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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it may be helpful if I respond immediately. Amendment No. 147 does not deal with wider purposes. Someone in custody is going to be taken to the bail hearing in the usual way. In the circumstances that I identified earlier, we have said that dependants would also be taken to the hearing at public expense. The question of whether one can have a publicly supported visit for a person in custody before or between the bail hearing is not addressed in the government amendment or in the noble Lord's amendment. I believe that I have met all the noble Lord's concerns in Amendment No. 146.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that reply. I hope that it is possible for him to deal with the further point I made about third parties and the need for people who are not part of the immediate family occasionally to act as sureties. How would their expenses be met?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I shall certainly think about that. It is not dealt with in the noble Lord's amendment.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I address Amendment No. 148. I was very heartened to hear my noble and learned friend say that as a result of discussions there has been acceptance of the fact that treating those who have suffered torture, for example, is often beyond the abilities of most health professionals and that, given the idea of introducing

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the dispersal of asylum seekers throughout the country, there would be acceptance of the need to meet the expenses of medical and other support services.

However, I am concerned that the noble and learned Lord does not accept the existence of the same need as regards the moneys needed if any asylum seeker is to meet with his legal representatives. Perhaps I may explain why I am concerned. The Minister has very rightly recognised the extraordinary damage that can be inflicted on asylum seekers by inexperienced, incompetent and unscrupulous legal representatives. The Legal Aid Board has stated that only specialists should practise in that area. I believe that we would all agree that it is a great advance that there will be the franchising of a core of competent lawyers in that field, which will drive out the shysters who have exploited the needs of asylum seekers.

However, we should recognise that asylum appeals are often complex and time-consuming. For the foreseeable future, expert assistance will be concentrated in London. Given that the clusters of dispersed asylum seekers may be far and wide, it is clear that even when expert assistance is available the clusters may result in asylum seekers having to travel long distances to receive the right kind of legal advice.

There are often expressions of horror by adjudicators where it emerges at appeal that lawyers have not seen their clients often enough--or at all--for the effective preparation of cases. Points have been missed through inadequate representation. There is often last-minute representation and judicial review applications. It seems to me and others practising in the field that that defeats the aim of the fast and effective disposal of appeals as well as being appallingly unjust if asylum seekers are not properly represented purely because they have not been allowed to travel to see their lawyers prior to the appeal because they did not have the money to meet that need. Therefore, I ask that the Government reconsider the position as regards support and this amendment.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I too welcome what the noble and learned Lord said about this group of amendments. Perhaps I may also raise a few more concerns with which I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will wish to deal. I turn first to Amendment No. 124. I am sorry if I did not put the point sufficiently clearly when I spoke earlier. The amendment comprises a new schedule, which we did not see until Report stage. It contains a great many powers to make regulations. Some of them affect people in a most precise way. It proposes, for example, the power under regulation to cease to provide support; to change the levels of support; to determine what assets should be taken account including those of dependants; and to consider what income can be taken into account.

In our view, such matters should not lie in secondary legislation. If they do, at the minimum they should be subject to the affirmative procedure. It is usually the responsibility of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation to inform the House whether in its view there should be some form of

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affirmative procedure because the matters under regulation are of sufficient weight to require consideration by this House and another place.

In the light of the very generous assurances that were given to us on the first day of the Report stage that the schedule preceding Schedule 8 is the kind of instrument that the Select Committee should have the opportunity to look at--

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Baroness has a decent point here and I am content to adopt the course that she has suggested. Her point goes to Amendment No. 124 and I include Amendment No. 123, which is part of it in spirit. I do not propose to move them this evening because the point made by the noble Baroness is well made.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, the capacity of the noble and learned Lord to take the wind out of my sails is yet another of his very many attributes. In future I shall avoid putting any wind in my sails to begin with. Therefore, perhaps I may rely on the engine for the other remarks that I wish to make.

As my noble friend Lord Avebury has said, we are appreciative of the concessions made by the Government concerning Amendment No. 147. The noble and learned Lord addressed quite a few of his remarks to that amendment. We understand what he was saying. However, some questions arise. First, he will notice that the wording refers to “an application for bail". That means that someone other than the asylum seeker himself could apply for it. It might be a member of the family or some other person. From the noble and learned Lord's reply we are not entirely clear whether his remarks would apply as regards an application made by someone other than the person directly concerned. It is germane for the reasons adduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, that in some cases such an application is more likely to come from someone close to legal advice who is a member of the asylum seeker's family rather than from the asylum seeker himself. That is the first direct point that I wish to raise with the Minister.

