Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

British Passport Holders and Asylum Seekers: Accommodation and Benefits

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): There is no set time-scale within which British passport holders arriving in the UK who are not habitually resident in the common travel area (the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man) become eligible for income-related benefits or social housing. However, if they apply for either they are subject to the habitual residence test. If they pass the test they can receive help through the benefit system and apply for social housing immediately. If they fail the test they may appeal against the decision or re-apply at a later date.

Under the National Assistance Act 1948, local authorities may provide accommodation to British passport holders who do not pass the habitual residence test if they are destitute and have a need for care and attention which is not otherwise available. Such accommodition can only be provided as board and lodging and if the local authority considers it appropriate to do so in all the circumstances. Authorities are not obliged under the Act to provide other services or cash payments.

Under the Children Act 1989 local authority social services departments are responsible for supporting any children in need, regardless of their country of origin. A returning child with a UK passport would receive help from social services in the same way as any other child. Services are provided to protect the welfare of the child but can be provided to other family members if to do so would meet this primary aim. Support under the Act is also available to unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

Since 3 April 2000, the Home Office, through the National Asylum Support Service, has been responsible for supporting and accommodating asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their asylum application. Such support can be provided on arrival in the UK. New measures introduced in the

29 Jan 2003 : Column WA162

Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which came into force on 8 January 2003, deny support, with certain exceptions, to those asylum seekers who do not make their application as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Poverty: Disabled Children

Baroness Howe of Idlicote asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will undertake an economic analysis of the investment required to ensure that government programmes aimed at lifting children out of poverty reach disabled children.[HL1030]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Research suggests that children in workless households are much more likely to be deprived than children living in a working household. Work is crucial if we are to stop life-cycle effects of poverty and the way it is passed down the generations. Work is not only important for those of working age. Children who grow up in non-working families have an increased risk of being unemployed themselves in adulthood. This is borne out by Gregg and Machin in their 1998 paper: Child Development and Success or Failure in the Youth Labour Market, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

However, we recognise that disabled children and their families have additional needs. We are committed to helping severely disabled people with the extra costs they face as a result of their disabilities. This is why from April 2001 the disabled living allowance higher rate mobility component was extended to severely disabled children aged three and four, providing extra help to their families currently worth £39.30 a week.

A full analysis of our strategy to eradicate child poverty is given in our annual Opportunity for all reports. Opportunity for all—fourth annual report (Cm 5598) was published in September 2002. It reports on a range of outcome indicators covering many dimensions of poverty and social exclusion.

Social Security: Reciprocal Agreements

Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What negotiations have been held since 1947 with countries with which the United Kingdom still does not have a reciprocal social security agreement; what plans they have to conduct any such negotiations; and whether the governments of any of the affected countries have expressed a wish to conduct negotiations.[HL1055]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Since 6 July 1948, when the national insurance scheme began, 33 agreements have been implemented over time following negotiations with the governments of 34 other countries or territories on possible reciprocal agreements covering social security benefits.

29 Jan 2003 : Column WA163

No commitments have been made to enter into new agreements with other countries for over 20 years. A new agreement with Barbados came into force in April 1992 but that fulfilled a commitment given to the Government of Barbados in the 1970s. The Government's policy is not actively to seek to enter into new reciprocal social security agreements with other countries that would extend payment of UK benefits to persons abroad.

As far as is known, the UK has received no formal requests from other governments with a view to entering into negotiations on possible reciprocal agreements covering social security benefits.

Winter Fuel Payment

Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimated annual cost of paying the winter fuel payment to British pensioners who do not live in the United Kingdom; and how many will benefit in 2003–04.[HL1056]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: People who are entitled to a winter fuel payment while living in the UK may be able to continue to receive winter fuel payments if they move to another European economic area (EEA) country. Our broad estimate for 2003–04 is that some 69,000 people could be so entitled at a cost of up to £11 million. This estimate will be revised when we have sufficient data on actual payments made to entitled recipients living in another EEA country.

Greenland: Fish Stocks

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following Greenland's departure from the European Economic Community because of the common fisheries policy, how Greenland's fish stocks now compare to those of the United Kingdom and the European Union.[HL1066]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Scientific assessment reports indicate that most of the largest stocks in the vicinity of Greenland have been at low levels during the most recent decade and that the cod stock off Greenland is in a severely depleted state. The shrimp stocks are at a high level, however, possibly because of the absence of predation by cod.

London: Bird Population

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have discovered reasons for the present scarcity of birds in the London area, in particular house sparrows and starlings.[HL1097]

29 Jan 2003 : Column WA164

Lord Whitty: Recent Defra research showed that during the past 30 years house sparrow populations have declined most in South East England and suburban and urban gardens have seen the most marked fall. In contrast, they are thriving in Scotland and Wales, both in urban and rural areas.

Starling numbers have declined in both suburban and rural areas. The decline has been greatest in the South and West. Starling breeding patterns have shown a recent improvement but this is least so in urban gardens in the South East.

Defra research has been complemented by work co-ordinated on behalf of the London Biodiversity Partnership (LBP) by the RSPB, London Wildlife Trust, Greater London Authority and London Natural History Society. The survey Where Have All Our Sparrows Gone? ran from 18 June until 19 July 2002. The Mayor of London announced the results of the research on 14 January.

Over 9,000 people took part in the survey, counting almost 75,000 sparrows and creating the most detailed picture of the city's sparrows to date. The broad picture is of a ring of urban London where sparrows are still quite common, rather fewer sparrows around the outskirts, a definite sparrow hotspot on the eastern side of London but a gap in Inner London where very few sparrows were recorded. The lowest mean number of sparrows was found in the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster areas.

Other interesting results include that sparrows were more likely to nest in homes built before 1945 than in newer homes. City farms have continued to attract sparrows, even within the inner boroughs: 96 per cent had sparrows, with an average count of 12 birds.

Further analysis of the survey results is planned to see how strongly they correlate with various factors in London that might be impacting on sparrows.

Arterial Watercourses

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is the duty of the Environment Agency to maintain and clean the arterial drains that were formerly the responsibility of the National Rivers Authority; and, if so, whether this task is being carried out in a satisfactory manner.[HL1144]

Lord Whitty: The Environment Agency is not under any duty to maintain and clean arterial watercourses. Primary responsibility for the maintenance of all watercourses rests with the riparian owners.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page