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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for his response to Amendment No. 174, which I shall read carefully. I am also grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Hylton, for their support. We have just debated a complicated legal issue on bail and now we have moved on to a point of practice and common sense. However, for those involved it is an important matter of detail. It affects only a limited number of people, but of course it is vital to them.
I should remind the Minister that I made it clear that, in this case, the Secretary of State has imposed a duty on a person to travel; it is not their choice. I noted the Minister's response to the effect that, if a person lives within reasonable walking distance, then there would be no costs. However, there would be no claim. I do not believe that he has been able to overcome my objections in that respect.
While listening to the Minister's remarks, I was reminded of a comment made recently by my noble friend Lord Brooke; namely, that this provision reflects an Alice in Wonderland existence. We are considering people who will be living on very low incomes indeed. They will not have the money available to meet these travel expenses. As a matter of principle I believe that, on this occasion, I should test the opinion of the Committee.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
The noble Lord said: The amendment, the effect of which would be to require the imposition of residence requirements without regard to personal circumstances, has been tabled to probe the issue of whether the "may" in subsection (1) in practice will indeed be "shall" so that requirements will be routinely imposed without regard to personal circumstances. I beg to move.
Lord Avebury: Amendment No. 175A concerns the same issue. We take the view that the Secretary of State should have regard to the personal circumstances of an asylum seeker before deciding to place that person in an accommodation centre. We believe that it is too extreme to provide that every single individual who applies for asylum must necessarily go through an accommodation centre.
We believe that age, in particular, is a relevant factor, a point made to us by ILPA. That body states that putting children into the induction centres may not meet their needs. It could expose them, as could detention in other places, to possible danger or abuse from traumatised adult asylum seekers, or from employees of the induction centres who have not been trained as childcare workers. The very fact that their freedom of movement is restricted may have an adverse effect on children who, as stated many times during these proceedings, may be extremely disturbed by their experiences in their country of origin and during their flight to this country.
This concerns the very start of the asylum process. A person goes into an induction centre immediately after their arrival from their country of origin when the stress on their psyche is at its most extreme.
Amendment No. 175B seeks to reduce the number of days a person can be made to stay in an induction centre from 14 to seven. This is in pursuance of an earlier discussion when the Minister told the Committee that the policy would be to keep someone in an induction centre only for two or three days before moving on to an accommodation centre. We therefore wonder why such an extreme margin beyond the time it is intended to keep someone in an induction centre is needed in the Bill. Surely seven days would be perfectly adequate if it is not intended to keep someone there for longer than two or three days.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The amendments are concerned with the operation of the induction process. The induction programme is an important element in the new procedures we are putting in place for the consideration of asylum claims.
Normally, the induction process will take place at the outset of a person's claim. During this induction asylum seekers and their dependants will be advised of their rights and responsibilities and provided with an explanation of what will happen to them during and after the consideration of their claim. Providing information of this kind is, in our view, the foundation
The purpose of Clause 59 is to enable a residence restriction to be imposed so that a person is required to reside at, or at least near, a place where induction is to take place for a limited period of up to 14 days. This residence restriction does not have to be imposed in all cases, but where it is decided that it should be imposed the clause provides that this may be done "without regard to personal circumstances". The clause as drafted therefore provides all the power needed.
Since we believe that the current wording is appropriate for our intentions as regards the induction process, we are happy with it as it is. Amendment No. 175 would seem to be designed to make it a requirement that a residence restriction be imposed where the conditions of subsection (1) are met. It will indeed be the case that the great majority of asylum applicants and their dependants will go through an induction programme, but there will be occasions where this does not happen. It is conceivable, for example, that an unexpectedly high volume of applications may mean that not everyone can go through an induction centre at the time we would wish.
Furthermore, there may be some people who, although they will be inducted, will not go through a standard programme. Examples would be unaccompanied asylum seekers and applicants who are detained. The provisions in Clause 59 are not really applicable to them.
To the extent that Amendment No. 175 has an effect, it seems to be to remove some helpful flexibility in the current wording, without adding anything further to it. I give way to the noble Lord.
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