The second concerns Amendments Nos. 148 and 152. It directly relates to the consideration given under Amendment No. 152 and we are grateful to the Government for the provision they have made with regard to meeting the travel costs of alleged victims of torture to see specialised medical people.

Our concern was reflected by what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. There are substantial sections of the country in which there are neither the necessary legal advisers nor medical advisers. Perhaps I may give an example of a city which might well be within a cluster to which the Government decided they wanted to send asylum seekers. According to my information, there is no provision for a registered legal practitioner in Liverpool or any application for such a registration. I also understand that there are no specialists in the wide area around with any experience of victims of torture.

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I understand that the Government intend to look to general practitioners to sift out the cases and I understand the arguments for that. However, if a general practitioner finds that the person before him is likely to have suffered torture, will that factor be taken into account in the placing of victims of torture? There are two considerations. The first is that the Government might meet the travel costs and the second is that the Government might bear them in mind in deciding where to send such an asylum seeker. We are also concerned about the support that such a person would have, quite apart from the problems of travelling to a medical practitioner.

I want to ask a question with regard to Amendment No. 156. My noble friend Lord Russell will undoubtedly return to this issue, but I want to ask the noble and learned Lord to comment on the family premium which makes a great deal of difference as regards support given to asylum seekers and that given to people within the normal support system. I take it that that will not be included. My noble friend Lord Russell probably knows the answer anyway, but I do not.

In conclusion, we are grateful for the provisions that have been made. However, we are profoundly concerned by the fact that the cluster policy will be engaged in quickly. We understand that the interim support arrangements are likely to be in place before the end of this year. We fear that the building up of legal and medical expertise will take longer than three months and therefore, if the Minister could say how the gap between them is addressed, that would be most helpful to the House.

7.30 p.m.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has given me the pleasant opportunity to begin with a hat-trick of thanks. The first is for his concession to my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby a moment ago. The second is for his concession to me on Amendment No. 156 about uprating. That is generous and extremely welcome. I must confess to a small amount of regret that he did not agree to write it into legislation because, as he so effectively reminded me on Monday night, one cannot always trust those who are to come after. Nevertheless, when given at least three-quarters of a loaf, the only sensible thing to do is to say thank you and take it.

I should also like warmly to thank him for his concession on the delegated powers amendment, No. 154, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. I must also offer to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, having discussed the amendment with him before it was tabled, my apologies for not putting my name to it in advance. I assure him that that is sheer oversight and pressure of business on two Bills and I am sorry. I should have supported it to the hilt and I am thankful it will not be necessary.

There are a considerable number of other amendments in the group. Inevitably, one must try to do justice to as many of them as possible and cannot

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possibly manage them all. Amendment No. 157, that funds provided by the voluntary sector shall not be regarded as support, rouses strong feeling in a number of quarters in this House. The purpose of the voluntary sector is to make things better than they would have been, not simply to relieve the pressure on the Treasury. The purpose is to do good to the people concerned. If one throws that aside, one creates strong feelings and necessarily so.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, I regret that nothing more is being done on travel to meet legal representatives, especially since the cluster areas concerned will be wide--at least, so rumour leads us to suppose. I have heard it suggested, for example, that Scotland and Wales will be cluster areas.

If asylum seekers were sent to Ullapool, it would be no great consolation to them that legal advice is available to them in Edinburgh. If asylum seekers were sent to Colwyn Bay--which I imagine is a serious possibility as there is a lot of vacant accommodation there in winter--it would be no great consolation to them that legal advice is available in Aberystwyth. To make that journey, you have to go right round into England and back again. It is a considerable journey. The noble and learned Lord shakes his head, but I believe he is assuming possession of a car. I doubt whether most of these people have cars, especially if they are destitute. It is not easy to run a car when you are destitute!

I also regret that nothing has been done to meet Amendment No. 153, again in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and to which I should have put my name. That would have left out subsection (2) of Clause 92, which directs that the Secretary of State,

    “may not have regard to ... any preference that the supported person or his dependants ... may have as to the locality in which the accommodation is to be provided".

I understand what the Minister has said many times about the desire to move people out of the south east. I do not want to reopen that argument now, but the wording of that provision is so draconian that there is a slight risk that a provision might turn out to be ultra vires if by sheer coincidence they sent an asylum seeker to where he actually wanted to go. Will the noble and learned Lord look carefully at the words and assure me with all the authority of his office that that is not the case? I should be relieved to hear it.

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