§ Lords amendment: No. 1, insert the following new clause— Young unaccompanied asylum seekers—
§ " (.—(1) The Secretary of State shall by order establish an advisory panel for the purpose of making advice available to a child who has arrived in the United Kingdom unaccompanied by an adult person capable of looking after him.
§ (2) The members of such advisory panel shall be appointed from time to time in accordance with the provisions of section (Appointment and. functions of advisory panel) below and shall have the functions therein described.
§ (3) A member of such advisory panel is referred to as an asylum-seekers adviser.
§ (4) Where a child unaccompanied by an adult person capable of looking after him arrives in the United Kingdom and is, or appears to an immigration officer to be, under the age of 18 years and such child has made, or may reasonably be considered as desiring to make, a claim for asylum, the immigration officer shall notify the advisory panel with a view to the child being forthwith referred to an appropriate asylum-seekers adviser for the purpose of carrying out the functions described in section (Appointment and functions of advisory panel) below.)."3.52 pm
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle)
I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.
§ Madam Speaker
With this, it will he convenient to discuss also Lords amendment No. 2 and the Government motion to disagree, and Lords amendment No. 12 and the Government motion to disagree. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 involve privilege.
§ Mr. Wardle
Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 would place on my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary a
statutory duty to establish a panel of advisers whose function would be to befriend and advise asylum seekers under the age of 16 who arrive in this country unaccompanied by an adult.
The House will be aware that the amendments were passed on Report in the other place and reflect the widely felt and understandable concern that we should be seen to be doing all we can to protect the interests and welfare of unaccompanied child asylum seekers. The Government understand, respect and share that concern.
Our decision not to accept the two amendments is not based on any lack of sympathy for unaccompanied children arriving in this country. As I shall show shortly, we intend to meet in a very practical manner the spirit and purpose of the proposals by Lord Brightman, who moved the amendments in another place. Let me take this early opportunity to thank the noble Lord and commend him for his courteous advice and helpful guidance on such matters.
I should also make it clear that our decision is not based on questions of cost. The amendments would create a charge on public funds and, if this House disagrees with the amendments, the formal reason which will have to be given is that they infringe the privileges of this House.
27 However, as I will show shortly, the Government are prepared to provide resources to help meet the needs of those children in what we believe is a more appropriate way. Therefore, cost is not the issue.
The Government are as determined as anyone to see that the immigration status of such children is resolved with the minimum of delay and stress, and that the proper arrangements are made for their care, accommodation, health and education needs. The real point of difference between the Government's approach and the approach adopted in the amendments is that we do not believe that the creation of a statutory panel of advisers is the best way to protect the interests of this group of children.
I will refer in a moment to our own view of how that should be achieved, but first I want to explain why we do not believe that including a statutory requirement in the Bill for the creation of a panel of advisers and the assignment of an adviser to every asylum-seeking child is either necessary or desirable.
The amendments envisage that the adviser would give advice to the young asylum seeker on immigration matters and on a range of welfare issues, including accommodation, health and education. Dealing first with immigration matters, there may be a belief that, without an adviser to protect their interests, unaccompanied children are at risk of being sent to countries where they may be in danger of persecution or where there is no one to look after them.
I can assure the House that any such fears are misplaced and unfounded. In the first place, the 1951 convention on refugees applies to children in exactly the same way that it applies to adults. The strict issue to be resolved in determining a claim for asylum is the same for a child as it is for an adult—would his removal result in his being sent to a country where his life or freedom would be threatened?
Over and above that asylum issue, simple humanity demands that any immigration decision to remove an unaccompanied child involves consideration of whether safe and adequate reception arrangements for the child can be made. We would not send an unaccompanied child to another country, whether or nor that child had claimed asylum, unless we were satisfied that such arrangements had been made.
Of course we recognise that children who are claiming asylum may need help with the presentation of their cases to the Home Office. The Home Office already funds the refugee legal centre to provide advice to asylum seekers and representation in asylum appeals. That body is currently developing a team of counsellors designated to dealing with vulnerable applicants, including children.
Those counsellors will he specialists in asylum procedures and in preparing and presenting cases. They will have access to a considerable body of knowledge about conditions in countries from which asylum seekers come. We do not believe that it would be sensible for a panel of advisers to seek to duplicate that role.
Meeting the longer-term welfare needs of the child is clearly the responsibility of the appropriate local authority. The provisions of the Children Act 1989 make no distinction on the basis of a child's nationality or immigration status. They apply in the same way to 28 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as they apply to any other child in this country who has no responsible adult capable of looking after his welfare and interests.
There is a statutory duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of all the children they look after and to satisfy themselves that the welfare of privately fostered children is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. In other words, the function which the amendments would confer on a new panel of advisers is already part of the statutory function of a local authority.
The local authority is the body best placed in terms of personnel, experience, facilities and resources to care for the needs of unaccompanied children. To create a new statutory' body charged with those functions could create a duplication of effort and blur lines of responsibility.
The amendments appear to recognise that risk by stating that nothing in the two new clauses affects the powers or duties of local authorities. However, as the primary responsibility is to continue to rest with the local authority, it is difficult to see why the functions of the proposed adviser need to be placed on a statutory basis.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
The Minister prayed in aid the role of the children's legal centre. He will know that it has advocated a guardianship system or a panel of advisers along the lines of the Brightman amendment.
§ Mr. Wardle
As I hope to demonstrate to the House, what we propose in the way of a panel of advisers will meet with the approval of the refugee legal centre and other interested parties.
The amendments envisage that the panel will include, so far as is practicable, persons who can speak the child's language, who are familiar with the habits and customs of the child's homeland and who have knowledge of child care legislation and immigration procedures.
We recognise that local authority social services departments may need help in some or several of those aspects, but the extent and nature of the help that is needed will vary from case to case. There may be cases in which the involvement of a person with specialised background knowledge of the child's own country and language is of help both to the child and to the social services, but there might equally be cases in which the local authority is able to meet that need from within its own resources, and the involvement of a separate adviser is unnecessary and might even be counter-productive.
Moreover, unaccompanied children might arrive from anywhere in the world and it would not be possible to guarantee—indeed, it seems quite unlikely—that any statutory panel of advisers could provide for every child a person who had the relevant language skills and background knowledge. It is difficult to see how the appointment of an adviser without those qualifications would materially assist the child.
A statutory requirement for the appointment of an adviser for every unaccompanied asylum-seeking child therefore seems too rigid. What is needed is a system which can operate flexibly to provide appropriate response to the needs of each child, to fill gaps where they exist, and to avoid creating duplication of effort or confusion of responsibilities where gaps do not exist. There are existing 29 responsibilities covering all the needs of children in that position. Inevitably, different needs are covered by different services.
We believe that the crucial task is to ensure that those different services mesh together properly and that those providing the services have the support and specialised advice that they need. It is vital to mobilise and harness the potential sources of help within the various communities that are already here. We believe that those ends will be better achieved by supporting practical, non-statutory initiatives rather than by imposing a new statutory framework that might conflict with other statutory requirements.
The Home Office has agreed in principle to fund a non-statutory panel of advisers, which the Refugee Council has offered to establish and administer. The advisers would be volunteers from the communities from which most children could be expected to come, selected for their suitability for that role, and given the necessary training.
It is envisaged that, when an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child arrives in this country or comes to the notice of the Home Office when they are already in this country and applying, as some do, the immigration officer or the Home Office would notify both the appropriate social services department and the administrator of the new panel, who would offer the services of an adviser to the social services department wherever that was possible and desirable.
The function of the adviser would principally be to ensure that the social services department was aware of the child's wishes and of relevant cultural considerations and that the child understands as far as possible, taking his or her age into account, what is happening and what choices he or she has.
The agreement to fund the panel of advisers is necessarily for one year in the first instance, but that does not indicate any lack of commitment on the Government's part to the longer term view. Public expenditure decisions have to be taken on an annual basis. There is no way in which I can give the House a cast-iron guarantee of a specific level of support in future years, particularly in relation to a new commitment that has not featured in our earlier spending plans, but we certainly intend to give the scheme sufficient support to enable the concept of children's advisers to have a fair period of trial.
