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Asylum Seekers

3. Mr. David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab): How many asylum seekers in (a) Midlothian and (b) Scotland have been granted refugee status in 2005. [35559]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Cairns): The information is not held in the form requested. However, there were 1,400 grants of asylum in the UK in the first three quarters of 2005.

Mr. Hamilton: Does the Minister share my concern about the view, which is often the result of paranoia, that the United Kingdom has been overrun by hordes of asylum seekers? I cannot think of a single person who is seeking asylum in my constituency, although the relative of an asylum seeker has been to my surgery, and there are very few asylum seekers in Scotland. Is it not time to separate asylum seekers and economic migrants who contribute to the Scottish economy and fill employment gaps—in my area, unemployment is 2.2 per cent.? We must make it clear that we are not being overrun. We should welcome people who have run away from tyrants to come here with open hearts.

David Cairns: I congratulate my hon. Friend on dealing with the issue sensibly and moderately, because the debate is too often characterised by hysteria at the extremes—the hysteria of those who say that we are being swamped by asylum seekers and, at the other end of the spectrum, the hysteria of those who say that any rules on asylum are an affront.

We must deal with the issues separately. Asylum is about the needs of the individual—if someone has a well-founded fear of persecution, we must welcome them with open arms, and we have a long and proud history of doing so. Immigration is about the economic needs of the host country and it is important to have a managed migration system, which we are working towards. My hon. Friend is right to warn of the dangers of blurring the two issues, because immigration and asylum are separate matters and should be dealt with separately.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): According to the Home Office, in 2004, just one in 15 failed asylum seekers were removed from the United Kingdom. Given his previous answer, what is the Minister doing to ensure that failed asylum seekers are removed from Scotland?

David Cairns: The Home Office is making significant progress on removing failed asylum seekers. It is clear that we have an obligation to welcome those who have suffered abuse or the threat of abuse in their own homes and who qualify for asylum. Those who use the asylum system to bypass the immigration system, however, are engaged in an abuse and are illegal immigrants. If their asylum appeals fail, we ask them to leave the country, and if they do not do so voluntarily—assistance is provided—they are removed. The system is sensible and humane.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is thanks to the friendly city of Glasgow that we have asylum seekers in Scotland? Glasgow is the only city in Scotland that takes in any
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asylum seekers and it would be better if other areas did their bit to welcome people from far-off lands, in which case they might understand the problem better.

David Cairns: Once again, I pay tribute to Glasgow city council, which is the only authority in Scotland to take part in the National Asylum Support Service scheme. Although there were some difficulties in the beginning, most people recognise that the scheme has benefited Glasgow. There have been discussions through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and others about other local authorities joining the scheme, but they have not come to fruition. However, it is open to any local authority to make such arrangements with the Home Office.

Nuclear Plants

4. Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What assessment he has made of the level of public support in Scotland for new build nuclear generation plants in Scotland. [35560]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alistair Darling): The energy review will provide the opportunity to assess public support for both nuclear build and other forms of energy generation.

Mr. Hollobone: Is it not the case that, unless a decision is made soon, not only will the pool of talent, knowledge and expertise in the Scottish nuclear industry emigrate from Scotland, but Scotland's carbon footprint will be likely to increase?

Mr. Darling: No, that is not the case. British Energy and others involved in the nuclear industry in Scotland fully support the Government's decision to review our energy requirements and the source of generation. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's forecasts are anything like accurate, and I probably have as good an idea about the situation in the nuclear industry in Scotland as he does.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): First Minister Jack McConnell does not know whether there should be new nuclear power stations in Scotland. The Liberal Democrat spokesman thinks that it might be a good idea, although his party is opposed. What is the Secretary of State's position? Is he in favour of new nuclear power stations in Scotland? Will he resist the temptation from Labour Back Benchers to repatriate powers over the nuclear power planning process and confirm that it is up to the Scottish Parliament to make decisions about whether there will be nuclear power stations in Scotland?

Mr. Darling: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the House at the beginning of Question Time when I made it clear that we do not propose to amend the Scotland Act 1998. He is right to say that the Scottish Executive are responsible for planning matters. If I were him, though, I would be wary of lecturing other parties on their deficiencies, given that his party's position on wind power is remarkable. It is in favour of it in general but against it if it is anywhere near its constituencies.
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David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con): In light of the interesting question asked by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Anne Moffat), can the Secretary of State explain to the House what the Government would do if a politically motivated Green, Liberal Democrat or, worse still, Scottish National party-influenced Executive blocked the building of a nuclear power station in Scotland?

Mr. Darling: Again, in the spirit of the new consensus, I think that we would both agree that the Scotland Act has to apply regardless of who happens to be elected to the Scottish Parliament. My view is that most sensible political parties, and most people in Scotland, recognise that we need to have a profound debate about the future of energy generation in Scotland, and that to rule out nuclear would be absolutely foolish. This country has very substantial energy needs in future and we must consider what we do with nuclear plants. We should be looking not to the Scotland Act but to the good sense of people in Scotland, who have rejected the nationalists, the Greens and the Trots on every occasion on which they have had the opportunity to vote them down.

Illegal Drugs

5. Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on measures to curb the flow of illegal drugs into Scotland. [35561]

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

Andrew Rosindell: The Minister will be aware of reports that, in Scotland, a line of cocaine is cheaper than cappuccino. There has been a 12 per cent. increase in drug-related deaths in Scotland. When will the Government take action to end this epidemic by securing our ports and airports and ending an appalling trade that ends in the deaths of young people?

David Cairns: I have seen in my own constituency the terrible damage that drug consumption does. It ruins individual lives and wrecks families and communities. That is why it is very important to get all the necessary measures in place to deal with it. Of course, such issues are substantially devolved to the Scottish Parliament. I pay tribute to the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, which has done a magnificent job since its inception, and to the measures that have been put in place through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Since that was enacted, more than £5.5 million of assets have been seized from suspected drug dealers. That is hitting drug dealers where it hurts them most—in their pockets. A clearer signal might have been sent from this House if the Conservative party had supported that Act.

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