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Lord Dholakia moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 10, Amendment No. 11:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. We are delighted with Amendment No. 10. There is concern about one part of its wording; namely, line 19, and we propose to leave out "or inaction".

We welcome the fact that the aim is to ensure that persons who have no other nationality but that of British overseas citizens, British protected persons or British subjects, are not prevented from registering as British citizens simply because they failed to take a step that would have procured another nationality for them.

In July the Minister, Beverley Hughes, gave a commitment to Fiona Mactaggart MP to allow British overseas citizens with no other nationality to register as British citizens. The Minister stated that she was doing that,

    "to address the situation which left those people concerned with no right of abode in any country". [Official Report, Commons, 4/7/02; col. 527W]

We have support for the amendment from the Immigration Law Practice Association, which has urged us to ensure that the Minister takes into account the fact that the clause should be implemented immediately on commencement of the Bill. It would be useful if the Government could confirm that people who hold any kind of British nationality should be treated with sympathy should they need to apply for settlement in the UK before enactment.

There is, however, concern that the reference to "inaction" may result in a group of people being left with no right of abode in any country, the very mischief the new clause is designed to avoid. Perhaps I may give an example. Kenyan law does not normally allow dual nationality. Section 12 of the Kenyan constitution provides that people who hold Kenyan and another-country citizenship will lose the Kenyan citizenship if they do not renounce the other citizenship between the ages of 21 and 23. The practice of the British authorities was not to consider special quota voucher applications from such people until those people reached 23, when they would qualify for vouchers if they had not renounced their British status

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because their Kenyan nationality had automatically been lost. The vouchers allowed people to come to the UK and subsequently to seek British citizenship through naturalisation. The voucher scheme was abolished on 5th March this year.

Those affected were born in Kenya to a British father after independence on 12th December 1963 but before January 1983 when the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force. They were able to inherit their father's citizenship, renamed British overseas citizenship by the 1981 Act. After 1981, no British overseas citizen could pass on his or her nationality in this way.

Some young people may have done nothing before reaching the age of 23 because they did not realise that anything needed to be done. Others may have done nothing because they were intending to apply for vouchers when their personal circumstances made it appropriate to do so. They will be left as British overseas citizens, with no right of abode in any country, and no possibility of getting a voucher to come to Britain and subsequently naturalise as British. I hope that the Minister will take that factor into account when considering why we believe the word "inaction" ought to be deleted from the clause. I beg to move.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for his questions. Given that some of the issues are intensely technical, I shall, with his leave and without signalling positively, write to him.

As regards inaction, if the thrust of his objection is a concern that the exclusion of those who have lost another nationality through inaction cover, for example, all British overseas citizens in Kenya, our view is no. Most of the British overseas citizens in Kenya are not and never have been citizens of Kenya. Accordingly, the possibility of the loss of Kenyan citizenship, whether through action or inaction, does not arise in their case.

However, a British national who has acquired Kenyan citizenship, whether automatically or by registration or naturalisation, will be subject to the restrictions on dual nationality contained in the legislation of that country. Those include the provision that the person must, on attaining the age of 21, renounce any non-Kenyan citizenship and make a declaration of intention regarding future residence and take an oath of allegiance.

Therefore, inaction will apply only to those born after Kenyan independence in 1963. All citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies born before then will now be either British overseas citizens or Kenyan. They cannot be both and they will have needed to exercise a positive choice.

The people who come into the inaction category are those who at birth, post-independence, were citizens of the United Kingdom or colonies by descent from the parent and also Kenyan because a parent was born in Kenya. Those people must exercise a choice at the age of 23 because Kenya does not allow adults to hold dual

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nationality. If a minor who holds both BOC and Kenyan nationality does nothing to consolidate his Kenyan nationality by the age of 22, he then loses it. "Consolidating" is making a declaration of intent to reside in Kenya and reaffirming allegiance to Kenya.

I hope that that is helpful, if not necessarily completely satisfactory, but I would affirm the point I made earlier that I will write to the noble Lord. That leaves open the possibility of discussions, without wishing to signal that we are necessarily moving on the issue. We would be pleased to go into further detail, if that would help.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and I look forward to his response on the number of detailed points that have been made. If need be, perhaps I may have a bilateral discussion with him on the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 11, as an amendment to Amendment No. 10, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 10 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Establishment of centres]:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 9, line 16, at end insert

"( ) An accommodation centre shall be established only when the Secretary of State is satisfied that the proposed location is suitable to the needs of the persons to be accommodated therein".

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 12, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 13. We turn to Part 2 of the Bill and to a series of amendments regarding the structure and running of accommodation centres. Amendment No. 12 raises the question of where an accommodation centre should be sited. We believe that it is the key to improving the Government's current proposals.

I did not move the amendment in Committee because Members had spoken to it during our debates on the size of accommodation centres. Today, however, I have learnt from that experience and therefore I have grouped the amendments to facilitate, I hope, a more concise and rounded debate.

We on these Benches support the concept of building accommodation centres. After all, the proposal strongly echoes that which we put forward before the previous general election. But of course our welcome is for the concept and not always for the details of the way in which the Government propose that the centres should operate.

The Government's plans for three—there should be four but one seems to have disappeared—large accommodation centres in rural areas, where the processing of claims will take far too long, will have no chance of solving the problem of clearing up the huge backlog of claims. It would, on the Government's current proposals, take more than 43 years for the new accommodation centres to clear even just that backlog.