We believe that the scheme will—
§ Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)
The Minister contradicted himself. I have been taking down some of the points that he has been making. He said, "Cost is not the issue." He has now gone on to say that he cannot give any forward cost commitments. What is the position? Is cost the issue or one of the issues?
§ Mr. Wardle
I have made it perfectly clear that cost is not the issue. I have explained that I am able to specify only what will be offerred in the first year. I cannot give any guarantees. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) understands how the Treasury functions, and he understands the rules in these matters. It is not possible for me, particularly with an entirely new operation such as this, to give detailed promises for future years. What I can do is to repeat what I have already said to the House. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear me, as he sought to intervene.
30 We certainly intend to give the scheme sufficient support to enable the concept of children's advisers to have a fair period of trial. That is what is most important. The scheme will provide a person to act as a friend and adviser. That will offer a better, more flexible way in which to meet the identified needs of some children than would a statutory scheme. The funding of the proposed Refugee Council panel of advisers is part of a package of Government proposals for supporting and strengthening the ability of existing services to deal with the needs of those children.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
The Minister appears to suggest that the Home Office will fund the Refugee Council's scheme during the first year. What would happen if a larger number of unaccompanied children than expected arrived? Would the council be expected to fund that excess by cutting other funding, or would the Home Office be prepared to increase its grant to enable the council to continue that scheme?
§ Mr. Wardle
We shall see as we go along. The purpose of the trial period is to match events with our experience. The Refugee Council will operate the panel and, together, we have considered the experience of recent years and the number of unaccompanied juvenile arrivals seeking asylum. We shall watch matters as they go and respond accordingly. We have told the council that we will provide the funding for the first year and then see how it goes.
I realise that time is pressing, and I should like to outline the other initiatives that we have taken. First, in the very near future, the Department of Health will issue to all local authority social services departments a practice guide entitled "Refugee and Asylum Seeking Children Alone in the United Kingdom". It will also issue a training package addressing the training needs of staff working with children outside their culture and families. That should raise awareness of those issues and help the development of the necessary expertise.
Secondly, my right hon. and learned Friend will add to the immigration rules guidance on the treatment of asylum applications by children. I have already received constructive comments on a first draft of those rules on behalf of the Children's Legal Centre, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, the British Refugee Council and the Save the Children Fund.
Thirdly, we will continue and will put on a more formal basis the arrangements by which the immigration service notifies social services of the arrival, or expected arrival, of groups of unaccompanied children. That will help to ensure that any danger of children falling between the responsibilities of the different services is minimised.
Fourthly, we propose to set up a more formal mechanism, also with that aim in mind, so that when an unaccompanied child is given temporary admission to the United Kingdom, all the relevant details of that child, his circumstances of arrival, links with the United Kingdom and so on will be passed to the social services department for the area in which he will stay, whether or not that child is already in the care of social services.
Fifthly, we recognise that it is desirable to resolve the immigration status of unaccompanied children as swiftly as possible, so that they and the authorities responsible for their care should not be left in doubt for any longer than 31 is absolutely necessary. We are therefore making arrangements to identify such cases and give them priority treatment within the asylum division.
Sixthly, on 3 February, my right hon. and learned Friend, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, now the Home Secretary, announced his intention to provide a special grant to assist local authorities that face exceptional costs arising from the presence in their areas of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children. The distribution of such children is inevitably uneven, with particular concentrations near the airports and in certain London boroughs. The new grant recognises those pressures and is further evidence of the Government's determination to ensure that the statutory services are able to respond effectively to the needs of those children.
Seventhly, the British Red Cross is compiling a register of unaccompanied children who come to this country to facilitate eventual reunion with their families, where possible. The Home Office and the Department of Health will co-operate fully with the Red Cross in the compilation of that register.
Those seven measures demonstrate our commitment to protect the interests of unaccompanied children and our concern to find sensible and workable ways in which to do that.
Amendment No. 12 appears to have been inserted in another place by mistake. It states:Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge … on public funds".s Such an amendment is usually inserted in Bills commencing in another place to avoid infringement of the privileges of this House. The Bill has financial implications which mainly arise from the administration of a new system of asylum appeals. Therefore, the amendment should be rejected.
§ Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)
As we discuss the Lords amendments, the House has its first chance to debate asylum in the light of events during the past few weeks. It gives us all, regardless of party, the opportunity to condemn the divisive and self-seeking speech of the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) last weekend. I hope that the new Home Secretary has had the chance to reconsider the equivocal and slippery response that he made immediately after that speech and will now condemn it without qualification. As the debate progresses, he will have a chance to do so.
The rich vein of prejudice tapped by the hon. Member for Davyhulme in order to improve his chances of selection under the redrawn boundaries is strong and deep in the Conservative party. I hope that the Home Secretary finds the personal and political courage to confront and condemn that deep strain in his party.
§ Mr. Allen
I should be pleased to do so if the Home Secretary wished to intervene.
The Home Secretary joins the procession of faces whose leadership pretensions have meant that immigrants and even desperate asylum seekers have been viewed not as people but as political footballs to be kicked around in front of the Tory faithful. The previous Home Secretary sought to establish his credibility with the xenophobic 32 right by making life harder for anyone seeking a visitor visa, for students, mothers, the elderly and people coming to this country for marriage ceremonies, christenings or visits to relatives.
That was the tough vested interest taken on by the previous Home Secretary in immigration and asylum. His predecessor, the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) was another graduate from the smarm school and, aided by the tabloid newspapers, he conducted a scurrilous campaign to play the race card just before the last general election. We all expect that that card will be played again before the next one.
Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 provide a chance for a new leaf to be turned. I hope that the new Home Secretary will not fail that test, as he failed the test last week. I hope that the message is heard and understood by black and Asian communities up and down Britian. Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 show the two-faced approach of Conservative policy—how easily the smile on the Conservative face which is displayed to settled communities in Britain quickly turns to a snarl when another audience is addressed. Perhaps there has never been a Home Secretary more suited to or practised in playing such a role.
A clear moral lead is necessary at this stage in the nation's history. Let us hope that the new Home Secretary provides that lead unequivocally and does not show the slipperiness that he displayed last weekend.
Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 show that nowhere are such short-term, hand-to-mouth policies more evident than in the very flawed Bill. We opposed the Bill in Committee and on the Floor of the House, and now even their Lordships have sought to leave an opening or two for the Conservatives to mitigate the Bill's worst defects. The Minister today rejected the statutory scheme to look after child asylum seekers and offered a voluntary non-statutory alternative. That is not good enough for the Opposition.
Perhaps we are being a little mistrustful—why should we not accept the Minister's assurances? Why should the assurances have to appear in the Bill? Why should we not trust the Conservative Government? Part of the answer lies in what the Conservatives have been cooking up with other Ministers in Europe. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) said earlier, European immigration Ministers met in Copenhagen last week. No statements have been given to the House about that. Many of us thought that today's debate might be curtailed by a statement from the Minister about that Copenhagen meeting—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I have been following the hon. Gentleman's argument carefully, but would he be good enough to tell me which Lords amendments he is speaking to at the moment?
§ Mr. Allen
I am making the point, Madam Speaker, that we need the assurances that the amendments seek on the face of the Bill. The amendments try to include in the 33 Bill certain clear statutory obligations, but the Government are trying to avoid such obligations by opposing the Lords amendments.
So, what was decided in the secret conclave last week? First, Ministers rejected an appeal from Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for the right of family reunions—
§ Mr. Charles Wardle
The hon. Gentleman says in one breath that the Copenhagen deliberations were held in secret; in the next, he lists what happened there. I assume that he has seen the press release from the general secretariat of the Council which outlines all the decisions that were taken. He also knows full well that the usual practice since 1986 following such meetings has been that, in response to a written answer, details of decisions are given to the House and placed in the Library.
§ Mr. Allen
I hope that the Minister is not claiming that he has already given an answer to a written question and that Members should have seen it before this debate. They could not possibly have done so, as this is our first day back.
