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Fiona Mactaggart (Slough): I welcome above all the Home Secretary's determination to bring more efficiency to the administration of the system; without efficiency, there will not be fairness. He referred to marriages and the no-switching rule, where there is obvious conflict between efficiency and fairness. People who are in the country as students or visitors and get married here often do not return home to apply for permission to enter as a spouse because of long queues in their countries of origin; the delay in getting here may mean that they do not witness the birth of their child or that their family cannot be financed here. In his review of the process, will my right hon. Friend take all those factors into account to ensure that people in genuine marriages can look after their spouses in Britain?

Mr. Blunkett: Yes. I will examine in detail the issues raised. Perhaps I ought to have made it clear, although in

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a statement one must be concise, that we are referring to those who enter on visitor and other visas under six months, and who do so knowing that they intend to switch. It is unfair on those who are using the system legitimately; it slows down the system for them. That is why we need to examine the matter urgently.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): May I say on behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish national party that there is much in the White Paper for us to study? We in Plaid Cymru and the SNP will look with interest at the short statement of what it means to be British on page 34. That might be useful. I refer the Home Secretary to the answer that he gave me on Monday regarding language. What consideration has been given to the implications for the use of language as an occupational qualification in some circumstances?

Mr. Blunkett: I promise the hon. Gentleman that there is no question of being Welsh and not being British or, as I said on Monday, of the Welsh language not being included—or Gaelic, Mr. Speaker. I need to get this right. I shall simply duck the last part of the question, which is designed to embroil me with the Assembly as regards the necessity of the Welsh language in some jobs and some professions. I have enough on my plate today.

Mr. Iain Coleman (Hammersmith and Fulham): Given that previous ministerial statements indicated that the anticipated average time in an attendance centre could be up to six months, and given that a number of individuals and organisations, including the chief executive of the Children's Society, have expressed grave concern about children being taken out of or not being in mainstream education for such a long period, will my right hon. Friend reassure us that the complex and diverse needs of the children of asylum seekers will be met, and give us some details of the likely arrangements for that?

Mr. Blunkett: I will happily write to my hon. Friend, and I will place the letter in the Library so that hon. Members can see the substantive answer. Clearly, on the top of one question, I cannot answer all that. I should make it clear that there is a big difference between what happens in the accommodation centres and the time spent in removal centres. Accommodation centres are an alternative to the haphazard dispersal of youngsters, often into unsatisfactory accommodation, and often not getting them into school quickly. The provision of education—tailored, I hope, to particular regional languages—will be a gain, not a detriment to the well-being of those children. In any case, the entire operation that I spelled out today—the seamless approach from induction through to integration or removal—is designed to speed up the process. God forbid that anyone should be in an accommodation centre for six months. The process needs to be speeded up. If we can get that right, my hon. Friend's fears will be overcome.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): The Home Secretary will have noted that much of his statement was warmly received on the Conservative Benches. Is he completely satisfied with the security arrangements at the various French ports of exit, and does he feel that it would be useful to persuade our French friends to have more British personnel involved?

Mr. Blunkett: I am glad to say that the French welcomed the additional immigration officers and security

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at Coquelles. As I spelled out on Monday, I cannot guarantee that security is 100 per cent., but over the past six months there have been enormous improvements at the rail freight terminal and at ports. The reduction from 808 people in July to 32 in December coming through clandestinely is an indication of the progress that has been made.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Will the Home Secretary say a bit more about the accommodation centres—where they will be situated, how much it will cost to run them and what element of compulsion there will be for the people inside them? Will his prediction that people will spend no more than six months in these centres be enshrined in regulation, or is there a danger that the centres will become long-term ghettos where asylum seekers are stuck while the system is incapable of dealing effectively and efficiently with their applications?

Mr. Blunkett: Asylum seekers will not be any more stuck—to use my hon. Friend's phraseology—than they are at the moment in terms of the accommodation that they have been assigned under the asylum support system. I cannot give a guarantee that a requirement will be built into law that nobody should be in the centres for more than six months. I can only endeavour to change completely the efficiency and administration of the system, so that no one, whether they are in an accommodation centre or in existing dispersal, finds themselves waiting for an inordinate and unacceptable time. I can assure him that the intention is to provide help and support. People will not be held or restricted in accommodation centres. They will not be imprisoned or confined, but they will be expected—as will the reporting centres—to ensure that we know where they are. If they are claiming support, they must be given an option in respect of whether to get support in an accommodation centre. We cannot compel people to take accommodation, food, board, lodging, education and health care, but we can offer them those things if support is what they seek.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): May I invite the Home Secretary to apply the same decent, democratic and compassionate values that he showed in his statement to the proposal to site one of the asylum and accommodation centres at a remote, rural location in my constituency—Throckmorton airfield? Does he think that it is right that the Government should assert Crown immunity and introduce urgent provisions to override the democratic planning process, which has already ruled out on environmental grounds any development on the land? Does he think that it is right to locate asylum seekers, as he intends to do, immediately between the county's only landfill site and the burial site of 130,000 foot and mouth-diseased carcases? What message does that decision risk sending about the Government's attitude to asylum seekers?

Mr. Blunkett: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's undoubted concern for the well-being of the asylum community. Of course, I shall bear it in mind, but let me make it clear that we have made no decision on the sites. We have initially identified eight, one of which is already deemed unsuitable. We have a competitive exercise that has to include the normal contracting, tendering and advertising process to see whether the voluntary and

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private sectors would like to propose other sites. From all those sites, we will initially select four for consultation. My noble Friend Lord Rooker contacted the hon. Members in whose constituencies these initial centres are proposed in order to ensure that no secrecy or underhand activity was involved. We will do the same when additional sites have been identified. We will then work through those that are unacceptable because of factors that make it unhealthy or undesirable for the centres to be placed there.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. I think that I agreed with just about every word in it—an unusual situation for me.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in respect of Islam, it is clear that when parents are arranging a marriage for their children, the main prerequisite is compatibility? Will not that compatibility be much more easily achieved if parents arrange marriages within the UK community of Muslims who are originally from the Asian subcontinent, rather than by going to the subcontinent to bring back young husbands and wives? That would help with many of the aims that he is trying to achieve in his White Paper, as many of them are better achieved from within the Asian community. It would certainly help the many young women who, I am afraid, visit my office in need of help because of the breakdown of traditional arranged marriages that have gone very wrong.

Mr. Blunkett: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her sensitivity and forthrightness in representing her constituents and in raising the issue of equality. I want to make it clear that we are not seeking to impose anything on the communities with regard to these issues. We are simply raising an issue that many people in communities in which arranged marriages are part of the culture wish to have addressed, and wish to have articulated in this, their and our Parliament.

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