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We are now told that as a result of objections from the local communities to the siting, establishment of the accommodation centres is drifting towards 2004. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that local councils have rejected the plans and that the proposals are being put out to public inquiry. I understand that that may not conclude until just prior to next year's local elections. When the centres are established, their whole success will depend upon their ability to meet the diverse cultural, social and language needs of the people to be accommodated in them. We believed that those needs will best be met by putting the accommodation centres close to the communities, which already provide for the needs of those from similar cultures and communities.

However, the Government have decided not to do that. They want to put the large accommodation centres, each housing about 750 people, in rural areas. We believe that that is wholly inappropriate for all concerned. Indeed, at a conference earlier this year, the Home Secretary acknowledged to the chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service that placing such centres away from urban areas was likely to lead to isolation and potential institutionalisation, with consequent possible psychiatric difficulties for those who were placed there. Yet still that is what the Home Secretary has decided to do.

Last month, I visited the proposed site of the accommodation centre at Bicester. That visit convinced me that it is not appropriate to build the large accommodation centre proposed there. It cannot go to meet the needs of those applying for asylum. Indeed, it has far more the feel of a site for a detention centre than an accommodation centre.

I am grateful to the Minister for enabling, during the summer Recess, plans to be circulated to, I hope, all noble Lords who took part in the debate. They show an outline plan of how the centre might be built and where the buildings might be located. I have to say that "Cell Block H" has little on this one; it does not fill me with great encouragement.

The site itself is so isolated from community life that it will close down any opportunities for the Government to reconsider which services they should provide within the accommodation centre. I am delighted to see so many right reverend Prelates sitting on the Bishops' Benches this afternoon. If, later today, the Government were persuaded by the noble Lords led by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth that education should be provided off site in mainstream schools, the very location of the new centres currently planned would close down that option.

Yesterday a briefing meeting was held in the Moses Room by a consortium of those who have great concerns about education. I listened most carefully to the views expressed, some of which I do not agree with. However, throughout the meeting, I was struck by the sincerity, the conviction, and the generosity of spirit that was evident. I took very seriously what was said. Indeed, after listening to those comments, I felt even more strongly that Amendment No. 12 was needed.

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The purpose of Amendment No. 13 is to put on the face of the Bill the requirement that accommodation centres should not house more than 250 asylum seekers at any one time. I have been reasonable in the extreme. On this occasion, on Report, I have given the Secretary of State the opportunity to increase that number by affirmative order if he is able to demonstrate to Parliament the need to do so.

Many of the expert organisations that have provided briefing on the Bill, such as the Refugee Council, have expressed concern at the proposed size of the centres. They say that the Government's proposals would make them too large to be effective. The Immigration Advisory Service says that it believes that the experience of reception centres in other European countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, is that they are more effective if they contain no more than about 200 to 300 people.

There will undoubtedly be pressures and tensions in a centre that holds as many as 750 people, or anything like that number. I have in mind the pressures that built up at Yarl's Wood. In Committee, we discussed the problems that arose at that centre. The Government said that they would report back to the House the progress of the report covering the rioting that took place. Perhaps the Minister will take this opportunity to say what has happened to that report and bring us up to date.

The smaller the number of people in each centre, the more likely it is that such centres would be efficient, humane, decent, and safe. Local residents would also find the smaller centres easier to cope with and understand. Can the Government confirm that NASS has put out a tender for emergency accommodation using pre-fabricated buildings similar to barges? Can the Minister say whether the Government have properly considered this type of solution for smaller versions of accommodation centres?

The Minister said in Committee that he would be speaking to the Refugee Council about this matter over the summer months. I have heard one or two little leaked bits of reports on the website over the past few weeks. Can the Minister tell us today the results of that consultation? Further, what will be the size and location of accommodation centres to be established in addition to the three already planned? Will they be completed by the time that the original three large ones should be open?

We need proof today that the Government will make a real trial of accommodation centres, rather than presenting us with a fait accompli. I believe that putting Amendment No. 12 on the face of the Bill would give us that proof. After all, it would not undermine the Government's plans for faster and fairer processing of claims; it would simply reinforce them. Therefore, I cannot see any reason why the Government should object to this amendment. I beg to move.

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4.45 p.m.

Earl Russell: My Lords, we on these Benches are happy to support both amendments. They are good and useful amendments. I have but one reservation; namely, that I wish Amendment No. 12 had not included the words,

    "the Secretary of State is satisfied".

The Secretary of State is sometimes very easily satisfied, and sometimes satisfied only with very great difficulty. I fear that this case might belong to the first category.

I remember listening in Committee to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, who is not in the Chamber at present. However, I am sure that she will confirm what she said. She observed that the roads in the neighbourhood of Throckmorton are simply incapable of carrying the traffic that a large centre would generate. That is a very material point. Those noble Lords who have found themselves in a hurry on a narrow country road will have some picture in their minds of what sort of confusion may arise. I also understand that the centre is close to a very large rubbish tip. I hope that my noble friend Lord Greaves will say something more in that respect.

If I know anything about children, they wander about and find things to play with. They pick them up and, if they are young, they put them in their mouths. What might happen to children who wander around a rubbish tip and put things in their mouths is a question that I consider with considerable apprehension. There is also the question of catering, which the Minister made a great deal of in Committee and upon which he made some very welcome remarks. He is clearly envisaging self-catering for asylum seekers, which should mean that they are able to buy food comparable to that available in their own countries. In this sort of situation, and especially as one gets into a greater state of unease, one develops a hankering for familiar food. I do not know what are the chances of buying tropical food in the neighbourhood of Bicester or Pershore; I doubt whether they are considerable—

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