Hon. Members often mention to you, Madam Speaker, in points of order, that it is not satisfactory that the business of the Government should be reported in press releases or planted questions. When matters of policy and strategy are at stake, they should be reported to the House and statements on them should be made on the Floor of the House.
I was referring to the appeals from Mrs. Ogata in respect of the right of family reunion, which she suggested should be extended to the few thousand Bosnians given temporary admission to the EC. I understand from press reports—not from any communication from the Government—that EC Ministers agreed on guidelines for the admission of particularly vulnerable people from the former Yugoslavia. I understand that their recommendations were:As far as possible, arrangements will be made for contacts to be maintained with close relatives"—that is, with spouses and children.In exceptional circumstances, in particular on humanitarian grounds, provisional permission to stay may be granted for this purpose".The implication is that Bosnian victims of atrocities, many of them children, will not usually be allowed to bring their families to join them in the host country.
These restrictions on children come on top of the Government's appalling record of failing to meet even their own derisory quotas for Bosnian refugees. We were assured in November 1992 that 1,000 people and their dependants could be accepted to this country—a small contribution—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I must call the hon. Gentleman to order again, because I fear that he is not relating what he is saying to the Lords amendments. This is not a general Second Reading debate. We are dealing with just three Lords amendments, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to relate what he says directly to them.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. Might I ask the hon. Gentleman to which part of the amendments he is referring? I am reading them carefully even as he speaks, and he could help me by telling me which section of the amendments he is speaking to.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is speaking generally, but we are not on Second Reading. He must address specific points in the amendments.
§ Mr. Allen
The amendments refer to the statutory responsibilities that we hope will be placed on the Government. They relate to the dependants of many Bosnians who have not yet been allowed into the country. The Government promised that 1,000 people plus their dependants, many of whom are children and many of whom will be caught by the legislation, would be allowed in.
Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 must be incorporated in the Bill because, although we respect the Minister, assurances on this matter are not sufficient. I am afraid that, once again, I must query the Government's track record on assurances, especially in terms of the United Nations convention on the rights of children. The Government have entered reservations on that convention and many organisations and individuals have asked for them to be rescinded. Those reservations exempt the United Kingdom from implementing articles pertaining to immigration and nationality.
Those issues are relevant to the children who are currently separated from their families in the former Yugoslavia and they affect the implementation of several articles. Article 3 states:In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.United Kingdom immigration law does not take any account of the welfare of children.
Article 2 provides that all the convention's rights apply to all children and not merely to those to whom the Government wish the rights to apply. Contrary to article 12 on a child's right to be heard, refugee children are treated like adults in the United Kingdom refugee determination process and are thus denied a proper opportunity to express their views and their wishes.
The Government's track record is one of the reasons why the Opposition wish to see these amendments in the Bill. The legislation must contain the responsibilities and the duties that we want to press the Government to carry out. If the amendments are accepted, they will ensure, for the first time in the United Kingdom, a realistic and comprehensive service for child asylum seekers. The adoption of that service would lead to a profound change from the way that the asylum services have operated since Britain signed the United Nations convention on refugees. We have an opportunity to put into law the principles that should govern our treatment of children as a distinct social group requiring specific attention.
Many people who come to our shores through the air and sea ports arrive full of fear, without friends, not speaking the language and with no one to look after them. They enter a wholly different culture. Many of them are traumatised by their experiences. Sadly, there are many examples that I could give the House, but I shall give one example of a person who would be assisted by the 35 amendments. Tamba, a 13-year-old girl from Eritrea, was put on a plane to the United Kingdom by her mother to save her life. The home of Tamba's grandparents, to which she had been sent for safety after she had been assaulted on three occasions by soldiers, had been bombed. The soldiers had threatened to return to her village to find her and, after the bombing of her grandparents' home, Tamba's mother felt that she had no choice but to send the child away.
I am sure that the Home Secretary and his Ministers will have to deal with many such heart-rending stories. I hope that they will bear in mind, in assessing Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2, that it would be of great assistance, not merely to such victims but to the organisations that seek to help them, to have in the Bill provisions to which we would have to adhere. That would enable us to test the Government's assurances and good will. We are not talking about an insignificant problem. In 1990, there were 128 children in that position. In 1992, there were 185. The latest statistic that we have, from a parliamentary question, shows that, to April 1993, there were 62 children.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
If the reports are true, the British Government, together with other European Community Governments, have adopted a restrictive policy on family reunion. Does not what my hon. Friend has said show that, in months and years to come, as more unaccompanied children come to the United Kingdom, there will be a need for liberal policies on family reunion, rather than such harsh and restrictive policies? Is not it about time that the Minister intervened to tell us clearly what the British Government's policy is on family reunion and what harmonisation of those policies mean?
§ Mr. Allen
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and will be glad to give way to the Minister, or to the Home Secretary, if he cares to answer that question. Sadly, given all the conflicts and political disruptions around the world, I am afraid that it is likely that the number of children caught in such conflicts is unlikely to diminish, and it may increase. It is particularly important that the rules, whether they are harsh or tough, are written in the Bill for all to see, rather than being subject to good will or assurances, which sadly, in too many cases in the past, have not been forthcoming when tested in the extreme under the Government.
Hitherto, we have treated child asylum seekers as adults. The UNHCR and the Children Act 1989 recognise that as a serious problem. The UNHCR, along with the British Refugee Council, Amnesty International and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants recognise and have argued that children such as Tamba and many others in similar positions should not be treated as adults by immigration officials.
In private, many immigration officials have accepted that they do not have social work or child care skills. They feel that the best that they can do is to pass those children on to voluntary and local authority organisations. However, despite the efforts that local authorities put in to 36 looking after those children, many cannot provide the assistance that they may need. There are no formal rules or a comprehensive plan that links social services departments with immigration officials.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Is my hon. Friend aware that the system for dealing with unaccompanied child refugees is a positive disincentive on any local authority to take on the responsibility for such children, as the authority knows that it will cost it a great deal of money, which it is not likely to get back from central Government—
§ Mr. Corbyn
It is all very well for the Minister to say "Sr j 3–5hame", as he is not the one to have to take on that responsibility. His Government have consistently refused to fund inner-London local authorities, which have needed help to deal with those poor, unfortunate children. His Government cast those children on to the streets, not local authorities.
§ Mr. Allen
As so often happened in Committee, my hon. Friend has made the point that I was about to come to far more eloquently than I could. We need to ensure that local authorities—this is separate from the clause and I am conscious of the need not to go out of order—are properly funded in the duties that they undertake.
Adopting Lords amendments 1 and 2, which would establish a statutory children's panel, would help children through the complex procedure now being established in the Bill. The panel will be able to help children through the legal process and explore a better understanding of their needs. It will go some way to combining the 1989 United Nations convention on the rights of the child and the Children Act to ensure that children's rights are respected.
We have an opportunity to reflect the needs of the child in the refugee determination procedures, and we should take it. I call on the Government, even at this very late stage, to drop their opposition to a statutorily based children's panel.
It is interesting to note that section 1(1) of the Children Act 1989 states:When a court determines any question with respect to—(a) the upbringing of a child …the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration.In Committee, the Minister said that that Act did not extend to immigration hearings. However, child asylum seekers may have to go to the High Court or the Appeal Court for judicial review of their asylum claims. That is unacceptable to all those involved in immigration cases, except the Minister. He still has time to change his mind, accept that the child's interests should be paramount and accept the Lords amendments.
The children's panel will provide as comprehensive a service as it can, even on the proposed non-statutory basis. It will certainly provide considerably more than what is available at present. It will be able to meet children as soon as they arrive and assist them in their search for legal advice and proper care until their families are found or their future lives properly planned.
Wendy Ayotte of the Children's Legal Centre said:Unless the government accepts some responsibility, how can it expect local authorities to provide anything more than the most basic needs of children who need a great deal of special help?37 We are—if it needs to be stressed again—dealing with children with profound problems. Many of them are traumatised; many have lost parents or had a bloody separation from them in a foreign land. They are ill equipped to deal with the environment in which they find themselves.
