HL Deb 15 June 2004 vol 662 cc632-57

(1) At the end of section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (provision of accommodation for failed asylum seekers, &c.) add—

(5) The Secretary of State may make regulations specifying criteria to be used in determining—

  1. (a) whether or not to provide accommodation, or arrange for the provision of accommodation, for a person under this section;
  2. (b) whether or not to continue to provide accommodation, or arrange for the provision of accommodation, for a person under this section.

(6) The regulations may, in particular—

  1. (a) provide for the continuation of the provision of accommodation for a person to be conditional upon his performance of or participation in community activities in accordance with arrangements made by the Secretary of State;
  2. (b) provide for the continuation of the provision of accommodation to be subject to other conditions;
  3. (c) provide for the provision of accommodation (or the continuation of the provision of accommodation) to be a matter for the Secretary of State's discretion to a specified extent or in a specified class of case.

(7) For the purposes of subsection (6)(a)—

  1. (a) community activities" means activities that appear to the Secretary of State to be beneficial to the public or a section of the public, and
  2. (b) the Secretary of State may, in particular—
    1. (i) appoint one person to supervise or manage the performance of or participation in activities by another person;
    2. (ii) enter into a contract (with a local authority or any other person) for the provision of services by way of making arrangements for community activities in accordance with this section;
    3. (iii) pay, or arrange for the payment of, allowances to a person performing or participating in community activities in accordance with arrangements under this section.

(8) Regulations by virtue of subsection (6)(a) may, in particular, provide for a condition requiring the performance of or participation in community activities to apply to a person only if the Secretary of State has made arrangements for community activities in an area that includes the place where accommodation is provided for the person.

(9) A local authority or other person may undertake to manage or participate in arrangements for community activities in accordance with this section."

(2) In section 166(5) of that Act (regulations: affirmative instrument) before paragraph (a) insert—

"(za) section 4(5),".

(3) In section 103 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (support for asylum-seekers: appeal) as it has effect before the commencement of section 53 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c. 41)—

(a) after subsection (2) insert— (2A) If the Secretary of State decides not to provide accommodation for a person under section 4, or not to continue to provide accommodation for a person under section 4, the person may appeal to an adjudicator.", and.

(b) in subsections (6) and (7) for "section 95" substitute "section 4 or 95".

(4) In section 103 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (support for asylum-seekers: appeal) as it has effect after the commencement of section 53 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c. 41)—

(a) for subsection (1) substitute— (1) This section applies where a person has applied for support under all or any of the following provisions—

  1. (a) section 4,
  2. (b) section 95, and
  3. (c) section 17 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c.41).",.

(b) in subsection (4)(a) for "the other provision" substitute "another of those provisions", and

(c) in subsection (7) for "subsection (1)(a) or (b)" substitute "subsection (1)".

(5) In section 103A of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (appeal about location of support) in subsection (1) (and in the heading) for "section 95" substitute "section 4 or 95".

(6) In an amendment made by this section a reference to providing accommodation includes a reference to arranging for the provision of accommodation.

(7) Regulations under section 4(5)(b) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (as inserted by subsection (1) above) may apply to persons receiving support under section 4 when the regulations come into force."

The noble Lord said: This new clause enables the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying the criteria to be used in determining whether to provide, or to continue to provide, accommodation to failed asylum seekers under Section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1999. Noble Lords will be aware that this is commonly referred to as "hard case support". In particular the amendment allows the regulations to make the continuation of hard case support dependent upon a person performing or participating in community activities; to place the existing criteria for provision of this support on a statutory footing; and to provide for a right of appeal to the asylum support adjudicator against a decision not to provide support or against termination of support under Section 4.

We remain committed to the principle of offering support under Section 4 to those failed asylum seekers who are not in a position to leave the United Kingdom immediately in certain circumstances. Where a person cannot return home because there is no viable route, for example, then, provided that person is complying with redocumentation procedures and seeking to return voluntarily, we should not expect that person to be left destitute.

However, we believe that it is right to require persons in receipt of Section 4 support to give something back to the community in return for their board and lodging. That is why we cannot accept the amendments tabled by other noble Lords. We do not see this as a punishment and I want to make that absolutely clear. This is about a person occupying himself or herself usefully and not expecting to receive something for nothing.

So subsection (6)(a) of the new clause provides that the regulations made under the section may include a requirement for receipt of support to be conditional upon a person performing or participating in community activities. Community activities are defined as activities that appear to the Secretary of State to be beneficial to the public, or to a section of the public.

At present we are looking specifically for the work to be carried out in the immediate environment of someone receiving support. That might involve, for example, contributing to the upkeep or maintenance of their own accommodation. Additionally, we might wish to consider work on facilities situated close to their accommodation and which may be used by the failed asylum seeker. In short, the local community will see that failed asylum seekers are putting something back into their immediate environment; and the failed asylum seeker will be occupying himself purposefully during the time he is supported.

We envisage that the community activity scheme could be delivered by a range of partners in the public or private sector and we will explore closely the best options. We want to draw on the experience of the New Deal in delivering the scheme while recognising that this scheme is different and applicable to a specific group; namely, failed asylum seekers. The amendment also makes provision for the scheme to be rolled out gradually throughout the United Kingdom.

We view this as an important part of our overall approach to social cohesion. People want reassurance that asylum and immigration are being managed properly. The measures in the Bill, coupled with the new measures that I shall move today, allied with our success in halving the number of asylum applications and the balanced approach to managed migration, are all helping to achieve that aim. Requiring people whose asylum claims have failed to participate in a community activity while we are supporting them enhances that approach further.

Although the requirement to undertake community activity is the principal focus of the amendment, we also believe that it is right to place the existing conditions for Section 4 support on a statutory basis. The amendment will allow regulations to provide for that. At present, to qualify for, and to continue to qualify for, support under Section 4, individuals must have been supported by the National Asylum Support Service or a local authority, have exhausted their rights of appeal, be destitute and have no other avenue of support.

They must then either have been given permission to proceed with a judicial review of the decision to refuse them asylum; be unable to leave because there is no viable route of return available; be complying with arrangements to obtain a travel document; be unable to leave the UK because of illness or late pregnancy; or there must otherwise be wholly exceptional or compassionate circumstances. If an individual failed or ceased to meet the conditions set out in the regulations, the provision of support provided to them may be declined or terminated.

