Section 6A

Homelessness etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:15 pm on 5th March 2003.

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Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

Amendments 1 and 2 form the Executive's response to amendment 32, which was lodged by Robert Brown at stage 2 and which the committee accepted. Robert Brown argued that a person who is housed by the national asylum support service is not in a position to choose the area in which they live. Therefore, they should not be considered to have established a local connection with that area.

The real issue that underlies the matter is a cross-border issue and the bill cannot provide a solution whereby an English council determines a local connection differently from a Scottish authority. However, I understand that, on Friday, the Court of Appeal ruled in the case of two families dispersed to Glasgow by NASS that residence in Glasgow was not the applicants' choice and did not establish a local connection in Glasgow. The court ruled that the families were entitled to apply for accommodation in a London authority area.

Members know that the local connection will be suspended in due course. I hope that that will remove the problem altogether in Scotland for the period of that suspension. For that reason, there was a question about whether the amendment that was passed was wholly necessary.

We accept that the committee wished to highlight what it thought was a particular injustice. Executive amendment 2 leaves the policy intention in place, but alters the wording,

"accommodation provided by the National Asylum Support Service," which has no legal basis, to refer instead to the legislative power under which such accommodation is offered.

Amendment 1 removes the reference to seeking employment, which was also introduced at stage 2 through Robert Brown's amendment. No compelling argument was made then for its inclusion in primary legislation. Subsequently, we found that subordinate powers exist through which the current list of factors resulting in a residence being considered to be not of the applicant's choice can be added to. If there is a real case for adding further categories, it should be argued in the context of a review of the existing provisions. If necessary, such a review would sensibly take place when we consider the operation of the proposals to suspend local connection altogether.

I move amendment 1.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

My colleague Kenny Gibson and I were pleased to support Robert Brown's amendment 32 at stage 2. I am a bit concerned about amendment 1, which removes the reference to employment, as we have a big enough unemployment problem without militating against people's ability to find work easily by moving.

On amendment 2, all of us must face up to responsibilities in helping people from other areas of the world who flee to our country or are sent to our country from down south. I am glad that the Executive is taking the issue on board and that, at stage 2, it said that it would consider the matter and suggest an appropriate form of words—the Executive is to commended for and congratulated on that. I hope that the work that people in Scotland are trying to do on asylum and immigration issues will spread and be listened to by the minister's colleagues at the Home Office.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I thank the minister for his response. As he rightly said, the refugee issue ought to be a small issue, taking into account the number of people who are affected, and there are cross-border implications that we cannot deal with. Nevertheless, a useful signal will be sent about the approach that we take to such matters and our inclusive attitude towards asylum seekers and refugees.

There may or may not be an issue relating to employment. I accept that the matter can be dealt with in other ways. With the assistance of the homelessness organisations, I was unable to come up with particular cases that are causing concern, so I am prepared to leave the matter for the moment.

An element of frustration underlies the refugee issue. I have no particular difficulty with the fact that the issue of refugees who come to this country is reserved to Westminster, but a number of us are beginning to feel that the social consequences—how people relate to local communities, the housing issues with which we are dealing here and so on—would be more satisfactorily dealt with within the context of the Scottish Parliament's rights.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

The arguments have been spelled out. The Executive has responded to the substantive issue that Robert Brown raised and has tried to put it in the appropriate legislative context. Robert Brown has recognised that what his amendment at stage 2 intended to achieve in respect of employment concerns cannot be substantiated and that the matter can be dealt with through other powers. I encourage members to support amendments 1 and 2.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 7

For: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnstone, Alex, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan, Young, John
Against: Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Cunningham, Roseanna, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Hyslop, Fiona, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinney, Mr John, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 71, Against 22, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment 2 moved—[Des McNulty]—and agreed to.