We are all aware of the economic mess that the Government have created. However, for a very small amount of money a great deal of human misery could be alleviated if the Government do the job properly. We cannot any longer leave children solely dependent on local authorities for care. The Government must accept their share of what is an international responsibility. To date, Ministers have tended to leave us all in the dark. From the outset, they have not shown any support for the principle embodied in the Lords amendments, which makes us a little suspicious of their sudden conversion to a non-statutory scheme. In fact, their prevarication is one reason why the Bill has taken so long to come back before the House.
It is not sufficient to have a non-statutory scheme. In many cases the Government, through the Bill, have created the problems, so it is only right that they should support the solutions to those problems. I hope that they will support the Lords amendments and not opt for a non-statutory scheme. They should join Labour Members in supporting the proposals to aid those children—the most vulnerable individuals—as they seek asylum and refuge in our country.
§ Mr. Maclennan
This is the last appearance of the Bill before the House. It behoves us to recall that the substance of the Lords amendments were adumbrated a long time ago, even before the general election, when the previous Bill was before Parliament. It bears witness to the tenacity of purpose of a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have sought to ensure that the Government's Bill to tighten control over asylum seekers would not lead to a worsening of the administrative procedures for the handling of applications by children.
It is right to pay tribute to the work done in that respect before the Dissolution by Sir Philip Goodhart, then Conservative Member of Parliament for Beckenham who—along with many other Conservative Members—was quick to point out to the Government the need for special arrangements to ensure that the difficulties faced by children seeking to apply for asylum, which are certainly greater than those of adults, are taken into account by the Home Office.
The two amendments drafted and passed in another place reflect the consensus that was developing across the Committee that considered the Bill that it would be desirable to provide special representation for children, who are afflicted with difficulties in understanding procedures that, quite properly, must be operated quickly when children arrive in this country and seek asylum. I refer to their fear of officialdom, language problems, and the difficulty of not knowing who is speaking for them. It is fair to say that the Minister has understood those problems all along. The question is how best to resolve them.
It is proper to recognise the relatively limited scale of the administrative challenge posed by children seeking asylum. The problem has been greatly exaggerated— perhaps more so by the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), who introduced the original Bill, then 38 even his successor. However, as the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) said, that was in a period when a general election was overhanging, and the right hon. Member for Mole Valley may have seen some advantage in whipping up concern.
In the event, the number of those seeking asylum in this country has proved to be far fewer than in other western European countries. Whereas events in Bosnia and eastern Europe in particular led to the Federal German Republic facing vastly increased numbers of asylum seekers—the figure runs into hundreds of thousands—the latest official figures available show that between last January and November, the United Kingdom admitted 23,390 asylum seekers, of whom a mere 129 were children. That reminds us that we are not dealing with a massive administrative problem, but that it would be unacceptable to sweep the matter aside because it affects relatively few people.
§ Mr. Allen
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not conclude his remarks without making some reference to his party's view on the comments made by the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), particularly given the record of some of his colleagues in Liberal-controlled Tower Hamlets. It may be useful to have something on the record from the hon. Gentleman's party.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I am not one to rush into using consideration of detailed amendments concerning the rights of children to seek asylum to make a general statement about race relations and the comments of a Conservative Member. However, I wrote to the hon. Gentleman in question to express my views in no uncertain terms and I shall be happy to provide the hon. Member for Nottingham, North with a copy of that letter. I believe that the hon. Gentleman will find that my views are no less robust than his own. However, at this stage I prefer to confine my remarks to the subject of children seeking asylum.
As the Minister knows, I am particularly interested in that aspect and I take this opportunity to thank him for the way in which he undertook in Committee to consider the proposal for the statutory provision of a panel along the lines followed by Lord Brightman in another place.
I also thank him for the courteous and thoughtful way in which he listened to the arguments that I deployed when I went to see him with the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester). From what he said on that occasion and earlier this afternoon, I have no doubt that he has put his mind
It is unfortunate that we are legislating for asylum in this manner. At the very last gasp of the Bill, the Government have announced seven administrative steps to ameliorate consideration of the issues; seven ways in which local authorities are reminded of their responsibilities and given guidance on how to handle them; seven ways in which the immigration rules are amended to take account of the handling of children's applications; and seven ways in which the formal mechanisms for handling temporary admissions by local authorities are to be handled. That kind of administrative response should have preceded the legislation, rather than coming after it. If the amendments had been in place, tried out and seen to work, it is conceivable that much of what the Government are now doing would not be necessary and that the vast amount of parliamentary time taken up by the Bill would have been saved.
39 Many of the problems involved in the managing of asylum seekers are of an administrative nature. At best, the Government's motive in bringing this legislation was to deal with the problem of backlog. Many believe that, given resources, new administrative priorities and the guidelines which have finally been extracted in respect of children, it would have eliminated, or greatly reduced and contained, the problem of asylum seeking—and wrongful asylum seeking—being confined as it was.
We are at the beginning of a new Home Office regime and—I suspect—a long way away from the next general election. I hope that party political considerations will prompt the Government less in matters concerning race and immigration than they have in the past. At the beginning of this new Administration, may I urge the Minister, as I would have said to the Home Secretary if he were still here—I was glad to see him here at the beginning of the debate—to look before he leaps, not to be rushed into legislation where it is not strictly required and not to seek to change the law on immigration and race just for the sake of a cheap headline and of ensuring that the most atavistic instincts of certain sections of our community are fed by the Home Office? That is not the way to advance good race relations.
I wish the Home Secretary well in his new job and I am glad that he came to the House for the opening of this debate; I understand that Cabinet Ministers are not usually able to sit throughout entire debates. I have known the Home Secretary for many, many years—even in his pre-legislative life as a lawyer—and I know that he takes a genuine interest in many of the matters for which he will have high political responsibility.
The crucial issue that we will have to decide when we vote tonight is whether what the Government propose for the handling of children's applications is sufficient. The Minister knows that I have strongly argued that a statutory scheme would have benefits. First, it would make it clear that there was a duty to be discharged by members of the panel and would give such a panel a status that would assist the other bodies with statutory responsibilities for handling such matters. It is inevitable that the immigration authorities, immigration officers, local authorities and social workers will continue to handle these cases.
I never believed that the setting up of an advisory panel to assist the children by acting as advocates should diminish the responsibilities of local authority officers and immigration officers; but the establishment of panels of experts would recognise that no local authority—or very few—could conceivably have the necessary range of linguistic expertise, or background knowledge of the circumstances which led a child to flee from a foreign country.
I think that the Government recognise that such expertise cannot exist within a local authority. Some local authorities may have acquired this expertise—for example, those within the environs of an airport. If they have, so much the better, but it is possible that most local authorities will not have acquired such expertise and will value the help of the panels which would be set up under 40 the administrative arrangements that the Minister has proposed in place of the statutory arrangements approved in another place.
Only two issues of principle on the statutory scheme make it preferable. First, it gives some stability which, inevitably, an administrative scheme of the kind that the Minister has outlined cannot give. The Minister said that we should see how it works and then judge its effectiveness. It is right that we should do that. In time, it may come to seem so clearly a part of the system that the Minister may choose some other legislative opportunity to put it on a statutory basis. That sort of development is not unknown.
The second reason for ensuring that the scheme is on a statutory basis which still commends itself to me—and if the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) intends to press the matter to a Division, I shall support him—is the question of finance. If a statutory body is established, finance will be made available for it to discharge its statutory function. The Minister is right to say that he cannot give an undertaking about expenditure beyond the current year—we know that very well—but the best way in which to ensure that the necessary resources are forthcoming is to provide a statutory body which enjoys the backing of the full Government and which must therefore be funded. That seems to be a conclusive argument in favour of a statutory scheme.
I am grateful to the Refugee Council and the Children's Legal Centre for the helpful role that they have played throughout our debates. I have no doubt that they, particularly the Refugee Council, will be under financial pressure at some point as a result of the legislation. I hope, therefore, that their additional responsibilities will be reflected in additional funding.