I should underline again that people who are unable to participate in community activity would not be required or expected to do so. It follows, therefore, that if a person's circumstances change or, for example, they are unwell, we would review whether they should continue to be expected to perform the activity. We would not terminate support without first having examined fully the reasons for a person failing to comply with the conditions. These basic principles will be provided for in greater detail in the regulations made under the amended Section 4—specifically, under the regulation-making power contained in the proposed new subsection (5).

The amendment also provides for a new right of appeal to the asylum support adjudicator against termination of support, and against a decision not to provide support in the first place. We believe that this is an important safeguard, making our overall approach to support under Section 4 more robust.

I am conscious that there is a considerable amount of detail to be worked through before such a scheme is up and running. The regulations which will provide the detail will, in recognition of this and the importance of the issue, be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, which we consider a further safeguard. It is the minimum that we can offer to your Lordships' House on this important issue.

In summary, people in receipt of support under Section 4, by definition, have no right to remain in the United Kingdom. There is no argument about appeals and other matters. They have failed. They have gone through the system however many times and the system has been tested and used. They have failed completely to become refugees, so they have no right to remain in the UK, but they cannot leave for various reasons.

We would not want them to be destitute and will support them while arrangements are made for their return or if it is not possible for them to return because of particular circumstances outside their control. However, we must recognise that there is a cost to the taxpayer of providing this support. Those failed asylum seekers who are able to participate in community activities should recognise that they should contribute to that cost. That is a modest request. They should give something back while they are waiting to return home. By asking people in receipt of support under Section 4 to make a short-term contribution—because that is all that it would be—we will continue the enormous progress that we have made in restoring credibility to the asylum system. This is a measured approach to a serious problem. It is in keeping with the Government's belief that with rights come obligations. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 2:

Line 5, at beginning insert "Subject to subsection (10),"

The noble Baroness said: First, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, back to the Home Office where he served so valiantly before. I am grateful to him for meeting Members from these Benches and from the Liberal Democrat Benches on Tuesday for an early, although at that stage rather limited, discussion on these matters. At that stage, I made it clear to the Government—and I make it clear in public today—that I intend to treat this recommitment in the nature of a discussion of principles—a Second Reading approach. Therefore, my amendments today seek information and explanation from the Government and I do not intend to press any of them to a Division.

The Government notified us on 25 May that there would be some new amendments on which they offered recommitment of the Bill. They said that it was the, Government's intention to bring forward a small number of new policy amendments". At that stage, we were told only that some would refer to marriage. That letter certainly did not lead me or anyone else to expect this torrent of 13 new clauses plus other new amendments that amount to seven substantial policy issues to be considered. I cannot resist reminding the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, that, at Second Reading in another place and in this House, the Government maintained that this Bill was the third stage in their planned approach to tackling the problems of immigration and asylum. This late rush to add 13 clauses to what was a mere 37-clause Bill makes it clear that they are still making up these policies on the hoof.

I have made it clear that I am concerned that the Government's haste in drawing up these amendments at the eleventh hour means that they may be defective or cause unintended consequences. We must examine them carefully. I foresee that I will be able to support the Government almost entirely throughout the amendments from the point of view of the objective that they seek to achieve. My problem will be with whether the Government will be able to deliver.

I notice that the Refugee Council reflected such concerns in its statement issued last Tuesday, which states: We are concerned that the Government is tabling so many amendments at this late stage of the bill. Asylum bills do not have a good track record with late amendments—they are often ill-conceived and do not receive adequate parliamentary scrutiny". That is also the view of the Refugee Women's Resource Project, Asylum Aid, which I thank for its briefing.

3.45 p.m.

My honourable and right honourable friends in another place will have only a limited opportunity to consider these amendments when they reach that House. Certainly, in the short time available to us last week, I tabled as many amendments as I could reasonably devise to signal to other noble Lords and the outside world the type of questions that we would pose. Of course, the Minister knew that from our meeting, but the other groups had not had that advantage. I thought that it was right at this stage to give a general idea of the approach that I would take to this Bill to save repeating it as regards each group of amendments heretofore.

The first new clause introduced by the Minister is likely to prove the most controversial. Which other countries in the European Union have a similar system of directed labour for those who have not been convicted of a criminal offence and for whom the penalty of failure to comply will be the loss of accommodation? I carefully note the Minister's use of the terminology that these people would be "occupying themselves usefully". Let us hope so.

Why is the Minister confident that the provision will not fall foul of Article 4.2 of the ECHR? What advice have the Government been given in that respect? Will the Minister clarify what will happen if the Secretary of State determines that a person will lose his accommodation? Does that mean that they are out on the streets, that they are in detention or simply put into different accommodation? We need to know the end result.

Amendment No. 2 is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 11, which introduces a new subsection (10). My amendment proposes that the Government should pause before going ahead with imposing this directed labour on failed asylum seekers. I entirely accept the proper emphasis that the Minister used in saying that these are failed asylum seekers who have come to the end of the road and should be leaving the country. It is not only the case that they cannot leave because some places are too dangerous to return to; on some occasions, the Government simply have not got their act together. We also know that there are difficulties of a diplomatic kind in getting people back to places such as China, which I understand. My amendment proposes that, before the Government go ahead with imposing this new system, they should consult those bodies with expertise in advising asylum seekers and those likely to be the contractors.

Earl Russell

Before we settle into too cosy an agreement that those in this situation have absolutely no chance of gaining asylum, I recollect cases in which they have gained asylum—largely through the good offices of Lord Williams of Mostyn—because their cases had been very ill served by two incompetent sets of solicitors and they had never been given a proper hearing. Let us not take too much for granted.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

The noble Earl makes a useful and instructive intervention. I am aware of the casework history that the Minister has—other noble Lords have referred to it in the past. I am taking at face value the fact that the people subject to this provision will be only those with absolutely no other avenue for appeal. However, I should be grateful if the Minister could answer the specific point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell.

Turning to the amendment, I have listed a group of people who the Government should consult. As ever, the list is not exhaustive. It is only indicative and not one that I would wish to include in the Bill. I share the Government's concern that, if one does that, one leaves out people who should be included. I have included the Immigration Advisory Service, the Local Government Association, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Refugee Council.

