Dungavel is, of course, reserved entirely to the Home Office. I suggest that Linda Fabiani ask her Westminster colleagues to broach the subject in the proper place. As the question has been raised with me today, I will raise it at the next meeting that I have with United Kingdom Government colleagues. As I have pointed out, such meetings happen regularly.