I am glad that we have moved as far as we have down the road towards recognising the particular needs of children asylum seekers and that we are setting up a system of guidance, guardianship and advocacy, by administrative means, to take account of those needs. A modest change has been brought about by means of an immensely protracted debate, keenly fought in a number of different forums. That the battle has been at least partially won by those who are concerned about children asylum seekers is a cause for some satisfaction. If the Minister could bring himself to take that further step, I know that he would satisfy the whole House.
§ Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), whose sincerity in these matters is exceeded only by the length of his speeches, is naive if he believes for one moment that Conservative Members, particularly those who sit on the Treasury Bench, are motivated by anything other than party political considerations when they deal with asylum and immigration policy.
This squalid little Bill, the Lords amendments to which we are considering this afternoon, was born out of party political considerations. It is being considered at a time when party political considerations have precluded Conservative Members, particularly those who sit on the Treasury Bench and upon whom the responsibility lies, from condemning roundly the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) for the appalling speech that he made only a few days ago. That speech, which received so much publicity, was disreputable and it did neither the hon. Gentleman nor his party any credit. It has poisoned the atmosphere of race relations in this country.
41 When one looks at the climate into which the children with whom these amendments are concerned will be arriving and at the climate into which they will be required to go when they attend school and attempt to lead some semblance of a normal life, after the trauma that led to their flight to this country in the first place, one realises that that trauma can only be increased by the hon. Gentleman's speech.
It is a pity that the hon. Member for Davyhulme did not have the courtesy to be in his place this afternoon. He is only too well aware of the concern that hon. Members in all parts of the House feel about his utterances. He must be only too well aware of the fact that his speech will be referred to during the debate, Therefore, it is all the more reprehensible that he has not had the guts to come along and hear what is said.
Equally reprehensible is the Minister's silence. I know that he abhors, as strongly as any Opposition Member, the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Davyhulme. I do not for one moment call into question the Minister's sincerity and integrity in promoting good race relations. Therefore, I hope that he will come to the Dispatch Box soon and condemn his hon. Friend's speech. Both I and other Opposition Members—and, I know, Conservative Members—have been inundated with correspondence from constituents, particularly constituents from the Asian community who have been shocked, affronted and deeply hurt and wounded by the hon. Gentleman's speech and the Government's reticence in condemning it.
§ Mr. Madden
Although I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend has said, does he agree that the deafening silence of the Prime Minister, following the repugnant remarks of the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), was deeply worrying? If the Prime Minister was truly shocked by what the hon. Gentleman said, would not a practical demonstration of that repugnance have been for the Conservative party to withdraw the Whip from the hon. Member for Davyhulme?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. Before the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) continues his speech, may I remind him and the House that we are dealing with specific Lords amendments? This is neither the time nor the place to go into other matters. I am sure that there will be ample opportunities for those matters to be raised properly.
§ Mr. Boateng
I am sure that that is the case, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I look forward tomorrow afternoon at Prime Minister's Question Time to the Prime Minister taking the opportunity to denounce the hon. Member for Davyhulme—unless, of course, the Prime Minister is so preoccupied with his own parlous position that, once again, it slips his mind.
The amendments are welcome. I refer not only to the Lords amendments but to those that stand in the names of my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. They are welcome, because they highlight the plight of children and young people as refugees, and also the plight of those caught up in the crisis in Yugoslavia.
My constituency experience, however, is that of unaccompanied child refugees from Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The Minister knows, because there has been correspondence between myself and his Department, as well as with the Department of the Environment on the issue, that we have in our schools the highest ratio of 42 children and young people from Somalia, whose very real needs have been met only as a result of considerable sacrifice and selflessness on the part of teachers, social workers and others in the London borough of Brent.
They have worked until now—it is still the case, although I am glad to hear that it will shortly be remedied —without any additional resources from central Government. It is therefore welcome that some resources, at any rate, are to be made available. One is anxious that they should come on tap as quickly as possible. We look forward to hearing from the Minister that this new money —and we want a guarantee that it will be new money—will be provided quickly and will be focused on the urgent needs of those young refugees.
The importance of the Lords amendment is that it seeks to put on a statutory basis that which the Government now say they are prepared to do, belatedly and under pressure, on a voluntary basis. It is important that it should be put on a statutory basis. It provides the clearest indication of the Government's commitment to this issue. It promises continuity and the stability of provision. It also ensures that the Government put their money where their mouth is. Without the provision of resources, it is difficult to believe that the Government's commitment will be worth the paper upon which it is written.
We are worried about how the voluntary scheme is to be established, and I hope that the Minister will be able to assist us. Will the Children's Legal Centre be fully involved and consulted? Will the British Refugee Council and other bodies working with children have additional resources to enable them better to do their job? What will be the mechanism for liaison between social services and those with specific responsibilities under the voluntary scheme?
My borough is not alone in finding that, after 6 pm, the police are the social services because of the constraint on local authority budgets. Refugees arrive at all times of the day and night. Those of us who represent boroughs adjacent to the main ports of entry know that there can be calls on the local authority social services departments literally at any time. Before we accept the Government's assurances, we want to hear more about how the voluntary scheme will work in practice.
This country's commitment under international law and under article 3 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child is clear. It is to ensure that the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration and that in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative or legislative bodies, those best interests are given the primacy of consideration that is their due. What better way to ensure that than by statute? It is not for nothing that the House of Lords passed the amendment. It recognised that the only way to ensure that the child's interests are paramount is to give the notion statutory backing.
We have a specific responsibility to children and young people. They are the most vulnerable sector of the refugee community. Their young lives are all too often shaped, twisted and distorted in ways that we can barely begin to imagine by the horror of their experiences in the countries from which they flee and by the trauma of their journey. We must ensure that on their arrival on these shores—they will already have had to overcome enormous barriers to 43 get here—they find a genuine sanctuary and refuge and that, for a while at least, they have at their disposal someone with a statutory duty to relate to them as a friend.
It is not without significance that amendment No. 2 deals, which deals with the appointment of functions of the advisory panel, refers specifically to the notion of "befriending" a young person. I have never seen that word used in any statutory provision but, when we are talking about children who have undergone such experiences, it is right to ensure that they have a statutory right to have someone as their friend who will stand up for them against what can often be a hostile, oppressive and alien bureaucracy. It is right that the friend should have the backing of statute. When we give the House the opportunity to vote on the amendment, I hope that hon. Members will uphold it.
§ Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green)
It is always a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng). I wish to associate myself with his remarks about the great anxiety caused to his constituents by the comments of the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill). I know from my own experience in the past few days that the hon. Gentleman's remarks caused tremendous distress and anxiety to my constituents. The remarks were outrageous and reprehensible, and I am sad that the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Prime Minister have not properly condemned them.
I was delighted when amendments 3 and 4 were made to the Bill in another place. Lord Brightman and Baroness Faithfull are to be congratulated on their hard work in building on our debates in Committee.
The benchmark of a civilised society is how we treat our children. An even greater standard is the way in which we treat other people's children, those who are fleeing traumatic and dangerous situations abroad. The provision of a statutory advisory panel, giving unaccompanied children who may have suffered bereavement, torture and travel to a country that they do not understand, access to an adult to advise and support them, would be progressive and humane.
It would help to implement the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which emphasises that the child's best interests should be the primary consideration in any dealings that the state has with the child. The same principle is embodied in the Children Act 1989, which was so warmly welcomed by all parties. Therefore, given that the Government now appear to accept the principle and the difficulties that unaccompanied children face in such circumstances, it seems odd that they cannot put the provision on a statutory basis. If we have such statutory obligations to children, why not include this proposal in the Bill?
The advisory panel would provide support in dealing with local authority departments as well as immigration officials. It would certainly be in line with the well established practice in wardship cases of providing a guardian ad litem to young people.
The horrific experiences that befall refugees affect children as well as adults. We have recently seen many examples from the Bosnian conflict on our television screens. Amnesty International has documented some appalling cases in which children are, in their own right, victims of persecution and torture.
