Clause 119

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn


Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Llafur, Leyton and Wanstead

I beg to move amendment No. 361, in clause 119, page 80, line 22, after ‘person’s’, insert ‘long-term’.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Llafur, Knowsley South

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 362, in clause 119, page 80, line 23, after ‘essential’, insert ‘long-term’.

No. 359, in clause 119, page 80, line 27, leave out ‘may not’ and insert ‘must’.

No. 360, in clause 119, page 80, line 28, leave out from ‘cash’ to end of line 29.

No. 363, in clause 122, page 82, line 21, leave out subsection (7).

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Llafur, Leyton and Wanstead

The amendments are about the cash or vouchers issue. It may come as a surprise to some of my colleagues, but at the last count I was not in the top 20 when it came to rebelling in votes in the House. However, I did rebel over vouchers, which threw a lot of asylum seekers into destitution. I am concerned about that and I have a track record in that regard.

Some of the amendments relate to essential living needs and accommodation. If people are very likely to be specially designated for a long time, they should have long-term assistance or their circumstances should be dealt with on a long-term basis. Also, they should have cash rather than vouchers.

I have had a number of representations, including from the Refugee Council, which says that there is no allowance for such things as clothing and shoe repairs and that there will be progressive poverty under the proposals. It also said:

“The use of vouchers as a form of support for asylum seekers was ended following considerable concerns about its stigmatising and impoverishing impact. Currently it is only used for refused asylum seekers in receipt of Section 4 (hard cases) support. Now it is proposed to reintroduce the use of vouchers for a whole class of people who have no prospect of this form of support coming to an end.”

The JCWI quotes from the refugee convention, which we are signed up to, and mentions

“The duty to assimilate refugees” and that

“The Contracting states shall so far as is possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of refugees”.

It notes that the convention says:

“The contracting states shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as is accorded to their nationals”.

I think that vouchers fall foul of that. However, worst of all, they are impoverishing. Vouchers carry about two-thirds of the value of income support. If people use a voucher, they will get less value than if they were spending cash. I ask the Government to think again on that aspect.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I know that my hon. Friend has real concerns, not just about supporting people who may be designated under this provision, but about the support that is made available to people in all sorts of other circumstances. He will see, under clause 119(3), the support that can be made available and under subsection (4) he will see something in respect of vouchers, about which he is concerned. However, to try to appease some of his concerns, he will also know that we have inserted something into the Bill, because of his concerns and those of others. I refer him to clause 120(6), which specifically states:

“The Secretary of State may by order repeal, modify or disapply (to any extent) section 119(4).”

Although he is concerned about certain elements in the Bill, there is explicitly a provision for him to continue to argue his case for the need for those to be changed through the order-making power.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Llafur, Leyton and Wanstead

I appreciate that. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 119 ordered to stand part of the Bill.