I note that the Minister said that a lot of detail had to be worked out by the Government before they could come up with the regulations. That is an understatement. Therefore, what consultation do the Government intend to carry out before this directed labour is introduced? Who will be consulted? Will the Government add trade unions to the list? One wonders what their attitude to this scheme might be. They have proved to be somewhat sceptical in the past about the provision of work for prisoners, for example, on the basis that it takes work away from employees. One wonders whether they might have similar concerns about this proposal.

Do the Government intend to have a pilot scheme? In any event, when do the Government hope that the first scheme might be up and running? I would expect that the LGA would be able to advise the Government on the cost of managing the scheme. The Minister talked about these people giving something back to society. My concern is that the cost of managing this scheme could be far greater for the taxpayer than any type of quid pro quo that they might get back as a result of this directed labour. We know that community activities are always difficult to manage, especially if people do not wish to do them.

The Minister will have a series of difficult questions to answer on that. I appreciate that he has done a considerable amount of work in the background. Naturally, we are taking these amendments one by one so that we can build up the picture. When we get to the later stage at Report it will be easier to have less of a staccato debate. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart

That amendment has been grouped with Amendment No. 4, which is in the name of my noble friend Lord McNally and myself. On these Benches we take a slightly more critical view of the Government than the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has done. While we agree with the points that she made, we wish to make our objection to these proposals quite clearly.

The purpose of our amendment is to remove the new subsections—

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

May I have clarification? I understood from the procedure that although these amendments are grouped, we deal with each amendment in turn. I have therefore spoken only to Amendment No. 2, because I anticipated, from what the Chairman of Committees said, that he would then call each amendment in turn and that we are therefore currently debating only Amendment No. 2.

The Chairman of Committees

These amendments are grouped. I will call the amendments as one always calls all the amendments on the selection list, but if they are spoken to in a group, they will only need to be moved or not moved formally.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

I apologise to the noble Lord because I have not then spoken to my other amendments. Obviously, it is up to noble Lords to speak to them. I will have to test the patience of the Chamber by being lengthy when I wind up. I assure the House that my comments on the other amendments will be remarkably brief.

Lord Goodhart

In that case, as I said, we have no objection to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, so I do not think there is any point in my speaking to them, but we object to new subsections (6) to (9) of Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. So all that will be left of the additions is the new subsection (5) which contains the general power to make regulations.

Subsections (6) to (9) confer a power to make it a condition of the provision of accommodation for a failed asylum seeker, that he or she should take part in community activities. The Government have not said that a failed asylum seeker will be paid for those activities other than being given free accommodation, and there is a clear inference that the failed asylum seeker will not receive any pay.

The Government are very unlikely to get much useful work out of the failed asylum seekers. Since these are people who have been refused asylum they will frankly have very little interest in benefiting the community from which they are about to be expelled. For the most part, they will be where they are for only a short period awaiting their removal from the United Kingdom. Because they will be both unwilling and a short-term workforce, they are unlikely to be given or to perform work of real value.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, there will be costs involved: somebody will have to set up a work programme and supervise the asylum seekers. One of the real questions is: is this a programme that will provide value for money, or is it a gimmick? We on these Benches believe that it is a gimmick, although it is worse than that. There is a real risk—and the noble Baroness touched on that—that it contravenes Article 4(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states: No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour". If an asylum seeker is told to take part in specified community activities, and that the penalty for failing to do so is being chucked out of his or her accommodation on to the streets, that seems to be pretty close to forced labour and, arguably, the wrong side of the boundary.

That is different from the well known community service order which follows conviction and is therefore within the exceptions allowed by Article 4(3) of the European convention.

We believe that if the person's stay is very short, the Government's proposed amendment becomes absolutely pointless. If the stay is likely to be prolonged—as it can be for various reasons, including because their country of origin will not accept them back—it is surely better to allow the failed asylum seeker to take a paid job and to contribute to the economy, and to his or her own accommodation and maintenance in that way. We believe that the proposal is wholly inappropriate and should be withdrawn.

Lord Hylton

Did the Government consult the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees before producing their amendment? In the same breath, I suggest to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, that she might include the UNHCR in her list of bodies to be consulted.

It seems that the UNHCR takes a very poor view of the Government's amendments. It states: These proposed amendments … affect prospects of integration and withdraw rights previously afforded … counter to the spirit of the 1951 Convention". The UNHCR goes on to state that it, cannot support the introduction of the proposed amendments because they diverge from the 1951 Convention's clear intention to ensure high standards of welfare for refugees, and because they are bound to have an adverse effect on the dignity and rights of refugees". I thought it was as well to emphasise that point at an early stage in our discussions and I hope that the Government will have a reply to it.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

We are treating this debate as a Second Reading debate, as we have to do. I am sure that the Minister will understand that we are confronted with 13 clauses and a lot of new ideas, quite suddenly, at quite a late stage of the Bill. We have to look at that very carefully indeed. That does not mean that we are against the idea, but we have to look at it carefully, as I think the Minister will appreciate.

I am very interested in the suggestion that totally failed asylum seekers should be expected to do something until they leave because I believe that the public will appreciate that. That may look like a gimmick to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, but I am not sure that the public will see it like that. The only thing is that it must be made to work. That is very important.

I remember the measures taken during the time of high unemployment when I was a member of the Manpower Services Commission. There are quite a lot of problems in that approach. I will not recite them because I do not want to be gloomy to the Minister, but that approach is quite difficult.

Why does the Secretary of State have to make all these arrangements? The local area will have to produce the project, which will largely be done by local authorities or other bodies. If the whole thing has to go through the Secretary of State it may be even more difficult than it would otherwise be. I am not sure whether my noble friend Lady Anelay will come to these detailed points under her different amendments—it is difficult to tell in advance—but that is an important question. In subsection (8) on page 2 it seems that the Secretary of State has to make the arrangements or it does not count. Is that a necessary arrangement? I suggest to the noble Lord that he may be making difficulties for himself.

Does the clause apply to the whole United Kingdom? If it does, it does not seem to be drafted with Scotland in mind. I am not sure whether I am wrong, but I feel that Scottish Ministers ought to be brought into that. Has the new clause been drafted with the whole of the United Kingdom in mind? If it has, I draw attention to my noble friend's Amendment No.11, which names organisations, the Scottish counterparts of which would have to be consulted. I refer to the Scottish equivalent of the Local Government Association, CoSLA, and to the Scottish counterpart of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. We need to know whether that will be the case.

