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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I shall cut to the chase first and then go into more detail. We will need to return to this matter at Third Reading. I thank the Minister for making it clear that he expects that to be necessary and that he will try to come forward with further information.

The Minister said that there is nothing new about this; that it is not very rare to have a recommitment at this stage. It certainly is very rare. I know that it occurred in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 because I was the beneficiary of that in my first ever Bill as a spokesman on Home Office matters. So I have been there, done that and got the T-shirt. However, it is certainly unusual.

I know that at the moment in another place the Government are seeking to insert a completely new section of policy into the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill. We shall have words to say about that when the Bill returns to this House. I am going to assist the Government—I am going to say something nice about them, just briefly—because the difference with
 
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that Bill is that the Government have gone out to consultation first. They have now received some responses into which the Commons can now get its teeth, if that is not a mixed metaphor, and we shall have further discussions when that Bill returns here.

The difficulty with this Bill is that we have the headlines without too much of a story. Although the story is beginning to be written through the good offices of the Minister, we have not got the consultation. This is why we are all finding it very difficult to assist the House and the public generally to get a better picture of what the Government are trying to achieve. I think that I am on the Minister's side on this issue, which many others are not. So if I can make his life difficult, I am sure other people do far better.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for returning to the issue of whether it is the quality or quantity of the performance that will be important. When he asked his question, it reminded me that another cost that we will have to throw into the pot is that of insuring these people and those working with them when they are taking part in these activities. That may well be a considerable amount.

My noble friend Lady Carnegy rightly referred to the importance of clarity in this policy. I am concerned that unless there is certainty in the policy proposed, there will be challenges to it and the Home Secretary will be back in court again.

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew for considering not only the issue of the burden of proof, which I raised, but also the important issue of the standard of proof. When the Minister responded to my noble and learned friend, he explained how the picture looks so far and how the process will go ahead. He was trying to be as helpful as possible. He said that the sanctions have to be reasonable; that one has to establish why a person has failed to perform work and whether there is good reason; and that he or she could be cautioned first.

I shall read very carefully in Hansard the Minister's explanation but it looks to me as though the burden of proof will shift as the decision-making process goes on. The burden of proof seems to start with the department and then shift to the individual. I want to consider carefully this issue and may wish to return to it in the future.

I was particularly intrigued by the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. He said that this provision was something of a novelty and I shall want to consider his view between now and Third Reading. Before I sit down, I give way to the Minister.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, for the avoidance of doubt, when I said that this is not unusual I was referring to the fact that this is primary legislation which will be activated by regulations. The procedure of recommitment is unusual—I accept that—but it is not unique; it happened
 
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with the Water Bill and the previous asylum Bill. But it is not unusual to have the operation of the detail in regulations.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I agree entirely with the Minister. I am sure that we will both work together to ensure that what is unusual does not become practice—because it would certainly be bad practice. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 [Accommodation for Asylum Seekers: local connection]:

Lord Rooker moved Amendment No. 4:


"(a) to the provision of accommodation for a person in a district of a local housing authority if he was subsequently provided with accommodation in the district of another local housing authority under section 95 of that Act, or
(b)"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as I have explained previously, Clause 11 is designed to support the Government's policy of dispersing asylum seekers to appropriate areas of Great Britain in those cases where they are in need of accommodation and encouraging and supporting them to settle in the dispersal areas. It seeks to ensure that, in so far as possible, an asylum seeker establishes a local connection with his or her dispersal area for the purposes of Part VII of the Housing Act 1996—that is, the homelessness legislation.

This will mean that local authorities in other areas can refer former asylum seekers to the local authority in the area where they were dispersed, if they are owed a main homelessness duty and have not established the local connection for any reason in the area where they are making their homelessness application.

Amendment No. 4 seeks to solve an operational difficulty of Clause 11. As drafted, Clause 11 provides that a person establishes a local connection—we discussed in detail in Committee the purpose of the need for a local connection, so I shall not go into that—with any area where he or she is provided with accommodation under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. However, in some cases, accommodation may be provided under Section 95 in more than one area. That may include accommodation provided on an emergency or interim basis prior to dispersal.

That does not fully achieve the Government's policy for two main reasons. First, it is intended that asylum seekers should establish a local connection with the area to which they are dispersed, but, generally, not with an area where they are provided with emergency or interim accommodation. Dispersal areas are carefully selected for their capability to support long-term integration of former asylum seekers. Emergency or interim accommodation is not necessarily in an area which has the infrastructure to support integration. Secondly, although it is not exclusively the case, much emergency and interim accommodation is located in London and the south-east where the pressure on
 
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social housing and other local government services is most acute. Of course that was the very reason why dispersal was introduced in the first place.

If an asylum seeker were to establish a local connection with an area prior to dispersal—for example, where he was provided with emergency accommodation in a district in London—and then, following a positive decision on his asylum claim, he became a refugee and sought homelessness assistance in that London district, the housing authority in London would be unable to refer the case back to the housing authority in the dispersal area. That is because one of the conditions for referral of a homelessness case is that the applicant has no local connection with the district of the authority to which the application has been made.

Moreover, even where a former asylum seeker makes a homelessness application in an area where he has no local connection, it would confuse matters if he had established a local connection in more than one other area as a result of being provided with accommodation under Section 95 in those areas. Amendment No. 4 would therefore ensure that the local connection is established with the last district where accommodation is provided under Section 95.

In the context of the asylum dispersal process, the last place where Section 95 accommodation is provided will be the dispersal area, rather than an area where emergency or interim accommodation has been provided. In cases where asylum seekers are not dispersed—that can be for many reasons—and are provided with accommodation under Section 95 in the area where they make their application for support, a local connection would be established in that area.

Finally, I address a point that I undertook to consider when we debated Clause 11 in Committee. Some concern was expressed that the clause heading was somewhat misleading in its reference to asylum seekers, since the clause deals with homelessness assistance for former asylum seekers who have been granted either refugee status or some other form of leave to remain. I have taken advice on the matter and I am satisfied that the clause heading is, in fact, correct. While it is true that we are looking at whether former asylum seekers have established a local connection, they will have done so when they were asylum seekers—that is, prior to the decision on their asylum application. We therefore consider that the clause heading as drafted is proper, which I was very interested to learn. I beg to move.


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