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I should like to reassure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans that nothing about the right of faith schools to have faith criteria will be able to be changed by the move of the duty to consult from primary legislation to regulations that he was so concerned about. The right reverend Prelate also highlighted the importance of ensuring that our education system properly prepares young people for adult life. I hear his comments, which we take very seriously. The non-statutory framework we are developing to meet spiritual, moral, social and cultural needs will involve working with key sector stakeholders to make clear the importance of this aspect of education, to highlight good practice and to make support available. We are also involving Ofsted so that it can consider how to reflect this work through the inspection process. We do not have any plans to introduce a duty to promote spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in FE. We believe that it is right to leave it to each institution to determine how best to meet student needs.
Many noble Lords raised questions and concerns about the careers advisory service for young people. Good quality information, advice and guidance is essential for ensuring that young people are able to make the right choices about the options available, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, rightly stressed towards the end of her remarks. Careers advice is a central part of the Connexions service and of schools duties, and will remain so. We are working to improve quality, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, suggested, it means addressing quality and taking seriously concerns about gender stereotyping, and I do not just mean in terms of careers advice in schools.
We need also to act on the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Low, in developing the apprenticeship matching service. A lot of work is going on to make sure that apprenticeships are not perceived as conforming to stereotypical sex roles. It is a difficult challenge, but exploratory work is going on to develop what might be called non-traditional apprenticeships. Many young people also have issues in their personal lives that can be barriers to effective participation in education or training. Integrated support co-ordinated by local authorities and drawing on the expertise of professionals can help them to address these.
Many noble Lords spoke eloquently about the needs of specific groups of young people. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, directed his remarks to the needs of looked-after and foster children. I assure him that my noble friend Lord Adonis has agreed to discuss the review he referred to once it is finished to see how his concerns can be taken forward. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, asked specifically whether we had taken into account Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I can confirm that we have, and noble Lords who have joined in the debate may wish to see the letter written by my honourable friend Jim Knight to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I shall make it available to all noble Lords. Thinking further about the needs of vulnerable groups, we believe that all young people stand to benefit from participation in education and training until they are 18 and we do not believe that any specific groups should be treated differently from the outset as this would risk them being given a second-class offer.
However, we know that young peoples lives do not run along the lines designed by civil servants, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, observed, and in some cases it may be difficult or even impossible for a young person to participate. Flexibility is built into the system so that cases can be judged individually and appropriate allowances can be made. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said that that was an important point.
My noble friend Lady Massey highlighted her concern that the Every Child Matters agenda should be fully understood and taken into account. She drew attention to the need for safeguards and personal support. The focus will be on the need to provide help and support, and first to address barriers by tailoring programmes to aid the progress of young people back into learning in a way that is right for them. Local authorities will provide targeted youth supportthose words are written in capital lettersto help young people address barriers to learning. A flexible set of learning options will be available, including the type of informal learning courses provided by the voluntary sector to help young people participate in ways that fit around their specific needs. A series of safeguards are built into the system. For example, the Bill requires local authorities to take all reasonable steps to ensure that relevant support is offered to a young person, and we all understand the importance of the words reasonable steps.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there may be targeted support from the local authority, but, taking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, if only that support had been available when the child was much younger, many of the problems would not arise? One of the big issues at the moment is that local authorities just do not have the resources available to deliver such support.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention, and indeed I was about to mention the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He spoke passionately about the needs of children with dyslexia. The noble Baroness is right to observe that if we could get everything absolutely perfect from the very beginning, there would be no need for continuing services. However, if we are talking about extending compulsory education to the age of 18, then as the noble Baroness
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I want only to say that at the moment there are not enough educational psychologists available to provide support for younger children, let alone those aged 15 and 16.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the noble Baroness highlights the point about timing that she herself made earlier. We are giving a lead time to the implementation of the Bill because it is right to say that we do not have everything in place to make the legislation functional today. That is why we have to have a lead time.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who spoke about the needs of young people with dyslexia, we are significantly improving training for SENCOs. From this year, all new SENCOs will have to undergo
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Lord Elton: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. Did she take the point that enormous savings would derive from screening all children so that we do not have to pick up damaged learning systems when children are half way through their school education? I hope to address this in Committee.
I want to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Low, on his appointment to Skill, and to offer him some reassurances on the strategic questions he put to me. We believe strongly that the culture change we are expecting as a result of this legislation, which makes a commitment to have young people in education until the age of 18, will be a positive step forward for all young people, including those with disabilities. We welcome the support given, for example, by Barnardos on the need for an enforcement process. We also want to give a reassurance that we will consult on the level of any penalty notice and ensure that the amount should reflect the financial support available to young peoplea point the noble Lord was concerned about. I am only picking up on one or two of his points, but when we raise the participation age, it is essential that we look at financial circumstances and ensure that they are not a barrier to participation. As my noble friend suggested earlier, we will be looking at EMAs and the financial support available to young people over the age of 16.
