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Lord Avebury: The figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, have nothing to do with Clause 8. He talked about people who have been given leave to remain. Of the 80,000 persons who were granted leave to remain in one form or another in the year in question, 67,900 were given indefinite leave to remain. Clause 8 refers to persons who have only limited leave to enter or remain. None of the persons the noble Lord was talking about would be in any way affected by the clause.
I take issue with the noble Lord when he says that the majority of persons who come here as refugees create unemployment and poverty. That is utterly false. The noble Lord has no evidence for that assertion. If he has, I shall gladly give way to him. I know of no evidence to show that persons who apply for asylum are more likely to be unemployed and to live on the poverty line than the settled population. Such people may initially receive assistance from the taxpayer because most of them flee here from repressive regimes.
Lord Clinton-Davis: Does the noble Lord agree that a substantial number of people who were regarded as refugees initially have done a great deal over the years to augment employment opportunities in this country?
Lord Avebury: I absolutely agree with the noble Lord. I know many people who have come here from repressive countries and ultimately played a very important role in our community--I do not just mean those who came here before the war, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Russell. I have in mind people
Another friend of mine came from Sri Lanka with his three daughters, who were all in the middle of their education at the time, but he had to leave his country under threat of being murdered. However, all three daughters have now finished their education: one is a doctor, one is a lawyer and one is a very competent computer scientist. So, not only the refugee himself but also his three daughters, who have now finished their education, are now making a significant contribution to our economic life.
The latter example illustrates another point about refugees; namely, that they are more likely to be of the age when they can contribute through earning to the economy. They are less likely to be very young or very old and, therefore, a burden on taxpayers. If they are economically active, obviously they represent a more significant contribution to our country than if they were fully representative of the settled population in this country. So what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said is utterly false and should not be allowed to stand without challenge.
Lord Avebury: It was unintentional; indeed, what the noble Lord said is wrong. You can accuse someone of saying something that is wrong. No doubt it is misapprehension on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I am saying that he made that assertion without a shred of evidence to back it up.
Lord Renton: If I may say so, to be accused of falsehood in these circumstances is utterly wrong. The noble Lord, and others, said quite accurately that some of these immigrants and asylum seekers have a positive contribution to make in this country. But the noble Lord cannot say what proportion of them do so. I should have said that it was a minority. Of course, one cannot say how small a minority but it will certainly not be the case that, in general, they can all make a contribution. As I said, many of them cannot even speak our language.
Earl Russell: I believe my noble friend Lord Avebury was accusing the noble Lord, Lord Renton, simply of error. That accusation is, I think, common currency in this Chamber. I hope that it will be taken in good part on both sides.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon: I should hate Members of the Committee to descend to mutual back-slapping; but, nevertheless, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and to the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Clinton-Davis for what they said. Much of what has been said seems to be based on anecdotal evidence; indeed, we could all produce such evidence.
However, I believe that I am right in saying that some research was conducted on the matter in a Home Office study some years ago. The research showed that, of those who were granted refugee status from among those who applied for asylum, the majority had come from a broadly professional background. It seems to me that that is what we are arguing. Therefore, it is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of research. If I were to accuse the noble Lord, Lord Renton, of anything-- I certainly would not dream of doing such a thing-- I might, perhaps, gently suggest to him that his only fault has been inattention to the evidence.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I seem, inadvertently, to have opened Pandora's Box in seeking to oppose the Question that Clause 8 should stand part of the Bill. This is not in any respects a debate on a clause which discusses the merits and the numbers of those seeking refuge in this country. It is a simple legal point; namely, whether the proposals in Clause 8 reduce the rights of appeal of those whom immigration officers have said must go. That is the simple point that we are debating. I urge Members of the Committee to return to the clause itself--
Lord Alton of Liverpool: I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, would also reflect on the possibility that this will give rise to many more applicants seeking judicial review, unless similar procedures are made available to those contained in Clause 55.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for raising that point because it is a reasonable expectation that it will do just that; and, indeed, that it may, conceivably, give rise to more applications under the Human Rights Act when it comes into effect. That was one of the points to which I sought to make indirect reference when suggesting to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that to review the effect of this clause would, far from doing damage to the Bill, actually give strength to it and to the future prospects of public "rumpi" when individuals are--as the public might think--unfairly dealt with, without right of appeal.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, strongly advised us that this clause stand part argument was essentially based on a legal issue. Indeed, the fact that the debate spread more widely was beyond his control. I should like to say a few words about that slightly wider debate before we conclude.
I remember with great clarity what to me was an act of extraordinary courage by a Conservative Minister. I refer to Mr Iain Macleod who, in the 1960s, gave a promise to the people of Uganda and Tanzania that, if they were to be expelled from their country, they would be allowed to come to this country and would be recognised as British citizens, as they had opted to be so rather than be citizens of the newly-independent countries of East Africa.
The right reverend Prelate referred to research and not assertions. There is clear evidence that that particular community has been among the most successful communities that have come to this country since the war. It has done a great deal to create employment and to build up enterprise and assets in this country. Of course, one could say the same of earlier immigrations, but let us say clearly and strongly that Mr Iain Macleod was right; that the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, was right; and that both of them represent a powerful refutation as regards those who say that refugees bring to this country nothing that is of very much use to us.
Lord Cope of Berkley: At the start of our debates this afternoon, I referred in passing to the dilemmas which face this Government and which faced many of their predecessors. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the tributes that she just paid to my noble friend Lord Carr and to the late Iain Macleod.
We all want to deal fairly with those who deserve asylum; as, indeed, my noble friend Lord Renton would agree. But the problems arise as regards those in the asylum context who do not deserve asylum. As we know, and as the Minister said, many of them are put up to it by unscrupulous people seeking to make money out of other people's difficulties. For my own part, I believe that we have gained a great deal from many immigrants over the centuries. Indeed, that is obvious by just looking around the Committee. I was about to mention the noble Earl, but he seems to have slipped out of the Chamber.
However, it is also true that it is no part of the assessment of an asylum seeker, or, for that matter, any other immigrant, to look at his or her prospective contribution to this country. They are assessed on whether or not they are genuine asylum seekers, not on whether they will make a contribution. If they make a contribution--as some do--that is a bonus, as it were.
My noble friend Lord Renton is entirely right to say that numbers are relevant, as is the perception of numbers. We all know about the pressures that can be caused, and it is, quite frankly, no way to diminish the prejudice, the problems and the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to in connection with his grandparents, if the numbers are too great.
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