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Lord Mandelson: My Lords, the Government were not consulted as such. The circumstances of Mr Lebedev’s purchase of the London Evening Standard are, I gather, that after making considerable profits on the paper, the previous owners made it clear that they would close it if the transfer was not made. Mr Lebedev seems to have been the only option for keeping the paper alive. I think that we would all agree that maintaining the London Evening Standard in existence is in the public interest and that of journalism in this country. It is perhaps not ideal but what is ideal these

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days in the newspaper world? We can only wonder what Vere Rothermere would have made of it, but that is now a matter only for speculation.

Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, are the powers vested in the Enterprise Act sufficient for the Secretary of State in cases of this kind?

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, I think that the powers are sufficient. But remember that the powers to which the noble Lord refers in the Enterprise Act are not the only ones open to the Government; there are also powers concerning competition and dominance in the media market, something which we have to keep under review as cross-ownership between local and regional newspapers and radio and television might arise, because the commercial and market circumstances for this sector are not what they were in the past and we may need to keep an open mind to certain adjustments. But, yes, I think that the powers we have are sufficient.

Iraq: Ashraf City


3 pm

Asked By Baroness Harris of Richmond

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, responsibility for Camp Ashraf passed to the Iraqi authorities on 1 January. We remain concerned that the rights of the residents are fully respected. The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights visits the camp on a regular basis and has delivered verbal assurances to a representative body of residents about continued observance of their rights. We have also discussed our concerns with the US, which is satisfied that the Iraqi authorities are aware of their responsibilities.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that response. However, is he aware that the Iranian national security adviser has recently stated:

“Over 3,000 inhabitants of Camp Ashraf have to leave Iraq and the camp will be part of history within two months”,

even though all the residents in Camp Ashraf are considered under the Fourth Geneva Convention as protected persons? Who will oversee their safety?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Baroness meant the Iranian national security adviser or the Iraqi one.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: Iranian.

Noble Lords: Iraqi.

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the Iraqi one certainly made a statement to the effect that Camp Ashraf would not stay open indefinitely and that third-country settlement or voluntary repatriation might become necessary. In a sense, it is the Iraqis who have authority over this group, not the Iranians, and therefore it is their position that we should continue to monitor. At the moment, we believe that they understand their responsibilities. They are allowing the ICRC access and it is reassured that, at the moment, the treatment is appropriate.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, is the Minister aware of demands by the Iraqi Prime Minister and the Iraqi President, alongside the Iraqi national security adviser’s threat, that PMOI members should be removed from the base at Ashraf, which would be a direct breach of their human rights? Will he confirm—I think that he did in his Answer to the noble Baroness—that we still have a residual responsibility in this matter?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me be clear that this was a US responsibility handed over the Iraqi authorities on the basis of assurances sought and received from the Iraqis that the rights of this group would be fully respected. We have certainly gone out of our way to get confirmation from the US and indeed from the Iraqis that this is the case.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, surely the noble Lord will agree that Ashraf City has throughout been the responsibility of every party to the coalition and it simply cannot be right to say that it was an American responsibility alone to see that the rights of the citizens of Ashraf under international law were respected. Surely the British Government have a joint responsibility for everything that has happened since 2003 and a duty to see that the rights of the people in Ashraf under international law are respected. Finally, is he aware that the Iranian Government have boasted recently of an agreement with the Iraqi Government to expel the people of Ashraf from Iraq? Can I have an assurance that Britain will not simply wash its hands of the whole of this matter and will try to prevent this happening?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we have rehearsed in this Chamber the reasons why we consider this principally a US responsibility. We have equally accepted that of course it is of concern to us, and we shall press the Iraqi authorities, the US and the ICRC to continue to ensure that the rights of this group are respected and any closure of the camp would take place in a way that respected those rights.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that Iraq was invaded by a multinational force of which the United Kingdom contingent formed an integral part and that therefore the United Kingdom assumed the responsibility of an occupying power to protect people who were within that area? Is it suggested that the UK could divest itself of that responsibility simply by announcing that it passed that responsibility to someone else?

