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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for giving way. Will he give an undertaking to the House that in the intervening period between now and the next stage of the proceedings the Bar Council and the Law Society will be consulted?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, it would be churlish to say no. We are not necessarily bound by their views, but no doubt we will write to them to see what their views are on the matter. However, I hope that I have gone a considerable way to spell out in exactly what circumstances we believe legal advice is likely to be available and the reasons why it will not be in terms of low merit cases before the IAA when there is no wider interest.

I have not directly responded to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, although in practice there is no inconsistency. However, perhaps the letter could have been slightly more carefully worded in order to avoid misapprehension. What I have said reaffirms on the record our view that it is highly beneficial that before initial interviews people take up the offer of legal advice. The offer will be there, but the fact that a person has not taken legal advice will not prevent an interview going forward.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and for that clarification. I believe it is helpful and I will read it carefully in Hansard. All systems, no matter how well-funded and good-intentioned, occasionally break down. Will the Minister tell the House what the situation will be if an asylum seeker chooses to take legal advice but, for reasons which are not his or her fault, is unable to obtain it before the date for the substantial interview? Would that be a reason for deferral?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, that is a good question. In the normal run of events, the answer would be "No". As regards the specific circumstances of how we want accommodation centres to work—we want to strengthen the robustness of initial decisions—I would like to reflect on the question to see whether I can go further than what I have said from the Dispatch Box.

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If so I will write to the noble Lord rapidly before Third Reading. I have taken the House's time and I hope that at least some of what I have said has been helpful.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. When the noble Lord talked about the prospect of delay, suddenly a light began to dawn on me: this is the sort of answer that you get when you take some of the very best brains in the country and send them away with a brief saying, "Think of a reason for saying no". A great deal of our government is conducted on that principle. I must confess that I was irresistibly reminded of the experience of tying my worn shoelace in a hurry when late for work. Your Lordships know very well what that leads to. The desire to avoid delay is the commonest single cause of delay. That is the experience, just as much in handling asylum claims as it is in tying shoelaces. The Home Office might well take warning from that example.

I was most grateful for the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and by the right reverend Prelate. My noble friend Lord Greaves will not misunderstand me if I say that I was considerably perturbed by listening to what he had to say. They may not, as the Minister said, be formally contradicted, but they are two completely different voices. I have been looking at the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights which quotes what the Government have said to it:

    "The Government does not accept that legal advice is necessary in order to make claims for asylum. However, the Government is committed to providing access to quality legal advice at all stages of the asylum claim and accepts that, in certain circumstances, access to legal advice is likely to be beneficial in order to make faster progress on a claim".

I believe that the right reverend Prelate might agree that those words have a certain, shall I say, antiphonal quality. They do not formally contradict each other, but they do represent two really different approaches. Those approaches have not yet been reconciled in the minds of the Home Office.

I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to comment on the words "in certain circumstances" that were used to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I should have been inclined to say in all circumstances. But on the point of delay, I might draw the Minister's attention to the fact that this amendment does not say that claimants must have a particular lawyer; it says that they must have "access" to a lawyer. Since the Government tightened up on those qualified to advise there has been less trouble than there used to be over rogue lawyers who cause delay by taking a case and then dropping it.

I remember one of those claimants—one of the "Campsfield 9" with whom I was in correspondence. He had been dumped by two lawyers in succession who failed to turn up at the hearings. Finally, to his great

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good fortune, he came into contact with the firm of Christian Fisher, which called me in. Between us we managed to get the case organised and he was finally recognised as having a genuine claim to asylum. If he had had "suitably qualified legal advice" at the beginning of the process, that would have happened without an immense amount of correspondence, appeals, detention in Rochester Prison, emergency telephone calls in the middle of the night, and a great deal else of the sort of thing with which this subject is plagued and from which we would all, thankfully, be spared.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that "suitably qualified" must mean a qualification in asylum law. Lawyers generally qualified in immigration law are not necessarily qualified to handle cases in asylum law. It is like the point that I have made previously; namely, that having asylum and immigration handled by the same department in the Home Office causes problems because the outlooks diverge very widely.

I very much hope that the Minister will further consider the matter before we reach the next stage of the Bill. I do not believe that I can pursue the issue tonight, but I shall want to hear whether the Minister has given the matter any further thought when we come to the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 [Conditions of residence]:

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

Clause 30 [Tenure]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 27:

    Page 16, line 19, at end insert-

"( ) The following shall be inserted after section 23A(5A) of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 (c. 58) (excluded tenancies and occupancy rights)—
"(5B) Nothing in section 23 of this Act applies to a resident's occupancy of an accommodation centre provided under section 14 or 22(b) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c. 00) ("resident" being construed in accordance with section 25 of that Act).""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor and technical government amendment, which clarifies the position in respect of accommodation centres and housing rights in Scotland. Unless pressed, I have no intention of adding further to those comments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at one minute past midnight.

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