If the measure is drafted with Scotland in mind, has the Scottish Executive been consulted about this matter in full? I picture failed asylum seekers in Glasgow and how they would be dealt with. As the Minister knows, there are a lot of asylum seekers in Glasgow. I am trying to picture how they would be found community activities in which to participate. That is the area with which I am most familiar and where I have encountered the relevant problems.

Has consultation been fully carried out with the Scottish voluntary organisations to ensure that there is a willingness and an ability to operate the system? I am not against the system; I just see some problems. Answers to those questions would help me.

4 p.m.

Earl Russell

When the Minister spoke to his amendment he said he thought that people ought to put something back into a community they took something out of. It is an unexceptionable sentiment, but when he expressed it I suddenly realised that the whole of the new clause seeks to ward off a rod which the Government have pickled for their own back. Until Mr Blunkett's previous Bill, asylum seekers were allowed to work after six months. In return for being allowed to work, which many of them showed a great eagerness to do—very often they want to prove their usefulness—there arose a right to benefit if they were unable to obtain work or were unfit to obtain work. There also arose the right to protection and all the other rights that go with a functioning social security system.

What the Government did instead was to deprive them of the right to work altogether. By doing this, they were able to introduce the right to deprive them totally of support and thereby to engage Article 3 of the ECHR, with consequences that I do not think I need explain to the Minister—I believe that he is perfectly well aware of them. In fact, the Government created a mess because by taking away the refugees' chance to make a responsible contribution, they thereby enabled themselves to denounce them for not having done so. At the time I wondered whether that was the objective of the move to deprive them of the right to work. I am wondering even more now, but if that is so the Government have encountered a marvellous piece of poetic justice, because that was what let them in for the ECHR judgment.

I am also a little doubtful of the phrase that the failed asylum seekers are to take part in activities, that appear to the Secretary of State to be beneficial to the public". I should not like to express an opinion on whether I am doing that at the moment. The Secretary of State's views on what is beneficial to the public are, like most of our views on that question, very much his own. I should have preferred a wording that was a good deal less personal. I should have preferred a wording such as, "may reasonably be regarded as beneficial to the public", because benefit to the public is a very, very difficult thing to define, and a very easy thing to argue about.

Rather than adopting any of these amendments—many virtues though they have—it would be a much more elegant solution to this whole problem simply to go back to restoring the right to work and to let it come into force from day one. Then these people could undertake responsible behaviour like normal people, and that is what most of them want to do. If we try to stop them, we create more problems than we prevent.

The Countess of Mar

I declare my interest as a member of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. I am absolutely astonished that these amendments have been tabled at this late stage. It is not as though these problems are new. We have known about bogus marriages for 10 or 15 years, I should think; at least, I have known about them during the time that I have served on the tribunal. We have known about the accommodation and the work problems during all that time. To introduce the measure at this late stage in the Bill is, frankly, an abuse of Parliament. I do not know why it has been done. I should be grateful to the noble Lord if he could explain that.

Will the noble Lord also tell the House how much money is being spent currently on social security benefits and housing allowances for failed asylum seekers? We need figures. There are many reports in the Daily Mail and other newspapers about how these people are draining our coffers, but we need to know by exactly how much they are draining them, and the size of the problem. I should be grateful to the noble Lord if he could tell us that.

Lord Avebury

The noble Lord made it clear to the Committee that the people we are discussing had reached the end of the line, and that there were no conceivable grounds on which they sought to remain. However, on an almost daily basis we see examples of people who have a legitimate right to say that they could not go back to the relevant country. There was an article in a newspaper this morning about Somalis who were being surreptitiously sent back to Mogadishu because the Home Office has implemented an undocumented change in policy. Whereas formerly Somalis were not forced to return, now they are being shipped back in spite of the fact that fighting has resumed in Mogadishu and in many other parts, and that the peace deals that were being negotiated in Nairobi seem to have broken down for the fifteenth time.

However, that is not an isolated example. We all know what is happening in the eastern DRC, in Bukavu. Some people in Harmondsworth who come from Bukavu have been refused asylum. They are being held in Harmondsworth pending their shipment back to a war zone. Therefore, it is not true that once someone has reached the end of what the Home Office has provided by way of appeal, there is no merit in his application to continue to remain.

The citizen's advice bureaux tell us that they believe the new clause will not work as the Minister suggests but that it will encourage people to engage in illegal activities to support themselves, or, worse still, to engage in crime. I hope the Minister will recognise that that is at least a risk of the proposal, and that he will explain how he proposes to guard against it.

As regards who should be consulted, I agree with those who have suggested a widening of the list proposed by the noble Baroness, but there is a further organisation that I should like to add to it. It was suggested to me by the proposal of my noble friend Lord Goodhart that we were on the boundary of risking the provisions on forced labour which we so often condemn in other countries. We had a debate recently on Burma, I think at the instigation of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. That was not the first time that he has raised Burma. Here we are embarking on a scheme which, as my noble friend says, is tantamount to forced labour. I want to know whether the Minister and the Home Office have consulted the ILO. If they have not done so already, will they engage in consultations with the ILO and will they make a statement to the House that the ILO does not disapprove of what they are trying to do?

Lord Rooker

Certainly by the time the draft regulations come before your Lordships' House for affirmative resolution I shall have an answer to that final question. However, it is not one that I can possibly answer today simply because, as I said when I introduced the new clause, there is an awful lot still to do. This will not happen overnight because the regulations have to be drafted. Therefore, there is a fair degree of work still to do.

Notwithstanding the fact that the noble Baroness did not complete her introduction, I will do my best to answer the amendments and the points that have been raised. I did not choose the way the clauses would be introduced. All the changes are important, but this one is fairly substantial and is worth spending time on.

The last thing I want to do is be critical of your Lordships, but I have heard the phrases "asylum seeker", "refugee" and "failed asylum seeker" used interchangeably relating to the same person. We are not talking about refugees or asylum seekers, but about people who were asylum seekers, have gone through the process and not succeeded in becoming a refugee—they are failed asylum seekers.

