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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, if it is accepted that the Government will restore the position to that which applied last week before the judgment of the Court of Appeal, anyone who applies at the port of entry will be eligible for those benefits until a decision is made by the Home Office. Such a person will be eligible for housing benefit and therefore will be able to get housing. Of course, they will not be eligible for long term social housing. I would have thought that the great majority of people in this country would fully support that view.

Earl Russell: My Lords, all of the cases at the moment involve people who, when they passed through the port of entry, were unaware that their entitlement to benefit was contingent upon claiming it at the port of entry. The noble Lord, Lord Clark of Kempston, shakes his head. How does he know that what I say is false? I am happy to give way if he has any reason for it. I cannot see how this can be done unless it is made crystal clear before these people come in that benefits must be claimed at that point or not at all. However, since that is another argument, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 76:

1 Page 7, line 26, leave out ("an immigrant") and insert ("a person subject to immigration control").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 76 is linked with a number of other amendments tabled by the Government, Amendments Nos. 79, 93, 100 and 110. Amendments Nos. 76A, 79A, 93A and 99 will be spoken to by noble Lords opposite. The Government amendments give effect to the undertaking I gave in Committee that the Government would bring forward amendments to remove the term "immigrant" from the face of the Bill. I referred to the amendments in an earlier debate on Clause 8. I reserve the right to respond to the other amendments when they have been spoken to. I beg to move Amendment No. 76.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 76, Amendment No. 76A:

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Line 1, leave out ("a person subject to immigration control") and insert ("a relevant person").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 76A I should like to speak also to the other Government amendments and to our amendments, Amendments Nos. 76A, 79A, 93A and 99. Since this is the first and last occasion on which I shall speak to Clause 9 I should like to say a word about the agreed procedure for consideration of parts of Clause 9 as presaged by the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, at the outset of our debates today.

I understand that it has been agreed by the usual channels that the Government amendments to which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, has spoken will be produced as early as possible this week and that they will be considered, not in the first instance at Third Reading, but on re-commitment of Clauses 9 and 10. I suppose that if any of them took the form of new clauses they would also be dealt with according to Committee procedures. We are grateful to the Government Chief Whip for agreeing to that modest improvement in the procedure of the House. It of course means that they will be dealt with under the Committee procedure next Monday afternoon, and that the Third Reading will be taken immediately afterwards. So there will be no delay in the completion of the Bill. It will take place on the same day provided, of course, that the Government do not lose any amendments.

In return for that, as I say, modest improvement in the procedures of the House, I have undertaken, on behalf of my noble friends, that we will not seek to raise under the Committee procedure any matters which are not covered by the scope of the government amendments. To that extent, we can record a small victory for common sense and parliamentary procedure.

In moving Amendment No. 76, the Minister said, rightly, that it was in fulfilment of an undertaking that she made in Committee to remove from the face of the Bill the word "immigrant", to which exception was taken. We have debated this matter already on Amendment No. 64. The reason why I did not suggest that all the amendments be grouped together is that the inadequate scope of the government amendment is clearer when we look at Clauses 9, 10 and 12 than it was on Clause 8.

The Government are doing the absolute minimum as a response to the concerns which were expressed. All they are doing is changing the word "immigrant" to:

    "a person subject to immigration control".
All the other dangerous aspects of these clauses are left unchanged. We complained not just about the use of the word "immigrant" but about the fact that there is a definition in Clause 12 which is so wide that it includes those who require:

    "leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom (whether or not such leave has been given)".

That means that an immigrant or person subject to immigration control is a wider definition and includes a large number of people who have been in this country for many years, who are equal citizens in every respect with those whom the Minister calls the established

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population--a new phrase, and one which the more I hear him say it the less I care for it. It is approaching talking about the white population, although it does not quite do that.

Then what happens? We have this, presumably, deliberately wide definition of what is meant by immigrant or a person subject to immigration control. We have introduced into the Bill the idea that there should be the possibility of controls for people who have a perfect right to be in this country. Then we return to Clauses 9 and 10, which relate to housing accommodation and assistance, and then to entitlement to child benefit, and we partially restrict those clauses so that they do not apply to all the people who are included in the definition in Clause 12.

In Clause 9 we talk about those who are;

    "of a class specified in an order made by the Secretary of State".
And Ministers give us the assurance that that class will not include those who have been given leave to enter or remain in the UK. We widen the definition, we narrow it again and we make it insecure by referring to an order made by the Secretary of State.

