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Earl Russell: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, does he accept that the clause as drafted is entirely inflexible and allows the Government to remove support from everyone concerned all at once? Before he takes refuge behind the affirmative resolution procedure, does he accept that it is entirely proper for the House to vote on an affirmative resolution?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I shall not be drawn into changes to the working practices of the House. That is clearly a subject on which there has been considerable debate and differing opinions. The noble Earl knows that better than most.

I am struggling to remember the noble Earl's first point. Would he please remind me of it?

Earl Russell: My Lords, the clause allows the Home Secretary to withdraw support from all people not in accommodation at once and without condition.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, it does, but the Secretary of State's hands are not tied. He can choose whether to use the power or to bring it in incrementally, using other powers in the Bill. He is not forced to use the power, if he thinks it inappropriate to do so.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I identified three issues in the amendment. One is that pressure on services will increase, if people live with families with no support for essential living needs. Somebody will have to identify those needs, and that will fall to the services.

The second point is that the proposed measure is particularly punitive. Many asylum seekers will be elderly people, single mothers or people suffering from mental illness, whose friends or family have realised that they would be incapable of surviving on their own, if dispersed to accommodation elsewhere, and have taken them into their own home. I refer again to the NACAB report, which shows that, in many cases, vulnerable individuals were left for weeks—even months—without the means to buy food and other essential items.

We tried to get some assurances on the matter in Committee: we did not get them, nor are we satisfied with the Minister's reply at this stage. In the circumstances, I shall seek the opinion of the House.

24 Oct 2002 : Column 1443

3.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 48; Not-Contents, 122.

Division No. 1


Alderdice, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Best, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Chan, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dholakia, L.
Ezra, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Goodhart, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greaves, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Richmond, B. [Teller]
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hylton, L.
Joffe, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E. [Teller]
Masham of Ilton, B.
Methuen, L.
Naseby, L.
Newby, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Oxford, Bp.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Sandberg, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Walmsley, B.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Andrews, B.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Brightman, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Filkin, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greengross, B.
Greenway, L.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jordan, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kingsland, L.
Laird, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Listowel, E.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Mitchell, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monson, L.
Morgan, L.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Parekh, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Powell of Bayswater, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renton, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strange, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Thornton, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Weatherill, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Williamson of Horton, L.
Winston, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

24 Oct 2002 : Column 1444

4.1 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.]

Clause 43 [Destitute asylum-seeker]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 5:

    Page 25, leave out lines 16 and 17.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment would delete a provision that authorises the Secretary of State to declare a person not to be destitute, any evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

This is our old friend the Humpty-Dumpty clause—"Destitution means whatever I say it means". It is not a power that I am particularly eager to allow anyone. There is something to be said for the previous definition of destitution, in Clause 96 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999—being unable to meet essential living needs, which is a strong phrase.

I hope to hear from the Minister how he expects people who are denied the means to meet their essential living needs to remain alive. If I do not hear an answer to that question, I will repeat something said by the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, when she was the Speaker in another place. When a mobile phone went off during a debate, she exclaimed, "It should not have been brought into the Chamber in that condition". If the Government have no answer to my question, they should not have brought in Clause 43 as it stands.

Grouped Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 relate to clauses that allow compliance with a condition to be made a condition of support and bar local authorities from providing support for anyone who breaches any condition. No doubt some conditions and—I concede this before the Minister makes the point—sanctions will have to exist but we do not regard as acceptable the total withdrawal of support as a means of enforcing conditions. We do not believe that punishment should be inflicted in a civilised society.

24 Oct 2002 : Column 1445

In the case of the United Kingdom v. Ireland under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, degrading treatment was defined as,

    "treatment that arouses in the victim a feeling of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating or debasing the victim and possibly breaking his/her moral resistance".

But such treatment must attain the minimum threshold of severity, determined on a case-by-case basis. I do not understand how denying people their essential needs for living can fail to meet that condition. No doubt that question is one that government lawyers will have to answer in due course.

We regard the total denial of support as an entirely unacceptable punishment. We are opposed to the death penalty. We are opposed to not officiously striving to keep people alive. We are opposed to what the law describes as recklessness, as to whether or not people are able to remain alive. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I rise to support the amendment because it has many ramifications throughout the drafting of the Bill—some of which relate to the questions that I asked at col. 984 of the Official Report of 17th October. To put the matter in perspective, Amendment No. 5 only opens the key to the door.

Would assistance be available to all those who would otherwise be left destitute? I think that the Government's answer is no. Must there not be some casual connection between an act of omission of an improper nature and the fact of being left homeless and destitute? I think that the Government's answer is no. Ought not the burden of proof to rest with the Secretary of State in establishing whether conditions for withholding support are compatible with human rights—and that those conditions have been met if a person is to be left without adequate housing, food or clothing? The Government's answer is no.

As no appeal to an adjudicator is available to those persons who are adjudged ineligible for support, ought there not to be the power to provide some support pending the outcome of the application for a judicial review? Again, the Government's answer is no. Finally, it all turns. One condition turns and is related to another. Are adequate safeguards provided against violation of the human rights of children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which are expressly safeguarded by Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998? The Government's answer is no.

On those grounds, I support Amendment No. 5 in the perspective of that very unattractive scenario.

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