We all know that different rules apply for different classifications of person. When someone makes the grade, as it were, and gets refugee status, they have equal rights with all of us in this country. We are not talking about those people, or those who, having made a claim for asylum, are awaiting decisions on whether they will succeed in becoming a refugee; we are talking about those who have gone through the process, failed, and have no right to remain in the UK. In some cases, if we could have removed them, we would have done so, just as we are removing several thousand people a quarter. The fact is, in certain circumstances there are certain countries we do not send people back to, and in other cases, because of the situations I gave as examples to start with, it is not possible for them to leave at that particular time. Therefore, in the mean time, to avoid them becoming destitute as "hard cases" under Section 4, they receive help by way of accommodation, board and lodgings.

Earl Russell

Five minutes ago I just happened to be looking at what UNHCR has to say on this subject. As I understand it, its argument is that the fact that it is unsafe to return home turns the person into a refugee by giving him a "well founded fear of persecution" if he returns home. That is my understanding of the argument, but one hears both sides, and if that argument is false I will listen with interest to the Minister's explanation of why it is so.

We have got into a confused situation here. The word "refugee" has changed its meaning because of a single remark made obiter by Lord Justice Simon Brown in the case of ex parte B in 1996, which, the Minister will remember, was a judgment that did not cover the Government with glory. Lord Justice Simon Brown was persuaded by Treasury Counsel to apply the word "refugee" not as is done in the UNHCR handbook, and as had hitherto been done by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, to all those who are applying for asylum, but only to those whose claims had been successful. I do not think that that single obiter remark by Lord Justice Simon Brown should be taken as a stable and permanent basis of law. A degree of uncertainty would become the Minister in these matters.

Lord Rooker

Yes, I am uncertain, but it is absolute news to me that the mere fact a person cannot be removed back to a country automatically qualifies them to become a refugee under the UN Charter. I have just come back to this as a policy issue, and I have never heard that before. I have never seen anything like that when I was the Minister responsible for the conduct of the policy, and I have not heard it since, so I do not accept that point, although I am willing, as always, to take advice.

First, I shall do my best to deal with some of the points relating to the amendments that were tabled, because I have notes for those that may assist the noble Baroness. Then I shall work through the points noble Lords have made, as I hope that I can answer most if not all of the questions.

Turning to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, I can explain in more detail how the provisions might work. Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 seek to state specifically that voluntary organisations may be involved in the provision of services, and in managing the arrangements and participation of community services. I can confirm it is our intention not to be prescriptive about the types of organisation that could be involved in the management and provision of community services. We would be happy to see the voluntary and community, public and private sectors involved in this way, and so we have sought to word the government amendment so that this is what is provided for. We greatly value the expertise and experience of the voluntary and community sector, especially in the field of asylum and immigration, of which there is enormous experience in both the legal and practical aspects right across the country. However, we do not think it is necessary to single out voluntary organisations in the primary legislation. We believe that the wording as currently drafted is sufficiently wide to enable the voluntary organisations to be involved in this way.

4.15 p.m.

We have mentioned local authorities specifically within the draft clause simply because the statutory limitations on their role require that specific power be given to them, and that is given by proposed new subsection (9). They will be able to participate if they wish to do so, but there is no need to do the same for voluntary organisations in this way. Their participation need not be provided for in statute, as it is part of the consequence of local government legislation.

I can also reassure the Committee that our general approach to implementation of these provisions is not that any group or body would be required to undertake the management or provision. Instead, we would wish to encourage partners in a relevant area—a local authority, for example—to volunteer their involvement, on the basis that it would be of value to their local community.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 11 would require draft regulations to be subject to six months' consultation with specific interested parties before they are laid before Parliament. It was suggested in particular that consultation should take place with the Local Government Association, and there was reference to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Immigration Advisory Service and of course the Refugee Council. As I have said, we want to utilise the relevant expertise, and I certainly hope I can provide the necessary reassurance about consultation.

We fail to consult at our peril in this area. We think there are likely to be a number of organisations able to offer advice on the scheme, and we want to make use of them. This is important as it will be a partnership arrangement, not the Home Office, that runs this in detail. We do not think there is any added value in a statutory requirement to consult the specific groups mentioned. Furthermore, we could not possibly agree to such a long period of consultation. The Cabinet Office code of practice on consultation, which seeks to increase involvement in public consultations and imposes a proper amount of time to respond, recommends a period of three months, so in any event, six months would be way out of line.

The regulations will be subject to affirmative procedures, so there will be an opportunity to debate them in detail. I accept that they cannot be amended, but nevertheless they can be debated at some length in both Houses. Amendment No. 8 requires for allowances to be paid to voluntary organisations and local authorities in relation to their involvement in, and management of, community activities.

It might be that there is a misunderstanding of the purpose of subsection (7)(b)(iii). At present we are looking specifically for the work to be carried out in the immediate environment of someone receiving support, or on facilities situated close to their accommodation that may be used by the failed asylum seeker. However, we do not want to rule out the possibility that individuals may participate in activities slightly further away from their accommodation, and that might be feasible, for example, if the person were assisting in tasks at a particular support group. This subsection would give the Secretary of State the power to pay the reasonable travel expenses of such a person in recognition that they will not be in receipt of a cash allowance. Subsection (7)(b)(ii) provides for the Secretary of State to enter into contracts with local authorities or voluntary organisations, and through this provision they would receive the payments as necessary.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 9 would make it mandatory for the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out the criteria for the provision of accommodation under Section 4 and require such regulations to make the provision of support conditional on the performance of community activities and other conditions. With the government amendment, we are regularising the operation of Section 4 support and ensuring that its receipt can also now be dependent on the performance of community activity. There is nothing to be gained by turning it into a duty to make regulations. We are legislating primarily to do that.

Amendment No. 5 would remove the discretion of the Secretary of State to provide accommodation to a specified extent or a specified class. I can appreciate that it appears to be a rather broad provision, but the amendment may have consequences that noble Lords would not want. I shall try to explain why. We do not consider that it would be appropriate to set out every detail of the arrangements in the regulations, and it is necessary, therefore, that the Secretary of State should retain an element of discretion in the application of the scheme, within the limits set out by the regulations. He will not be able to act on a whim and must be reasonable at all times.

One of the principal reasons for the provision is to allow the Secretary of State to take account of failed asylum seekers in receipt of Section 4 support—hard case support—who will not be able to take part in community activities. For example, a person can qualify as unable to take part, if they are unfit to travel. Common sense tells us that in those circumstances, it may well be the case that the person is not able to perform community activities. Subsection (6)(c) allows the regulations to permit the Secretary of State to exempt such a person from a requirement to do that, and we may need to offer different varieties of activity in particular places, depending on the local circumstances. It would not be appropriate for that level of detail to be included in regulations, and so the discretion provided for by new subsection (6)(c) is necessary.