44 They are often threatened with torture and death by people who want to extract information from their parents. They may fear for their own lives because of civil war and attacks by repressive regimes. If parents are imprisoned, dead or missing, children must flee, helped by family and friends. Sometimes they must travel for long periods under hazardous conditions before reaching the United Kingdom.
Clearly, only exceptional circumstances would force children to undertake such dangerous and frightening journeys alone. What is the response when unaccompanied children manage to make that dangerous voyage? What faces them when they reach our country? When they come to Britain, they find that there is no special provision for them. Immigration officers, untrained in questioning children, interview them before deciding whether to grant them temporary admission. That interview is crucial to the determination of the child's case. If the child gets over that hurdle and is then given temporary admission, she or he is referred to a local authority which may not know anything about the child's refugee-related needs.
The British Refugee Council recently carried out a survey of the provision made by 17 local authorities, 16 of them London boroughs. It revealed that at least 25 children were held in detention by the immigration service on arrival and that 70 children had to wait up to three months before a local authority responded to their needs. At least 50 children were moved more than three times in their first three months in this country. That would be traumatic enough for any child, but for children who have encountered such dangers and who have had such experiences, how much more difficult and psychologically damaging must this trauma be?
Many children had no access to support from people of their own culture and language. It is not surprising that local authorities, however good their intentions, do not cope as well as they might with those children. Finding the necessary resources and expertise is yet another claim on overstretched budgets. Most individual authorities do not have the resources to sustain the breadth of expertise necessary to deal with the small number of children from a wide range of countries, cultures and languages. They need an advocate who would articulate their needs to ensure that they are met.
There are many examples of what happens to child refugees. The Refugee Council reported that a l5-year-old African refugee child formerly at a dedicated voluntary children's home was kept in Harmondsworth detention centre for a week following his arrival. He had no access to an interpreter for several days, and did not know where he was or why he was being kept there.
A boy of 15 from Zaire, who fled from civil war when his parents died, sought asylum at the port of entry. Immigration passed him on to the local authority social services department, which accommodated him overnight and referred him the next day to a refugee project as being a 16-year-old and therefore not in need. The project found him a place in a refugee hostel where he insisted—and he was believed—that he was 15. The local authority in the end acknowledged its wrong assessment and took him back. Those are just a couple of examples of the difficult situations that such children can face.
Like the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. MacLennan), I offer my thanks to the Children's 45 Legal Centre, Save the Children and the British Refugee Council for the good advice that we have received during the passage of the Bill.
What is the experience elsewhere? The experience of other European countries is instructive. The children's legal centre recently introduced a report entitled "Children or Refugees? A survey of west European policies on unaccompanied refugee children". It shows that, in France, each section of the body that determines refugee status has a person mandated to assess children's applications. In Belgium, children's applications are given priority; in Denmark, an assessor is nominated. In Sweden, the world leader in the treatment of children, immigration officers who conduct asylum interviews have received special training in interviewing children.
I noted the Minister's opening remarks about some of the administrative changes that he now proposes to introduce. I welcome them. They are long overdue, and it is a shame that we had to wait until the other place debated the issue and introduced the new clauses before the Minister proposed the changes.
If the Minister has such confidence in the proposals, and if they meet with the approval of all parties, why not write them on the face of the Bill? If that is not done, the suspicion must be that they will be temporary and that, when the year runs out or when there are funding difficulties, they will disappear. Can we have some directness on the matter? We press the Minister further about his intentions.
We are not talking about a great number of children. In 1992, 185 unaccompanied child asylum seekers applied for asylum at their point of entry. The provision is necessary for a small number of children in exceptional circumstances, such as those in 1990 during the fighting in Eritrea. The panel of advocates would have only a small cost implication, and the value to the children would far outweigh any cost.
Article 20 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child provides:a child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the state".After all those children have been through, they surely deserve no less.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I was a member of the Committees on both the Asylum Bill and the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill. We twice tried to introduce the amendment that was subsequently carried in the Lords. It is before us today, and the Government are trying to wriggle out of it.
§ Mr. Corbyn
The Minister indicates that he is not trying to wriggle out of it. If he is not, I am not entirely certain what his speech was about. Was he not trying to wriggle out of a statutory requirement to look after unaccompanied children when they seek asylum in this country?
The whole principle behind the demands that we made in both Committees was that unaccompanied children deserve special treatment, because they are refugees, because they are unaccompanied, because they are arriving in this country and because they are in danger of 46 falling through all the various nets that are supposed to be constructed to defend children in such a vulnerable situation.
It is not so long ago that a number of unaccompanied children arrived in London at the airport, left the airport, having been admitted to the country—nobody gave a thought to what was going to happen to them once they walked through the immigration channels at Heathrow —and, somehow or other, landed up on church steps in my constituency. To the credit of the priests at the church, they immediately took the children in, fed them, clothed them, housed them and looked after them.
Subsequently my local authority took responsibility for them. It did not say, "We cannot afford it. We will not do it. These are unaccompanied children who deserve our help and understanding." They were most terribly distressed children, who did not know why they had left their own country, did not understand what had happened there and did not understand a word of English. It was only with great difficulty that interpreters were found to help them. I pay tribute to all those voluntary agencies that helped.
The point that those agencies made to me time after time was that those children deserved better than the good fortune of landing on the right church steps, at the right place and at the right time, with a good samaritan helping them out. When the lesson from that is learned, it must be that there has to be a legally appointed guardian from the point of arrival to look after those children. What do the Government say? "No, we do not need anything like that; we do not need any statutory requirement whatever".
In Committee on the first Bill, the Minister's predecessor went as far as to question why the children were unaccompanied in the first place. I will tell him and the House why. When people are living in extreme danger —in a state of war, where they might be killed for their political, social or religious beliefs—the first consideration is the safety of their children.
Jewish families in Germany sent their children into exile in the 1930s. They did not know what would happen to their children, but they felt that there was better hope for them outside Nazi Germany than inside it. Many of the children sent into exile were looked after, but, tragically, many more were not and died as a result.
Tragically, children all around the world face situations similar to those faced by children in Nazi Germany. We should do better than to weasel our way out—as the Minister seeks to do—of a proposal that has been agreed by all the agencies and all those who have some understanding and experience, and return to some kind of voluntary scheme.
The reason we are going for a non-statutory, voluntary scheme is that the Government are not prepared to pay the cost of the statutory scheme in the long run. The Government know that there may well be considerable numbers of unaccompanied children arriving in this country in the future. The Government know that, I know that, and everyone who looks at the horrors that exist in so many parts of the world knows that.
Is the solution to close the doors on everyone seeking asylum, or is it to go for an humanitarian system of assisting unaccompanied children and giving them a place of safety and a safe haven in this country? It is to be hoped that those children can be reunited with their parents who may be able to come to this country at a later stage.
47 With all that is going on around the world, I would have thought that the Minister could have shown today that he does not agree with what the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) said. The Minister could have stood up against the vile, xenophobic and racist nonsense spoken by the hon. Gentleman, and show a spark of humanity in respect of unaccompanied child refugees.
I believe strongly in the issue. We debated it many times in Committee. I do not doubt that the payroll vote will be wheeled out in a few minutes' time and the Lords amendments will be defeated, and we will return to some kind of voluntary scheme. That is not satisfactory, and we shall return to the question of guaranteeing real support, real friendship and real protection for victims of the most appalling brutality and terror that exists around the world today.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eccles)
In obedience to your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will not say much about the speech made by the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), except to say that the debate is being conducted at a time when xenophobia has found a voice in many parts of Europe. It is most important that we should make it absolutely clear that we will take no part in the speaking of that language.
I want to feel that I live in a country where children who have been persecuted, who have seen their parents tortured and who have little hope in their own country receive a welcome. We should write into statute services that those children will most definitely need.
Reference has been made to several laws and conventions that would advance and enhance the position of such children—the 1951 United Nations convention, the 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees, and article 22 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, so recently ratified by the United Kingdom, which states:Refugee children should receive protection and humanitarian assistance in enjoying their rights under this convention.Our own Children Act 1990 states that the interest of children must be paramount. Does that apply only to our own children? Should not the interests of children from other countries also be paramount? In making what is, I suppose, a concession to the tremendous force of the arguments used in the other place, the Minister is making a nod in the direction of that concept, without having the courage to write such a provision into statute.
