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House of Lords

Tuesday, 24 February 2004.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.

EU Enlargement: Welfare Payments

Baroness Knight of Collingtree asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What welfare payments will be available for persons entering the United Kingdom from the 10 new European Union countries after 1 May; and how these provisions compare with those offered by other European Union countries.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, we will amend the relevant legislation so that nationals from the A8 states who are in the UK but who are not in work will generally not have access to income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, state pension credit, housing benefit or council tax benefit. On the second part of the Question, member states' schemes are different from each other—provisions for EU nationals, newly arrived from another member state, will depend on the nature of that state's scheme.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is strong support on this side of the House for a system which welcomes people here who intend to work and to become good citizens while, at the same time, deterring those who seek to gain welfare benefits only? Is the noble Baroness sure that the system which has been announced will do that? How will the second category of incomers be recognised at the airport, for instance? How will they be checked on and how will they be sent back if they are not doing the right thing? Surely they can disappear. Are there not already unknown thousands of illegal immigrants whom the Government cannot locate, check or return?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness's opening statement. The whole thrust of the Government's policy is to make a distinction between those who are in work—benefits follow the work—and those who are not so that we are not attracting those who seek to come here merely for benefits. The noble Baroness and I agree on that. On her second point, someone who is now working illegally, often undercutting wages and operating in dangerous health and safety conditions, will now be able to register, come on to the open market, pay his taxes and national insurance, and contribute more fully to the economy.

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The noble Baroness's third point was about people turning up. That is not the issue: people have a right to come here as visitors, tourists, and so on. If such people with no attachment to the labour market apply for benefit, they will not be so entitled.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, in the absence of a statement from the DWP, will the Minister say whether yesterday's Statement applies to tax credits, including child tax credits? Will she confirm that there will be no appeals process and give us the time-scale for the implementation of these proposals?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, tax credits are a worker-related benefit. They are currently available to French and German people working here, UK citizens and other people coming in under the A8 scheme. On appeals, the key decision is the right to reside. Obviously, benefit decisions are appealable in the usual way, but the Home Secretary said yesterday,

    "We will not need an appeals system under the rules".—[Official Report, Commons, 23/2/04; col. 29.]

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, as the new regulations apply to the 10 new applicant members of the European Union, and two of those countries are members of the Commonwealth, will citizens of Cyprus and Malta have their present rights of access and employment in the United Kingdom reduced as a result of joining the European Union?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we have made a decision that Cyprus and Malta would be excluded from this derogation on three grounds. First, they are very small—I think the population of Malta is about 400,000. Secondly, their level of prosperity is broadly similar to our own, only a little below it; and, thirdly, as the noble Lord has acknowledged, we have historic connections to those countries.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I asked the noble Baroness a question yesterday to which I failed to get a reply. We were told that a person unable to support himself will lose his right of residence and will have to return home. What legal power will the Government have to remove such a person?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we would normally expect to deport a person only if, for example, he were a threat to national security, engaged in anti-social behaviour, and so on. As I indicated earlier, such people would not have a right to benefit if they were not in work and, if they had no right to benefit, why would they remain? Therefore, there is no need to get into the heavy end of deportation.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I ask that as a perfectly serious question, my Lords. People working in the black economy will now, as I indicated to the noble Baroness, be able to come into the mainstream economy and work. If, however, they have no means of self-support and they

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are not, as a result, eligible for benefits, then why would they be here unless they were doing something such as thieving, in which case we would be within our rights to remove them on the grounds of anti-social behaviour.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, in his Statement in another place yesterday, the Home Secretary said:

    "For two years, possibly longer, we will require accession nationals to be able to support themselves".—[Official Report, Commons, 23/2/04; col. 24.]

I am grateful to the Minister for putting flesh on the bones of that remark. Why, then, did the subsequent press release say that this state of affairs would persist for only one year? Who is right?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I do not know to which press release the noble Lord is referring, but people who come here to jobs confirmed by the permit system that they will be using will have, after 12 months' continuous employment, the right to income-related benefits. Perhaps the noble Lord is referring to that information in the press release. However, those who have no attachment to the labour market during the two-year transitional period—which I understand we have the right to extend for a further five years—would not have the right to any benefits at all.

Lord Peston: My Lords, will my noble friend clarify a matter that puzzles me? I thought that the main point of joining the European Union was the free movement of labour. In that case, where does the concept of work permits come from if the European market is to be efficient? Surely, labour in the European Union should simply move to where it is most productive.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, that is entirely right. Yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, made the point very tellingly. We have something like 500,000 vacancies in this country, which she said were particularly in agriculture and the hospitality trades. I checked the figures and there are indeed something like 160,000 vacancies in the areas that she mentioned, so she is absolutely right. We want and need that labour. It will enrich our economy and society, and those labourers will be entitled to corresponding work-related benefits. We are not seeking to attract to this country people who have no intention of working and who come here primarily because our benefits system appears to be more attractive than the regime experienced at home.

Primates in Scientific Research

2.45 p.m.

Baroness Barker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to support the continuation of research using primates in the United Kingdom.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the Government are determined that Cambridge University's decision will not damage the ability of the UK to remain a world leader in medical research into diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and into strokes. We are exploring ways to ensure that the university can continue its important work in neuroscience. The Government support the need for biomedical research involving animals in line with the stringent conditions laid down in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. We are also firmly committed to the protection of those scientists and research staff undertaking this vital work.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Given that the main reason for the decision was the estimate by Cambridgeshire police of the cost of laboratory security, what steps will the Government take to enable universities that carry out a great deal of this research to manage risks such as those posed by animal rights terrorists? How will the Government ensure that the necessary medical research into immunology, which requires work to be done on primates, will be continued in this country?

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