I must make it clear that the extent of the discretion must be set out in the regulations, which will, of course, be approved by the House. The regulations themselves are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The extent of the discretion will be scrutinised by the House in due course.

Amendment No. 6 would amend the definition of "community activities" to mean activities that, the Secretary of State has reason to believe are beneficial". as opposed to activities that, appear to the Secretary of State to be beneficial". In considering what sort of specific activities should be carried out as a condition of receiving accommodation under Section 4, we do not, at this stage, want to be restrictive. Community activities will not be limited to one task to be performed by everyone concerned. We want to utilise any available skills of the persons affected and will also seek views and preferences about the nature of the activities that would be most suitable for the individual.

I do not believe that, in practice, there would be any difference between the wordings. If it "appears" to the Secretary of State that an activity is beneficial, we can also say that the Secretary of State has "reason to believe" that that is the case, so the amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment No. 4 would prevent the Secretary of State making the performance of or participation in community activities a condition of receiving Section 4 support or hard case support. It would do that by removing subsections (6) to (9) of the new clause proposed by the Government. I have set out—clearly, I hope—the reasons why we believe that it is right to require failed asylum seekers before they leave the United Kingdom and while they receive Section 4 support to perform community activities as a condition of such support. We do not see that as a punishment for not leaving the United Kingdom, and it would not be right to draw such an analogy. It is not incompatible with a person's civic responsibilities to participate in the sort of community activity proposed.

Earl Russell

Has the Minister taken legal advice on the amendment? What about the extent of its compatibility with Article 4.2 of the European convention or with the judgment of Lord Justice Laws on Article 3, which, although, I understand, it is the subject of an appeal, is still at present the law, pending any further judgment?

Lord Rooker

I will be able to explain that, when I come to the notes relating to the specific points that were raised by noble Lords in the debate. At the moment, I am using the notes that were prepared in response to the amendments on the Marshalled List. I shall deal with them first and then deal with the issues raised in the debate. I hope that, given the nature of the recommitment, that will be best way of doing things.

As I said, I hope that I have set out the reasons why it is right to require the failed asylum seeker to perform community activities as a condition of their support—board and lodgings—under Section 4. We do not see it as a punishment, and it is not incompatible with a person's civic responsibilities.

Persons receiving Section 4 support are in a particular situation. Their asylum claim has been determined, and they have been found not to qualify. Where they have no other avenue of support from family or friends and meet other conditions, such as being unable to return home immediately due to the lack of a viable route, it is clearly right for us to offer them basic board and lodging. We do not accept that it is unreasonable to require such a person to give something back to their immediate community in return. More generally, we want all people to play an active part in their community, and we see that as part of that agenda.

We need to make it clear to everyone—the citizens of this country and the taxpayers—that the asylum and immigration systems are properly managed. We must recognise that there are general concerns about people benefiting from the taxpayer's support without doing anything in return. That is what we want to tackle and why we believe that it is a proportionate measure. There will be good opportunities that will benefit the asylum seeker and the immediate community. There are numerous examples of work to be carried out in our towns and cities, such as the maintenance of gardens or supporting services to minority groups, including groups of asylum seekers, that will be of obvious benefit to individuals when they return home, as well as improving the community that they are living in for a short time here.

We face enormously difficult decisions on asylum and immigration, but we must make those decisions, if we wish to preserve social cohesion in this country. We must take that on board. We must tackle the something-for-nothing culture, something that was implicit in some of the points made this afternoon. No one has said that we should let people take something without putting anything back, but one could take that to be the implication.

Lord Goodhart

The Minister talked about, for instance, people looking after gardens. Does he envisage that that might involve people taking over work that might otherwise be done by paid council employees? If so, what would the reaction of the trade unions be?

Lord Rooker

Off the top of my head, I must say. "No". It is not the intention of the operation to put anybody out of work. At present, we have more people working in this country than we have had in the history of our economy, but we are still short of people to do the jobs. Hence, the managed migration programme.

Yesterday, the Social Exclusion Unit published a report on mental health and social exclusion. Some of the projects that I have visited are getting people back into work. People with mental health problems are quite capable and want to work in the economy. In the past, it would have been said that we could not let them do furniture restoring, driving, gardening or mechanics because that would put other people out of work. Yet, such schemes work well at bringing people back into work. So, the short answer to the noble Lord's question must be "No". We do not envisage such a situation.

The Countess of Mar

If there are so many job vacancies, would it not make more sense to let such people do the jobs, become taxpayers and contribute to the whole community, even if only for a brief period?

Lord Rooker

No. I shall explain why shortly. Such a move would undermine the whole asylum system in this country. We must be clear about this: we are talking about a specific group of people. We are not talking about asylum seekers or refugees; we are talking about failed asylum seekers.

I hope that I can go through all the points that were raised. I may not have all the answers, but I shall try to go through all the points. Noble Lords can, of course, come back to me, and we will have adequate opportunity for that on Report.

I know that legal advice is a thorny issue. It has been raised more than once recently in the House. The Government do not disclose advice, and we do not say whether we have received it in the first place. We are fully satisfied that Amendment No. 1 is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. We are confident that it meets the parliamentary requirements.

A noble Lord said that it was an abuse of Parliament. It cannot be an abuse of Parliament for the Government to come to Parliament with amendments to legislation and to recommit those amendments to a Committee stage and then Report stage of a Bill allowing further discussion. That is what Parliament is for. There is no abuse of Parliament.

4.30 p.m.

The Countess of Mar

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister again. All these matters have been around for a long time. We are depriving the other place, which we are told is the elected Chamber, of the chance to go through all the stages as we are doing. Why have the Government done that? Why did they not put it in at an earlier stage? They knew that it was necessary.

Lord Rooker

First, we did not know that at the time. Secondly, I reject the notion that it is an abuse of Parliament. The other place will have adequate time—rightly so, because when the Bill goes back it will have a substantial chunk of amendments sent from the Committee here. There has to be proper scrutiny in the other place. It is responsible for its procedures and we are responsible for ours. That is another debate.

