§ Earl Russell
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What would be the net effect on public expenditure of scrapping the arrangements for dispersal and support of asylum seekers set up in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and restoring full entitlement of social security benefits (a) at a 90 per cent rate of income support and (b) at a 100 per cent of income support. (HL399)
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
It is not possible to identify the precise effect on public expenditure. The Government believe that cash benefits represent a strong pull-factor and an encouragement to those who seek to come to this country to claim asylum in order to improve their economic well-being. This was particularly well illustrated when the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 was introduced. That legislation had the effect of cutting off benefits for those who did not claim asylum at their port of entry. It resulted in an overall decrease in total asylum applications of 45 per cent over eight months. Although it is not possible to make precise calculations, the Government conclude that the effect of not having a dispersal scheme (which would mean that the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers would need to continue to be accommodated in the London area, which is already under intense housing pressure) and the restoration of cash benefits would result in large increases in costs in public expenditure terms.