I am close to running out of time, but I want to address compulsion, which was a central issue of our debate. The noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley, Lady Sharp and Lady Verma, and the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, all expressed their concern that perhaps we are being too coercive. Of course we want as many young people as possible to continue their learning voluntarily. We believe that our current reforms can get us to 90 per cent of 17 year-olds participating by 2015up from 77 per cent now. This will still mean that some of our most marginalised young people will be left behind. This is unacceptable. Compulsion is a way to go further. The experience of other countries suggests that enforcement is necessary to make that requirement meaningful. My noble friend Lady Morris of Yardley spoke eloquently about the dilemmas about compulsion and highlighted the fact that, if we are talking about compulsion as a means of going the extra mile, we need to ensure that it works to best practical effect. I stress that enforcement is a last resort. The system is designed so that young people get the support they need first. If there is good reason why they are not participating, the enforcement process will not come into effect.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Section 26A(3) of the Immigration Act 1971 introduced criminal offences relating to falsifying or amending registration cards issued in connection with asylum claims. Today, in an effort to ensure consistency, we are seeking to introduce the Immigration (Registration Card) Order.
The order is intended to ensure that the criminal offences contained in Section 26A(3) apply to the misuse of cards issued to failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, as well as to asylum seekers supported under Section 95 of the Act. The offences currently apply to cards issued by the Secretary of State to a person in connection with a claim for asylum, but not to cards issued by the Secretary of State to a person in connection with a claim for support under Section 4. This support is intended to be limited and temporary, for people who are expected to leave the United Kingdom but are unable to do so through no fault of their own because of a temporary barrier.
The UK Border Agency issues all asylum applicants and their dependants with an application registration cardan ARCin connection with their asylum claim. The application registration card contains an applicants personal details, including the name that they have given to the UK Border Agency and a photograph. The ARC serves a number of purposes. In particular, it is produced on reporting and when collecting asylum support at a post office. It is a valuable weapon against the fraudulent collection of support, ensuring that only those eligible receive it. In limited circumstances, failed asylum seekers and their dependants may be eligible for support, under Section 4(2) and 4(3) respectively, provided that they are destitute and meet the eligibility criteria.
Under Section 4(1), the Secretary of State can also support persons who have been temporarily admitted, released from detention or released on immigration bail. Currently, those applying for support under Section 4 may not have an ARC. The card may have been mislaid, or it may have been retained by an immigration official because the details on the card are no longer accurate or because misuse has been suspected. Furthermore, individuals applying for support under Section 4 may not have an ARC because the original asylum claim predated the issue of application registration cards. It is clear that, by not having a uniform photo ID check for identity confirmation on collection of support, the potential for abuse of the Section 4 support regime is increased. The use of an ARC will also support identity checks at reporting events for individuals at the end of the process.
We intend to revoke the existing Immigration and Asylum (Provision of Accommodation to Failed Asylum Seekers) Regulations 2005 covering Section 4 support and to lay new regulations by the end of 2008. It
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The UK Border Agency will arrange for ARCs to be issued to all those applying for, or currently in receipt of, support under Section 4 if they do not already have one. The power to issue a registration card is administrative and does not depend on this order. The order purely extends the definition of registration card so that the offences apply to cards issued by the Secretary of State to persons in connection with a claim for Section 4 support. It is important to ensure that the existing criminal offences extend to all ARCs. To do otherwise would create an unnecessary anomaly and possible opportunities for criminal activity. Extending the definition of registration card will enable criminal offences relating to abuse or misuse of registration cards to apply to any cards issued to a person in connection with a claim for asylum, and to cards issued to a person in connection with a claim for support under Section 4.
The offences include: making a false registration card; altering a registration card with intent to deceive; possessing a false or altered registration card without reasonable excuse; using or attempting to use a false registration card or an altered registration card with intent to deceive; making an article designed to be used in making false registration cards or in altering registration cards; and possessing such an article without reasonable excuse. The offences can be tried either in the Crown Court or magistrates court. They carry a maximum penalty of 10 years or a fine on indictment, or six months or a £5,000 fine summarily, save for the possession offences, which carry a maximum penalty of two years on indictment. In 2006, the last year for which we have published data, there were 34 prosecutions for these offences, resulting in 21 convictions. This demonstrates the importance of these provisions in maintaining the integrity of the immigration system.