Some of these issues have been around for a long time. It might be argued that some of the issues I shall come to when moving later amendments should have been dealt with last year or the year before. There are good reasons why they were not, but there are good reasons now in the current circumstances why the action can be taken in this package of measured responses to situations that have arisen. Some of them have been forced on the Government to address again simply because of decisions in the courts; one of which is a major decision of the Appellate Committee of your Lordships' House, to which I shall come later.

I was asked which other countries provide purposeful activities. Other countries—not all of them—provide purposeful activities, particularly in reception centres, but by definition one assumes that those are reception centres for asylum seekers and not for failed asylum seekers. Finland does so, but there are different rules for different countries. Our rules are not the same as to what happens if someone cannot, or refuses to, comply with the requirement.

I turn to the issue relating to—I use a euphemism—"forced labour". A noble Lord used the phrase "slave labour", which contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. Our argument is that failed asylum seekers cannot expect to receive something for nothing. We are satisfied that we can require them to participate in activities consistent with our obligations under the ECHR. The regulations will be drafted consistently with those obligations.

The activities would be of benefit to the immediate community but would not go beyond what we would regard as the individual's normal civic duty. If someone fails to comply, the person would have the support removed from them—that might be an argument. We remain satisfied that our requirements in this clause are fully compatible with the ECHR. It would be open to the person whose support was withdrawn to reapply immediately for support under Section 4 and to agree to abide by the conditions. As I have said, an appeal process will be set out in the regulations.

I was asked if there would be a pilot scheme. I think that I said in introducing the clause that the scheme will be rolled out gradually to take account of the different circumstances around the country. In other words, it will not be rolled out overnight over the whole country. It will be rolled out over the country, so it will be a quasi-pilot scheme to that extent.

I do not take it personally, but the accusation against me was that the scheme was a gimmick rather than value for money. We think that it can be made to secure value for money and it is not a gimmick. However, it has to be seen in the context of the wider reforms in the asylum system. Part of this Bill that has been considered in Committee for a considerable period over the past month or so will show that, so it is part of the context of those wider reforms.

We have halved the number of applications and have removed a record number of failed asylum seekers. Any increase in costs needs to be seen in that context and that of the wider value for community confidence and cohesion in ensuring that this category of people are serving the community while they are here receiving support from the taxpayer.

I cannot give further details of the cost at present because I do not want to prejudice any procurement operations. The cost of running the National Asylum Support Service is over £1 billion per year. That is not related to this group of people; it obviously concerns a smaller group of people, but the idea that we are penny pinching and not spending considerable sums of taxpayers' money does not stand up to examination.

Because of the way in which the Government have posed the issue, there is the seductive question: why not let them work for their support? The noble Countess, Lady Mar, asked about why we should not let them become taxpayers. We are dealing with a small group of failed asylum seekers and that would not work if we did not introduce such a system for all asylum seekers. I will come to the point about the six-month rule in a moment. We must maintain a distinction between immigration and asylum. The asylum route is not there to circumvent the immigration rules for economic migration. That is not the purpose of the asylum system.

If people wish to come and work in the UK, they should apply for entry under one of several managed migration routes designed specifically for that purpose. People in receipt of support under Section 4 will be leaving the UK in the near future when a route back to their country becomes available, so it would not be appropriate for them to join the labour market. Allowing even asylum seekers to work undermines the rest of the managed migration system. If ever one wanted to give a pull factor to asylum and the traffickers, that would be the way to do it. We are not going down that route, however seductive it might appear. There is a problem here: it is seductive but would be disastrous in its consequences.

Earl Russell

What evidence does the Minister have that the pull factor exists outside the Government's imagination? In particular, how is the information disseminated by which the pull operates?

Lord Rooker

It goes rather wider than the clause, but it goes down the chain. We know that over the years as various changes are made to the asylum system, different routes and techniques for entering the country appear. Different charges are made by the traffickers. There is a tariff. As I said to the Committee when I was "day-to-day" Minister, there is a tariff of charges for people to be facilitated in trafficking from around the world into various countries in the European Union. Traffickers operate in a market. More money is made in trafficking people than in trafficking drugs.

Because we want to explore and advertise—which we do more than ever before—the managed migration routes for immigration, we hope, and the evidence is, that fewer people are coming in as economic migrants under the guise of asylum seekers. More information is given about routes into the country for managed migration for the purposes of work than ever before. We have gone out of our way to advertise that there are ways of coming into the European Union, and particularly into the United Kingdom, for work. One does not need to go to a trafficker in human beings and then claim asylum as a way of getting into the UK to work.

Earl Russell

Will the Minister give us an example of one change in the market that he describes that came about as a result of a change in government policy?

Lord Rooker

I will, but not off the top of my head. I shall take advice, because there will be known examples in the department. The implication of the noble Earl's question is that there is no evidence. One has only to look at the examples of people who work in the country illegally and who, when discovered, claim asylum automatically, because that is the information we have been given. They arrive here with the solicitors' cards in their pockets, because that is how the operation works to enter the labour market. There is plenty of evidence for such illegal activity. It is not as though the issue has arisen recently—it has been with us for quite a while, and has been growing.

I shall come to the other points raised by Members of the Committee, starting with the consultation with the United Nations high commissioner and compatibility with the convention. I regret to say that I cannot remember who asked about it; I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. No consultation has taken place yet, but we are fully aware of the expertise that can be offered by many of the groups. We will consider carefully who to consult. Believe you me, we shall not be short of consultees. I should repeat that we are talking about people who have not been found to be refugees. Therefore, the question of rights of refugees does not arise. They are not refugees. The policy is a measured approach to ensure that people in receipt of hard case support give something back to society.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, asked whether the provision applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. The answer is yes. Immigration remains a reserved matter. We have not yet conducted consultation on the provision, but of course will consult interested bodies in the devolved administrations. I hope that that answers her question.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

That is extremely interesting, because there are huge implications for the Scots Parliament and Scottish organisations. I suggest that the noble Lord consults with the utmost speed. It is extraordinary to have brought the provision forward without consultation, because all the functions involved other than the immigration function—as he said, that is of course a reserved matter—are devolved. As he well realises, the community activities will have to be put into action by various Scottish bodies. Consultation should happen fairly quickly.

To what sort of number of failed asylum seekers, roughly, will the proposed new clause apply? I am trying to get the scale in my mind, so that I can then imagine the scale in Scotland.

