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2. Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): What discussions he has made with the Home Secretary on the operation of the national asylum support service scheme in Scotland. [8166]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Cairns): My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on a range of issues.

Ann McKechin: My hon. Friend will be aware that under the operation of the NASS scheme in Glasgow an increasing number of applicants have now exhausted their legal case. Several of them come from countries such as Iraq and Iran, so it is difficult for them to be returned to their country of origin. Can my hon. Friend assure me that every step will be taken to ensure that those applicants coming to the end of their NASS support will be able to transfer to so-called hard-cases support without any gap, and that—as far as possible—that support can be offered to them in Scotland rather than requiring them to move to other parts of the UK?

David Cairns: I am happy to give my hon. Friend the assurances that she seeks. It is the case that when an asylum seeker has their application turned down they are no longer eligible for assistance under the NASS scheme, but may in limited circumstances be eligible for support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Some 100 people in Glasgow currently receive that support. I have been assured that when an individual has been informed that they are no longer entitled to the NASS support they are informed there and then that they may be entitled to the section 4 support. If they make an
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application at that time, the gap that my hon. Friend fears should not arise. If she is aware of any particular cases where someone has fallen between two stools, I will pass them on to my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that one of the great benefits of the dispersal scheme is the impact of asylum seekers' children in the schools of Glasgow. Achievement by all children in those schools rose markedly because of the aspirations of the asylum seekers' children. He will also know that this week Dungavel, the former prison used as a detention centre, has been emptied of its occupants, including any children. Can he give me an assurance that he will work through the Scotland Office to prevent the return of children to Dungavel, as it is inappropriate to incarcerate children because their parents are asylum seekers?

David Cairns: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's first point. I had a meeting with the newly elected leader of Glasgow city council, Councillor Steven Purcell at which he spoke highly of the impact that asylum seekers' children had made in that regard. Indeed, I pay tribute to Glasgow city council, the only council in Scotland that is taking part in the scheme to that extent.

On the second point, operational matters at Dungavel are rightly and properly the responsibility of the Home Office, but no children are now detained there for longer than 72 hours, and if it is necessary to detain children for longer they are moved to the specialist family unit at Yarl's Wood.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): I am glad to hear my hon. Friend congratulate Glasgow on being the only city to accept asylum seekers. Does he agree that it is time that other cities did their bit in accepting asylum seekers? Will he come to Glasgow, however, and talk with the council about the problems that we have? Finally, will he congratulate Glasgow on the great work it has done in hosting the special Olympics this week?

David Cairns: I certainly congratulate Glasgow city council on a successful hosting of the special Olympics. As I said, I have already had discussions with the council at leadership level about the impact of the dispersal programme in Glasgow and I was encouraged by the positive way in which Councillor Steven Purcell spoke about that programme. I am aware that other local authorities are having ongoing discussions through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and I hope that they will continue.

Make Poverty History Demonstration

3. Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, East) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh on 2 July. [8167]
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The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alistair Darling): As I said a few moments ago, more than 200,000 people showed their support in Edinburgh on Saturday for making poverty history. It was a powerful message that world leaders need to heed.

Mr. Marshall: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Make Poverty History demonstration was a tremendous success and a wonderful advert for peaceful persuasion? However, does he also agree that now it is over it must not be forgotten and that justice for the poor, trade justice and fair trade must remain our priorities? If he does agree, will he convey to our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister our wholehearted support in his efforts to get rid of the common agricultural policy that is the cause of so much poverty in the poor countries of the world?

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend makes an important point. First, it is important that our Government, and other Governments, continue to do everything that they can to increase aid, reduce debt and join together to establish the international finance facility. All those measure will help to reduce, alleviate and eventually end poverty. That is very important.

It is also important that we establish fair trade. That is why the Government attach considerable importance to making substantial progress at the discussions that will take place in Hong Kong at the end of this year.

My hon. Friend is also right that in relation not just to the developing world but also for the good of Europe as a whole, it cannot be right in this day and age that about 40 per cent. of the EU budget is going on the common agricultural policy. It needs to be reformed, and if Europe is to be relevant to the people who live there it is important that its leaders have the courage to make the necessary economic and other reforms to make Europe more competitive, and also to improve the lives of people living in the EU member states.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): The demonstration on Saturday was an enormously successful expression of popular will, exhilarating for all of us who took part. Does the Secretary of State agree that we want action and not just communiqués from the world leaders at Gleneagles? However, the scenes we witnessed in Edinburgh yesterday were ugly and violent, and the Secretary of State should not in any way underrate the legitimate fears of people in Auchterarder and elsewhere. Can anything positive be done to separate the huge legitimate public protest from the anarchist factions that want to turn cities and towns into battlegrounds?