When I was Front-Bench spokesman with responsibility for children, I went to Hillingdon and talked to people dealing with refugees coming in. I have met child refugees from all parts of the world. I have always been amazed and appalled that, when it comes to child refugees, other European countries can get it right but we cannot. Other European countries have made enormous strides in establishing proper procedures for dealing with child refugees. We are once again bottom of the league, while other countries have statutory procedures giving children an advocate and a friend to whom they can refer for advice.
I do not know whether the Minister has met many child refugees. Does he know what they have been through and what they have suffered? Does he know of their great fear of coming to a country where they do not know the 48 language? Many of them do not know what has happened to their parents, although they know that they may well be dead or that they are persecuted. Many parents put their children on a plane with someone merely to get them out of the country. Faced with the situation with which those parents are faced, we would all make such arrangements.
Such children have suffered enormously. They are traumatised and they need all the help that we can give them. But faced with those circumstances, what do we do? Immigration officers have the first bite. They are not trained to deal with child refugees. They have never received any training to help them to cope with children, but they decide whether children can be admitted and considered as applicants for asylum. I do not know how many children have been refused entry to this country.
When we do allow children in, we fingerprint them and treat them as criminals. When we have asked what is the justification for fingerprinting adult asylum seekers and seekers of refugee status, we have been told, "Fraudulent claims have been made for social security benefits." It is all in the Lords Hansard. But that does not apply to children. Before the last election, I asked specific questions about the number of child refugees who had been found guilty of fraud in relation to social security benefits. I was told that the answer was none. That being so, what is the rationale for fingerprinting children?
It is terribly frightening for a child to be fingerprinted. In most of the countries from which the children have come, fingerprinting is the prelude to torture and detention. Why do we have to fingerprint children? What is all that about? Surely we can look at that again.
As a civilised country, we ought to enshrine in statute certain services as of right. It would enhance the reputation of the Government, and of the Minister in particular, if the hon. Gentleman accepted the force of the arguments that were used in the other place, which were advanced from both sides of the House. For example, Baroness Faithfull, who is experienced in all questions of social work and who chairs the children's panel that many of us attend, made a moving speech in which she repeatedly drew attention to the bewilderment that child asylum seekers feel. We want to offer them some sort of security.
I read in today's edition of the Evening Standard that Somalian gunmen who attacked Pakistani troops used women and children as human shields to prevent the troops who were guarding a United Nations peacekeeping force at a feeding centre in Mogadishu from doing their job. Just imagine what children from such troubled parts of the world who end up here have been through.
There are not many of us left in the House who were evacuees within this country—and some went abroad—during the last war. We went only a few miles out of London and away from our homes—to escape the bombing and because our parents feared that this country would be invaded and wanted to make sure that we were safe.
§ Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)
My hon. Friend is well known for her interest in children, and I had the honour to work with her for a while. Let me reinforce what she says about the trauma that such children undergo. Last week, I was in Azerbaijan and visited a number of refugee camps in which there were a considerable number of children. Those refugees are Azeris in Azerbaijan; they are in their own country and are being protected; they are not 49 starving. Yet the trauma among them is most evident. It must be a hundred times worse for a child to be a refugee in a strange country. I can verify absolutely from my own experience what my hon. Friend has said.
§ Miss Lestor
My hon. Friend has made my point for me. I was about to say that, as evacuees, we were in our own country and spoke the same language, albeit, perhaps, in different dialects. We knew a little of what was happening. We knew that our parents were alive, although we thought that they might be killed. The trauma will stay with those of us experienced evacuation as very small children for the rest of our lives. It was a terrifying experience. Imagine how much worse it is for children who come to a strange country whose language they do not speak, when they know that their parents are dead or are being tortured.
We are a civilised nation and are not poor—despite all the Government's efforts to make us into a poor country —yet we apparently cannot find the money to establish a statutory advice service for those children so that they can be assured of some service and can have some guarantee of protection.
§ Mr. Charles Wardle
When the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) refers to fingerprinting, I hope that she appreciates that many child asylum seekers, like other asylum seekers, apply for asylum without any means of identification. They have no documents. First and foremost, the process of fingerprinting is meant to establish an unshakeable identification. I respect the hon. Lady's work with children, and I entirely understand what she and other hon. Members have said in this debate about the traumatised state of many children who apply for asylum. However, as I explained earlier, we already have the provisions of the Children Act 1989.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) said that no account was taken of children in immigration law. However, he misses the point. Immigration law and the Geneva convention on refugees do not distinguish between applicants on the basis of age. So far as immigration is concerned, the same considerations apply. In all other respects with regard to children, the Children Act 1989 covers the welfare responsibilities as I have explained.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North began in his usual churlish fashion with some less than welcoming remarks about my right hon. and learned Friend the new Home Secretary. To begin with, he found it a little difficult to remain in order in terms of this debate.
I want to respond to some of the remarks made about my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill). Those remarks, so far as I can see, have little to do with the Lords amendments that we are considering. If hon. Members listened to the radio or watched television last week, I hope that they will be aware of what my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and I had to say about the matter.
I made it absolutely clear then, and repeat now, that I deplore any remarks which give rise to ethnic tensions. I took issue in the media last week with my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme on two counts. The first was his assessment of the size and proportion of the ethnic population as a proportion of the entire population, and the second was his remarks about primary immigration.
50 Primary immigration ended years ago in this country. I will not enlarge upon that, because, if I did, Madam Deputy Speaker, you would rule that I was straying out of order.
A constructive and healthy debate about immigration should be conducted regularly in the media and in this House.
§ Mr. Wardle
No, I will not expand upon that.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North also referred to Bosnia. Again, he was straying a little out of order. He referred to the 1,000 ex-detainees and their dependants. He knows full well that the Government depend on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Red Cross for the number of people who have arrived so far.
In an intervention, the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden)—I do not like to think of a debate of this kind in which the hon. Member for Bradford, West does not intervene— referred to family reunion.
I should make it absolutely clear, and I hope not to stray too far out of order as this point related to children, that, in respect of the 1,000 Bosnian ex-detainees, some of whom have already arrived, and their dependants, reunion with their families is being carried out simultaneously where that is possible. For those ex-detainees who arrive outside the normal immigration rules and where someone is granted asylum refugee status, family reunion can follow straight away. Where someone is granted exceptional leave to remain, there is a four-year waiting period. If I were to dwell on that point, no doubt you would rule me out of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Madden
For the accuracy of the record, will the Minister confirm what he told me in his letter that I received today: that, to date, only 235 ex-detainees and only 387 dependants have been received in the United Kingdom? We are a very long way from the figure of 4,000 announced by the former Home Secretary last November.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I have allowed a certain latitude, but I am not prepared to allow any more. The Minister, just like any other hon. Member, must now Consider the amendments.
§ Mr. Wardle
I shall do that, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I welcome the advice offered by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) in Committee and subsequently in the discussions that he and I had with my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) about a children's advisory panel. I know of the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm about the subject, and I am grateful for his good wishes to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
However, perhaps the only difference on the matter between the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland and me is whether there should be statutory responsibility for the panel. For the reasons that I made as clear as possible, it would be confusing to have statutory responsibility, because there are already clear-cut statutory responsibilities laid on local authority social services departments in that area.
The practical administrative measure which will deliver precisely the same service as the friend and adviser which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland has 51 advocated throughout, and which Lord Brightman has advocated, will be delivered by the arrangements which are now in place.
§ Mr. Corbyn
If there is a clear statutory responsibility on local authority social services departments in respect of unaccompanied children, what is the Minister's Department prepared to do to reimburse them for the considerable costs of looking after deeply traumatised children for many years? Such children require a great deal of support, help and counselling.