I understand from the debate in the other place that there are about 300,000 asylum registration cards in issue, of which only about 11,000 apply to Section 4and 700 of those will have to be replaced. What has brought about the replacement of those 700 cards? The Minister says that there have been a limited number of prosecutions. Is it just because there have been a small number of prosecutions among the 300,000, or because those on Section 4 have been found to be fraudulently using the cards? As I read it, Section 4 is for failed asylum seekers; there is a limited number of
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I am seeking to understand a little more about Section 4. This is the first time since the 1971 Act that Section 26A has been amended at all; it has not been necessary to amend it for 38 years. Can the Minister tell us what has now brought this about, particularly when these orders will shortly be superseded by the UK Borders Act 2007 and secondary legislation arising from it? We have no particular objection to the order, but it would help our understanding to have a response to those questions.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am feeling quite nostalgic for the many hours that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and I have spent arguing with each other across the Floor of this House and the Moses Room on primary legislation. Although this order is not in quite the same league as most of the matters we have discussed, there are nevertheless one or two points on which, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, I would be grateful for some clarification.
Section 26A of the 1971 Act deals with the registration card issued in connection with a claim for asylum, but subsection (7) also provides that the definition of the card, and hence the purposes for which it can be used, can be amended by order. The Explanatory Memorandum says that this is the first time that that power has been used. The first questionit may be fairly obvious, but I would be grateful for confirmationis whether the same card is to be used for both purposes now defined in the amended subsection 1(b). As I read it, there could be two separate registration cards: one to be used in connection with the claim for asylum, and the other in connection with a claim for Section 4 support. Presumably an individual will be given only one card, whether she is an asylum claimant, a claimant for Section 4 support, or both. Can the Minister confirm that?
As the Explanatory Memorandum says, destitute asylum seekers, their dependants and most unsuccessful asylum seekers with dependent children under 18 are eligible for support under Section 95 of the 1999 Act. They are all issued with an ARC under the existing Section 26A. Those who apply for accommodation under Section 4 of that Actmainly people who have exhausted their claim to asylum but cannot be returned to their country of origin for the time beingmay not have an ARC, as the Minister explained, because their asylum application predated the 1999 Act, because the card was withdrawn because support was no longer required, because there was a potential for misuse, or because the holder had lost the card. It is estimated that 9,500 persons, not counting dependants, were getting Section 4 support in September 2007 and, of those, perhaps 500 currently have no ARC.
The BIA could issue ARCs to these 500 persons administratively, but the order is needed to activate the criminal offences in Section 26A(3) relating to fraudulent
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The people who qualify are in desperate need, and Refugee Action published an assessment in January this year of the problems they encountered. It found that between September and December 2007 its One Stop Service offices in the south-west, south central, north-west and east Midlands had 3,612 visits from asylum seekers who were looking for Section 4 support, and of those, 1,350 were assessed as being destitute.
The number of people eligible for Section 4 support increased dramatically in the early months of 2005 from 500 to 5,000, and now, according to the Explanatory Memorandum, it has almost doubled again. May we have an analysis from the Minister of the reasons for this increase, and how far it is accounted for by failed asylum seekers who cannot be sent back to their countries of origin? The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned the number of failed applicants. Could the Minister give us a breakdown of the numbers by country and in each case a summary of the reasons why those persons cannot be returned? According to the Public Accounts Committee in another place, there could be as many as 283,500 failed applicants in the UK, though most of them presumably would be returnable if the BIA could identify them and they had not put down roots which made it unreasonable for them to be returned.
The National Audit Office estimated that it would cost £3.2 billion to remove these people, who mostly fled violent situations such as those in Zimbabwe, the DRC or Somalia, even though an immigration judge found that they did not meet the strict criteria of the 1951 convention. In practice it may be extremely difficult to remove people to countries where the Government are uncooperative or there is an internal conflict. Only five people were compulsorily sent back to Somalia in 2005, for instance, and presumablyperhaps the Minister will confirm thisnobody is being sent back to Zimbabwe when the country is on the verge of an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe.
While we have to give minimal support under Section 4 to a few thousand people in situations of this kind, there should be a systematic review periodically of the likelihood of ever being able to return them, and where the odds are against it, to give those people indefinite leave to remain so that the taxpayer can be relieved of the burden of supporting them and they can start contributing to the economy. Otherwise the taxpayer is saddled indefinitely with the steadily increasing numbers of beneficiaries. It would be good if the Minister could tell us what the latest figure is, perhaps at March 2008, to see what the rate of increase is since the figure of 9,500 given in the Explanatory Memorandum.
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