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman raises two points. First, as I have said before, it is important that the message that came from people on Saturday is heard loud and clear around the world, and that we keep it at the front of our minds not just this week but in the months and years to come. That is absolutely right.

The hon. Gentleman is also right about yesterday's events. There is a world of difference between the peaceful, hugely enjoyable protest that took place in Edinburgh on Saturday—where people from all over the country had a fantastic day out, and a clear message
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was well and reasonably put—and what we saw yesterday, which was a handful of people who were more concerned about causing trouble and engaging in violence, and were more interested in their own activities than anything else. I think that most people in Scotland and throughout the world can see the difference between the two. It is important to contain any attempt at violent behaviour over the next few days. The police are determined to do everything they can to ensure that. They have been fully resourced and they have reinforcements from south of the border, as well as from Scottish police forces, to do everything that they possibly can to make sure that disruption is kept to an absolute minimum. It is important that people understand that legitimate protest is one thing, but that it is quite another to engage in mindless violence that has nothing to do with, and can only distract from, our attempts to alleviate poverty and to tackle issues such as climate change.

Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South) (Lab): What I noticed when I went round the demonstration on Saturday was that people were demonstrating to persuade the G8 leaders to get on with the job of making poverty history. They were not campaigning to stop the G8 going ahead; they want it to go ahead and they want the G8 leaders to act. When we contrast the 250,000 people who want G8 to succeed with the thousand who want it to stop, we can see that democracy is on the side of the majority. I hope that the Secretary of State will do everything in his power to make sure that the voice of the mass of the people who were there on Saturday is heard and not the voices off that we heard yesterday, which do not represent anything and cannot see anything good coming from G8.

Mr. Darling: I agree. Most people, not just people who were in Edinburgh on Saturday, realise that we need to build on our democratic institutions to achieve the change that we all want. That is the way to bring about constructive change. Destructive behaviour achieves nothing and, in particular, does absolutely nothing for the people who are starving even as we sit here today.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): May I associate myself and my hon. Friends with the comments about the outstanding success of the demonstration last Saturday compared to the deplorable violence that we saw yesterday and to a certain extent today? Does the Secretary of State agree that there has been a long tradition in Scotland, through our Churches and many other organisations, of what is now expressed as the Make Poverty History agenda? How will he use his office to ensure that that voice is heard throughout Government and, in particular, to express that Scots feel that fair aid, fair trade and debt relief are not a matter of quid pro quo but are the moral imperative of the well-off to assist the less well-off?

Mr. Darling: I agree that it is very important that we continue to demonstrate that the Government are on the side and support the views of the people as expressed on Saturday. That is why, for example, earlier this year my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer
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set out a plan that he wanted to be implemented for Africa, which he described as the equivalent of the Marshall aid plan. Under that plan, the international finance facility, money would be made available to African countries. Meanwhile, Britain has led the way in writing off debt. Indeed, I believe that we have doubled aid over the last few years. We want to see more countries doing the same.

It is important that the lesson we draw from Saturday is not only that something should be done but that we can do something about these problems. This is not rocket science. It is not impossible. Governments have it within their power to tackle and end poverty and to improve education, to make a real difference to millions and millions of people. It may be a big problem, but it is a problem that can be solved if Governments are prepared to take the right action. We are prepared to show a lead in that; we are prepared to play our part in the discussions that are taking place this week. I just hope that the rest of the world is prepared to join us in the same venture.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): Again, I agree with the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Glasgow, East (Mr. Marshall), but will the Secretary of State ensure that any costs that arise from dealing with the consequences of enormous numbers of people descending on Edinburgh to support this very good cause and, rightly, to make their voices heard will be met by the UK Government, not the Scottish Executive, because it is as a major British city that Edinburgh is rightly playing its current part?

Mr. Darling: This is a novel turn of events for the Conservative party. As I told the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) a few moments ago, our guiding principle is that we want to see international events like this staged in cities outside London. That is most important, but I do not think it follows that just because something is outside London, all the costs have to be met by the UK Government. Our substantial contribution of £20 million has been made with the complete agreement of the Scottish Executive, who are also making their contribution. A lot of the policing functions and other functions have been devolved to Scotland, so too the money that goes with them. But if the hon. Lady is calling for even more money to be sent to Scotland, perhaps she would have a word with her colleague the shadow Chancellor, because I am not sure that he takes the same view.

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