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the point to my noble and learned friend is rather simple. The area where these individuals were located was under US control. As part of the coalition we accept a concern and a responsibility but it was always clear that the primary responsibility was held by the US, which provided security for this group and satisfied itself that it could hand over those responsibilities to the Iraqi authorities.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the Minister did not mention the role the United Nations could play in this matter and, more importantly, the concern that has been expressed by PMOI, which has now been removed from the proscribed list of organisations. Would he not consider it wise to invite Mrs Rajavi to meet the Foreign Office and brief it about issues and also to note its concern about what the British Government can do?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, as I have frequently assured this House, we are fully respectful of the decision of the courts and we are delighted that at the end of January this group was de-listed. That does not mean necessarily that Her Majesty’s Government accept that this group is committed to democratic means of seeking power or that necessarily individuals would be able to win the right to visas and be able to visit the country.

Business of the House

Motion on Standing Orders

3.06 pm

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In moving this Motion, I should say a few words so that the House is fully aware why I am proposing it. The Motion would set aside Standing Order 41, which gives general debates precedence on a Thursday. This would allow the two Motions to approve Home Office instruments this Thursday to be taken before the balloted debates. This change is being proposed following discussions through the usual channels, which concluded that in this case such a change to the business might be for the general convenience of the House. I understand that the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, in whose names the balloted debates stand, have consented to the proposals subject to the agreement of the House. I am grateful to them for their understanding.

Motion agreed.

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Unit Trusts (Electronic Communications) Order 2009

Open-Ended Investment Companies (Amendment) Regulations 2009

Mutual Societies (Transfers) Order 2009

Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 (Audit of Non-profit-making Companies) Order 2009

Child Trust Funds (Amendment) Regulations 2009

Social Security (Contributions) (Re-rating) Order 2009

Social Security (Contributions) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2009

Motions to Approve

Moved By Lord Davies of Oldham

Motions agreed.

Contracting Out (Highway Functions) Order 2009

Road Safety (Financial Penalty Deposit) (Appropriate Amount) Order 2009

Motions to Approve

Moved By Lord Tunnicliffe

Motions agreed.

Geneva Conventions and United Nations Personnel (Protocols) Bill [HL]

Third Reading

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

2 Mar 2009 : Column 508

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL]

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes
3rd Report from DP Committee
5th Report from Constitution Committee

Committee (Second Day)

3.10 pm

Amendment 45

Moved by Lord Avebury

45: Before Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—

“Probationary citizenship leave

(1) A person with probationary citizenship leave shall be treated as a person settled in the United Kingdom for the purposes of all regulations made under—

(a) the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968 (c. 46);

(b) the Education (Fees and Awards) Act 1983 (c. 40);

(c) the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 (S.I. 1986/594 (N.I. 3));

(d) the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors), Regulations 1989 (S.I. 1989/306);

(e) the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 (c. 30);

(f) the Education (Student Support) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998;

(g) the Learning Skills Act 2000 (c. 21);

(h) the Higher Education Act 2004 (c. 8); and

(i) the Higher Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 (S.I. 2005/1116 (N.I. 5));

(2) In section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (exclusion from benefits), in subsection (9) after “EEA state” insert “or a person with probationary citizenship leave”.”

Lord Avebury: In moving Amendment 45 in my name and that of my noble friend, I shall speak also to Amendment 105A. As the Minister is aware, we do not like the term “probationary citizenship” because the status that it covers is in reality an extension of temporary residence leave, prolonging the time that it takes to get to applying for actual citizenship by a year and in the meanwhile imposing certain restrictions on access to services that did not previously apply to those who were on indefinite leave to remain.