§ Mr. Wardle
The hon. Gentleman is aware that I alluded to that earlier. Precisely how the extra funds announced by the Home Secretary on 3 February will be distributed is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
The hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) volunteered that there were party political considerations afoot. I fear that he has not had an opportunity to read our debates in Committee, where he will have learnt of administrative measures designed to improve the service that is being offered. That is of fundamental importance.
I seem to recall that the hon. Member for Brent, South spoke briefly on Second Reading and asked about legal aid and funding for such advice. He also asked about the arrangements to which I referred earlier. He was concerned for the way in which the Refugee Council and others might operate.
As I said earlier, that is a matter for the Refugee Council which will organise and administer the scheme itself. It has specific Home Office funding for that purpose. The Refugee Council is well placed to work with other voluntary organisations which are active in the area. However, it will be for the Refugee Council to decide whom to consult and when.
§ Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)
Will the Minister confirm that, although the Refugee Council has agreed to carry out that work, its stated preference was for a statutory agency?
§ Mr. Wardle
Mr. Dubs of the Refugee Council has made that point clear. As the House will be aware, I disagree with that point of view. I am sure that we will find that the Refugee Council will go to work with a will and will make the new panel of advisors work very well. We will be discussing with the Department of Health how best to draw the attention of local authorities to the new arrangements—probably through an addition to the new guidance that I mentioned earlier, which is in preparation.
The hon. Members for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) and for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) outlined a number of case histories and described arrangements that were in place in other countries. I think that their suspicions are overdone. We are dealing with the treatment of child asylum seekers. This is not a matter of asylum procedures as such. It relates to the treatment of those children. I am absolutely confident that the new administrative measures in place—the new funding for the scheme that will be run by the Refugee Council—will serve the cause of child asylum seekers in this country suitably and well.
For those reasons, I urge the House to reject the amendments.
§ Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 274, Noes 226.55
|Division No. 286]||[5.40 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Evans, Roger (Monmouth)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Evennett, David|
|Amess, David||Faber, David|
|Ancram, Michael||Fabricant, Michael|
|Arbuthnot, James||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Forman, Nigel|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Ashby, David||Forth, Eric|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Freeman, Roger|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||French, Douglas|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Fry, Peter|
|Baldry, Tony||Gale, Roger|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Gallie, Phil|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Bates, Michael||Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan|
|Batiste, Spencer||Garnier, Edward|
|Bellingham, Henry||Gill, Christopher|
|Bendall, Vivian||Gillan, Cheryl|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair|
|Bitten, Rt Hon John||Gorst, John|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Booth, Hartley||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Boswell, Tim||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Hague, William|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Bowis, John||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Brazier, Julian||Hannam, Sir John|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Harris, David|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Hawkins, Nick|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Hayes, Jerry|
|Burns, Simon||Heald, Oliver|
|Burt, Alistair||Hendry, Charles|
|Butler, Peter||Hicks, Robert|
|Butterfill, John||Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Hill, James (Southampton Test)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)|
|Cash, William||Horam, John|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Chapman, Sydney||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clappison, James||Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)|
|Congdon, David||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Conway, Derek||Hunter, Andrew|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Jack, Michael|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Couchman, James||Jessel, Toby|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Key, Robert|
|Day, Stephen||Kilfedder, Sir James|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Dicks, Terry||Knapman, Roger|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Dover, Den||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Duncan, Alan||Knox, David|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Dunn, Bob||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Dykes, Hugh||Legg, Barry|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Leigh, Edward|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Lennox-Boyd, Mark|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Lidington, David||Sackville, Tom|
|Lightbown, David||Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lord, Michael||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Luff, Peter||Sims, Roger|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|MacKay, Andrew||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Maclean, David||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Soames, Nicholas|
|Madel, David||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Malone, Gerald||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Mans, Keith||Spring, Richard|
|Marland, Paul||Sproat, Iain|
|Marlow, Tony||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Steen, Anthony|
|Mates, Michael||Stephen, Michael|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stern, Michael|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Streeter, Gary|
|Merchant, Piers||Sweeney, Walter|
|Milligan, Stephen||Sykes, John|
|Mills, Iain||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Moate, Sir Roger||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Moss, Malcolm||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Needham, Richard||Thurnham, Peter|
|Nelson, Anthony||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Tracey, Richard|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Tredinnick, David|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Trend, Michael|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Norris, Steve||Viggers, Peter|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Ottaway, Richard||Walden, George|
|Page, Richard||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Paice, James||Waller, Gary|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Ward, John|
|Pawsey, James||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Waterson, Nigel|
|Pickles, Eric||Watts, John|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Wells, Bowen|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Whitney, Ray|
|Portillo, Rt Hon Michael||Whittingdale, John|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Rathbone, Tim||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Redwood, John||Wilkinson, John|
|Richards, Rod||Willetts, David|
|Riddick, Graham||Wilshire, David|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon, Malcolm||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Robathan, Andrew||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn||Yeo, Tim|
|Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)||Mr. Irvine Patrick and|
|Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela||Mr. Timothy Wood.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Bell, Stuart|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Benn, Rt Hon Tony|
|Ainger, Nick||Benton, Joe|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Allen, Graham||Berry, Dr. Roger|
|Alton, David||Betts, Clive|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Blair, Tony|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Boateng, Paul|
|Ashton, Joe||Boyce, Jimmy|
|Austin-Walker, John||Bradley, Keith|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Barnes, Harry||Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)|
|Burden, Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Caborn, Richard||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Hutton, John|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Illsley, Eric|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Jamieson, David|
|Canavan, Dennis||Janner, Greville|
|Cann, Jamie||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
|Clapham, Michael||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Jowell, Tessa|
|Clelland, David||Keen, Alan|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Coffey, Ann||Khabra, Piara S.|
|Connarty, Michael||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Corbett, Robin||Leighton, Ron|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Lewis, Terry|
|Cousins, Jim||Livingstone, Ken|
|Cox, Tom||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Cryer, Bob||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Loyden, Eddie|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||McAllion, John|
|Dafis, Cynog||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Darling, Alistair||Macdonald, Calum|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||McFall, John|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||McKelvey, William|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)||McLeish, Henry|
|Denham, John||Maclennan, Robert|
|Dewar, Donald||McMaster, Gordon|
|Dixon, Don||McNamara, Kevin|
|Dobson, Frank||Madden, Max|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Mahon, Alice|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Mandelson, Peter|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Eastham, Ken||Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)|
|Enright, Derek||Martlew, Eric|
|Etherington, Bill||Meacher, Michael|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Meale, Alan|
|Fatchett, Derek||Michael, Alun|
|Faulds, Andrew||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)|
|Fisher, Mark||Milburn, Alan|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Miller, Andrew|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Foulkes, George||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Fraser, John||Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)|
|Gapes, Mike||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Garrett, John||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|George, Bruce||Mudie, George|
|Gerrard, Neil||Mullin, Chris|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Murphy, Paul|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)|
|Godsiff, Roger||O'Brien, William (Normanton)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||O'Hara, Edward|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Olner, William|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Grocott, Bruce||Patchett, Terry|
|Gunnell, John||Pendry, Tom|
|Hall, Mike||Pickthall, Colin|
|Hanson, David||Pike, Peter L.|
|Hardy, Peter||Pope, Greg|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)|
|Heppell, John||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Prescott, John|
|Hoey, Kate||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Home Robertson, John||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Hood, Jimmy||Radice, Giles|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||Randall, Stuart|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Redmond, Martin|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||Reid, Dr John|
|Hoyle, Doug||Rendel, David|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Roche, Mrs. Barbara|
|Rogers, Allan||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Rooney, Terry||Tipping, Paddy|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Turner, Dennis|
|Rowlands, Ted||Vaz, Keith|
|Ruddock, Joan||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Walley, Joan|
|Sheerman, Barry||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Wareing, Robert N|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Watson, Mike|
|Short, Clare||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Skinner, Dennis||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)||Winnick, David|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Worthington, Tony|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wray, Jimmy|
|Steel, Rt Hon Sir David||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Strang, Dr. Gavin||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Straw, Jack||Mr. John Spellar and|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Mr. Jon Owen Jones.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Lords amendment No. 2 disagreed to.