The same situation arises in Clause 10(2), which provides:

    "No immigrant within the meaning of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 shall be entitled to child benefit for any week unless he satisfies prescribed conditions".
We are assured by Ministers that these prescribed conditions will ensure that Clause 10 does not cover those who have leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom.

What is the point of this round-about procedure? Why do we have this wide definition which we then seek by ministerial assurance to restrict but fail to restrict in the wording of the Act? Is this not a recipe for insecurity and for racial insecurity above all? Is this not a recipe for imprecision and for the possibilities of misinterpretation by housing authorities, housing associations and those responsible for the allocation of child benefit?

Would it not have been better for the Bill to say what it means, which is that housing benefit and child benefit shall be withheld only from those who have no right to be in this country? We do not agree with that objective but at least it would have been clear, whereas the present wording and round-about definition seems to be designed deliberately to create insecurity, uncertainty and the possibility of discrimination.

These amendments do not meet the concerns which were properly expressed in Committee and they leave this part of the Bill in a thoroughly unworthy state. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 76A, 79A and 93A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would substitute the term "relevant person" for the term "immigrant". The noble Lord has indicated that he wishes to prescribe on the face of the Bill categories of persons who are to be excluded from the

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scope of Clauses 9 and 10. His Amendment No. 99 to Clause 12 lists the categories which he wishes to propose. The Government do not favour this approach.

First, it would mean that the eligibility criteria for council housing, assistance under the homelessness legislation and child benefit would be set out in two separate places. For council housing and assistance under the homelessness legislation there would be a list of eligible categories in the primary legislation and a list of ineligible categories in secondary legislation. For child benefit, there would be two lists of exempted categories, one in the primary legislation and another in the secondary legislation. This is overly complicated and unnecessary. Moreover, it is out of keeping with the approach adopted in other comparable legislation, such as the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, under which the criteria for eligibility are left to be prescribed in social security regulations.

The Government see no merit in adopting a different approach for Clauses 9 and 10. Indeed, the Housing Bill, which will replace Clause 9 in England and Wales later this year, follows the same approach; namely, of leaving the details of eligibility criteria to be specified in secondary legislation.

The Government could not have been clearer about the use they intend to make of the order-making powers provided by Clauses 9 and 10. We have made available to the House background notes setting out the details. The background notes make clear the groups from which entitlement is to be removed. In broad terms, they comprise those who are present without valid leave or who have been granted leave on the basis they will have no recourse to public funds. We have made clear that our intention is to align the entitlement of people who are subject to immigration control under the homelessness legislation with their social security entitlement. Indeed, enabling us to do so is the purpose of Clause 9. It follows from this that concerns that the Bill will change the immigration status or housing entitlement of people who have been settled in this country for many years are entirely groundless.

Amendment No. 99 would in paragraph (g) provide an exemption from Clauses 9 and 10 for anyone who is a member of the family of a person who is in one of the other exempted categories. This is entirely unjustified. We would, for example, be excluded from denying council housing entitlement under the homelessness legislation and child benefit to any person who was a member of the family of a person with settled status, regardless of whether that family member had been admitted on the basis that he or she would have no recourse to public funds and regardless of whether he or she was genuinely dependent on the person who is settled here. This would have a far wider scope than would be acceptable to the Government, and also, I suspect, wider than was intended by the noble Lord.

Amendment No. 99 is in any case defectively drafted. For one thing, it refers to British citizens and nationals of European Economic Area countries, who mostly fall outside the scope of this Bill. Secondly, it seeks to exclude from the scope of Clauses 9 and 10:

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    "a person named in a letter or other document issued by the Secretary of State on which there is placed no restriction upon ... the entitlement to receive housing accommodation or assistance, or the entitlement to receive child benefit, as the case may be".
This loose wording could apply to a whole variety of documents issued by almost any government department. And, thirdly, it exempts nationals of countries with which the European Union has concluded Article 238 agreements regardless of the details of the agreement and of whether it applies to the individuals concerned.

For all those reasons, I urge your Lordships to resist Amendments Nos. 76A, 79A, 93A, and 99 on the grounds that they represent an unhelpful approach to clarity of drafting and that any concern about the position of people from abroad who have been settled here for many years is, I repeat, entirely groundless.

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