We are grateful to the Minister for providing us with a list of the benefits that may not be accessed by a person who is given probationary citizenship leave, or PCL as I shall call it from now onwards, which those on indefinite leave to remain, ILR, have been able to access in the past. As the note accompanying the list makes clear, making a holder of PCL a person “subject to immigration control”—the first of many terms of art used in this Bill—within the meaning of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 means that he is subject to the condition that he should not have recourse to public funds. In practice, that means that he is ineligible for any of 15 different types of benefit that are available to those on ILR.

Apart from that, the overseas rate of fees in further and higher education will apply to holders of PCL who are over the age of 18 except in the one case of English for the speakers of other languages, which is to be charged at the home rate on the sensible ground that it will help migrants to acquire the skills that they will need to support their progress towards citizenship. Logically, precisely the same argument applies to every other course of further and higher education, and I

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invite the Minister to tell us why a course in, say, English history or on local authority management would not equally assist the probationary citizen to make himself useful.

Amendment 105A deals with the case of a person who becomes homeless through no fault of his own during his passage through the probationary citizenship phase. Under the Bill he is given none of the assistance that is normally extended to persons who become homeless. We ask the Minister why this should be so. If someone who is in the middle of a probationary citizenship phase becomes homeless—let us say that a spouse who is attacked by a violent partner becomes homeless during that part of her stay—why is she ineligible for any assistance? That should be added to the list of exceptions in the Bill. I beg to move.

3.15 pm

Lord Brett: I am afraid that I must resist this amendment. It is a fundamental tenet of our proposed reform of the path to citizenship that the rights and benefits of citizenship are reserved for those who have earned the right to them. Migrants earn those rights and benefits by completing both the temporary residence and the probationary citizenship path.

We recognise that migrants make a significant contribution to this country both economically and in social terms. Nevertheless, it has been a long-standing policy that those entering the United Kingdom on the work or family routes should be expected to support themselves without access to benefits. This supports a clearly held public view that migrants should make an economic contribution and should not be a burden on the state. This policy should be strengthened and clarified so that everyone is clear that full access will be withheld until a migrant completes the path to citizenship.

Of course, this does not apply to migrants who are on the protection route. It is right, given the special circumstances that led people on this route to come to the UK, that they should be able to access all benefits immediately. The restrictions on access to benefits and services at the probationary citizenship stage will apply only to migrants on the work route—that is, those highly skilled and skilled workers under tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based system—and the family route, for family members of British citizens and permanent residents.

Further, all migrants, including those on the family and work routes, will have full access to national insurance contribution-based benefits on the same basis as British workers. These benefits are contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance, incapacity benefit, contributory employment and support allowance, retirement pension, maternity allowance and bereavement benefit. This applies equally during the probationary period of citizenship. We continue to believe that full access to benefits should normally be withheld until a migrant has earned the right to British citizenship or permanent residence.

The amendment is also seriously flawed. While it would give probationary citizens access to social housing and homelessness assistance in Scotland and Northern Ireland, it would not do so in England or Wales. Nor

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is it sufficient to address the different positions that exist in respect of education and healthcare in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For example, the amendment cites only NHS regulations that apply in England and Wales.

The noble Lord raised two points, one in relation to higher education and the second in relation to homelessness. In both cases the answers are simple but I would prefer to put them in writing to explain more clearly to him why what he suggests is not considered appropriate. If the noble Lord is content with that, I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

I turn to Amendment 105A. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me; my paper-juggling skills are not great. I beg your Lordships’ pardon. I must admit to a certain degree of defeat.

The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): If it will assist the House, it is possible to return to Amendment 105A in its place on the Marshalled List later in the debate if it is not possible to cover it now.

Lord Brett: I ask noble Lords if that would be possible.

Lord Avebury: I am sure that we can do that. It is an important point. While I entirely accept the noble Lord’s contention that it has always been the case that a person who is on these routes should be expected to support themselves without access to public funds, there must surely be the occasional exception to that. Anybody with a spark of humanity would say that someone who is in the middle of this phase, and who becomes unintentionally homeless through no fault of their own, would look to the public purse for some sort of help. That was the point that I was trying to make. However, I can see that I am not going to get anywhere with the main argument.

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