Lord Rooker

On the last point, I have a figure in mind from discussion yesterday with officials and reading briefs, but I would like confirmation of it in case I have the wrong figure. It is not a large figure; we are talking about people in receipt of Section 4 hard case support—board and lodging. We are not talking about all failed asylum seekers. A load of failed asylum seekers do not seek support; they live with friends and relatives in the community. The figure I have in mind is about 500.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, asked why we ended the employment concession in July 2002. It had become somewhat irrelevant by the time that we abolished it, due to the speed with which we were delivering initial decisions. At that time, 85 per cent of decisions were made within six months of application. While the concession was in operation, it acted as a pull factor for unfounded applications, as well as giving the misplaced impression that all asylum seekers could work. That was the other issue; one gets rumours around various communities, and it is very difficult once a rumour is up and running and has legs to, as it were, chop them off. After the changes, the speed with which decisions were being made by 2002 was very substantially increased from the speed of those before I came into this House in 2001, as I know from dealing with my constituency in my former role. Decisions had sometimes taken years; the situation was appalling.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked me about people unable to go back. We are prepared to offer support for those who meet the criteria for Section 4 support. That is the whole point, really. It is not as though we have invented new criteria. Section 4 hard case support is there. We are not trying to stop people in the relevant circumstances, but merely requiring them to give something back in return.

Lord Avebury

I was making the point that people such as the Somalis were formerly considered unable to return to their countries of origin but now, because of a surreptitious change in policy by the Home Office, were being forcibly returned. They were included in the classification that the Minister outlined in introducing the proposed new clause as those who had been right through the system, had no possible merit, and were to be cut off from all benefits.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Rooker

If I remember rightly, at one point people could not be removed to Somalia. A couple of years ago there were no government, administration or anything like that to receive them. I shall take advice on the matter again—I am not making policy up on the hoof—but I understood the situation to be that although there was no national government in the country, parts of it had a good, competent, local civil administration. The issue was whether there was a route back into those areas. At some points there was not, but at others there was. When there was, it was right to return people to those areas.

Earl Russell

Has the Minister consulted the Foreign Office on the subject of Somalia?

Lord Rooker

The Bill is government legislation, and all government departments agree with it and the changes. It has been through the full machinery of government. It is not a Home Office one-off operation; we simply happen to be the ministry dealing with it. Every department of government agrees with the proposal. I cannot quote from the individual letters, but they whizz round Whitehall in sack-loads.

I was asked about the citizens advice bureaux considering that there would be an increase in illegal working or crime. We do not accept that. As I indicated, we are talking about people in receipt of Section 4 support. They are not permitted to work. I have also given the Committee an estimate of the number of people affected—about 500. They are getting board and lodging anyway, so will not be destitute in the sense of being out on the streets with no support at all. Therefore, there is no excuse for them to go into illegal working, and certainly no excuse for criminal activity. I do not accept that, simply because someone does not get what they want, they turn to crime or illegal working. They have no right to be in the United Kingdom, but the country, the Government and the taxpayer take the view that people should not be left destitute in those circumstances, hence the hard case support.

I may have missed out one or two questions, but I hope that I have covered many, if not all, the points raised.

The Countess of Mar

The noble Lord mentioned a comparison with the New Deal. Will he remind us how much each job found under the New Deal cost?

Lord Rooker

I will in due course when I get the advice, because I do not know off the top of my head.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

I am very grateful to the Minister for treating the proposed new clause with such care in his answers. He obviously gave a considerable amount of detail in replying to my amendments, and has saved the Committee having to suffer an awful lot more from me; I shall be able to be relatively brief. Obviously, I shall consider very carefully what he said before we look at any amendments that might be tabled for Report.

The Minister started by saying that there was a lot still to do in preparing the regulations. That is the understatement of the year so far, but I take it in good part. I am glad that he referred several times to the consultation exercise to be undertaken. I was taken to task, quite rightly, by other Members of the Committee for having too short a list of organisations that should be consulted. In my defence, I said that I knew that I would be caught on that and that other organisations should be involved. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to the UNHCR, which I thank for managing to get to Members of the Committee, at midday today, its full response on the issues. It is pretty remarkable that organisations have turned round their responses within six days of seeing the Government's printing of the proposals.

There is certainly much work to be done in the consultation. The Minister referred in passing to the breaching of directed labour. I have not called it anything else; to me, it is simply directed labour, which I do not think a pejorative term.

The Minister says that there will be an appeals process, but there is much work to be carried out in deciding what constitutes a breach. Those of us who have sat as magistrates know that in the circumstances of a community penalty a breach is brought before a court. Some probation services will say someone is in breach after one failure to comply with the full requirements, others will take longer. The regulations may well weigh a tonne by the time that we see them, because it will be a delicate procedure to apply properly and fairly for the 500 people who might be affected.

The Minister said again that the Government want failed asylum seekers on hard case support—and he was right to emphasise that particular group—to give something back to society. I would not quarrel with that, nor, I suspect, would most of the failed asylum seekers. The difficulty will be deciding which activities would be appropriate for them to carry out. It is my understanding that people on hard case support are already allowed to do voluntary work, so the Government are making their own life difficult by taking matters one step further.

Finally, there have been comments about the cost of managing this system for those 500 people. It will certainly be difficult to obtain any value back for the community. I hope that the Government manage to achieve that, but I suspect that they will not because management costs are always high when directing and managing small groups of people who may be unwilling to comply, because one cannot replicate successes and avoid failures. Some of the people who do this work may well be willing to work—for example, my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth mentioned people from Zimbabwe who will be returned, but who would be keen to work while they are here. I suspect that they would accept voluntary work or directed labour. The difficulty will be that many people will not be so willing and when we see the regulations this House may wish to look at them in great detail and with great care. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes)

It may help the Committee if I remind it that the noble Baroness has begged for leave to withdraw Amendment No. 2. When we have taken Amendments Nos. 3 to 11 in order, I shall call Amendment No. 1.

Amendment No. 2, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Before calling Amendment No. 4, I must advise the Committee that if it is agreed to I will not be able to call Amendments Nos. 5 to 11, due to pre-emption.

[Amendment No. 4, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 11, as amendments to Amendment No. 1, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 1 agreed to.

Lord Rooker moved Amendment No. 12:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—