Question for Short Debate
My Lords, my first pleasant duty today is to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, to her first debate. I also posed her first Question, so I am delighted that she is here for this debate. I am also grateful to other noble Lords who will speak today.
Once again we are asking Her Majesty’s Government to reconsider their policy on allowing those waiting for asylum decisions to apply for work after 12 months. We want this time reduced to six months. The people we are speaking of are human beings who should be given the chance to support themselves. It is very demeaning to ask for handouts or not to be able to afford decent meals every day. How could we manage on £5 a day? If we go to the Pugin Room for coffee with two or three people, £5 is gone right away. How inadequate. You are stereotyped as a scrounger, and this leads to low esteem and stress.
Until July 2002, asylum seekers who had been waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim for six months or more could apply for permission to work under a Home Office employment concession. This concession was abolished on 25 July 2002. The then Government said that the increasing speed of the asylum determination process—it must have been a remarkable year—and the importance of separating economic migration routes from asylum were why it had been decided to restrict asylum seekers’ right to work. This was clearly the wrong decision.
Many of these asylum seekers are being forced to wait for the full 12-month period before being able to begin their search for work. The Red Cross has said that it often takes the Home Office years to determine an asylum claim. In fact, it says that almost 40% of asylum applications made in the year 2012-13 were not concluded within 12 months. This leaves thousands of asylum seekers unable to apply for work for long periods of time.
Eleven European Union countries already allow asylum seekers access to the labour markets after six months or less. They are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. They have had these policies in place for many years and not one of them has had to change the policy because of any abuse of the asylum route by economic migrants. In fact, all but one of these countries received fewer asylum applications than the UK in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, Germany published its new asylum Bill, which includes plans to reduce the period of time that asylum seekers have to wait before receiving authorisation to work. It is going from nine months to three months. Meanwhile, in the UK we still impose the unreasonable and punitive 12-month limit.
Allowing asylum seekers to work more quickly would lessen the possibility of them being a target for the unscrupulous and the criminal world which can exploit vulnerable people through illegal employment. The recast European Union reception conditions directive gives the period for which asylum seekers can be excluded from the labour market pending an initial decision. It was reduced to nine months. However, the UK has not signed up to this directive, which means that we will be one of the very few countries in Europe where asylum seekers can apply for permission to work only after waiting for more than one year for an initial decision on their case. In this respect, we see that almost all the 27 EU states have a more generous policy than the UK.
Furthermore, in practice, the UK Government effectively prohibit asylum seekers from working even after one year, as they are allowed to work only in highly skilled, shortage occupations. Once again, this is not the policy in many other European countries. Belgium, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden all allow asylum seekers to work in any job—including being self-employed—once they are granted permission to work. As for entrepreneurs, a report in February showed that those from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and especially from Poland, were not only first-class workers but first-class employers, with many of them setting up their own business.
The average asylum seeker spends about 18 months on Section 95 support. Research has shown that those who spend prolonged periods on this level of support are known to suffer from physical and mental health problems. Studies for Refugee Action’s Bring Back Dignity campaign revealed that physical health problems were common among asylum seekers, 38% of whom reported that they could not buy enough food to feed their families. Many asylum seekers were concerned that their limited financial support did not allow them to purchase healthy and nutritious food and they had to opt for a cheaper diet instead. Only the more expensive shops now exchange goods for Azure cards. Why can they not be used in the corner shop or shops such as Asda and Lidl which sell at lower prices? There is no reason to force anyone to pay more than necessary for their basic food and supplies. Cultural dietary requirements are sometimes difficult to obtain because of financial constraints.
The implications of current provision for those with young children are also of great concern, since the Secretary of State failed to take into account essential household goods such as non-prescription medicines and special requirements for new mothers. Reports have demonstrated that current rates of support do not allow for sufficient adaptation to life in the UK. Many cannot afford adequate clothing to face the British climate. Financial limitation also makes it difficult to engage socially or in a community. There is just no money to spare and this can increase social isolation. I would also like assurances that those with long-term, serious medical conditions, such as type 1 diabetes—which can require as many as five injections a day—heart conditions and epilepsy, are able to receive their prescriptions. Is there sufficient finance, not just for the injections, but for the hygienic conditions needed to inject in?
The children of asylum seekers want to look to their father as a role model, who supports them in the usual way by being an example of good family values, getting up in the morning and going to a job. This also helps to keep a healthy mind and lessens the chance of mental health problems developing. Housing is provided, but its standard is often questionable. An asylum seeker cannot choose where to live and it is often in the hard-to-let properties which council tenants do not want.
Cash support is currently set at £36.62 per person, per week: £5.23 a day for food, sanitation and clothing. This amount was set way back in 2007. Between then and April 2013, the consumer prices index increased by 20.5%. If the benefits provided to asylum seekers had increased at this rate, they would currently be on £53 a week, which would make a massive difference. The amount allowed is clearly not adequate. The Government’s claim that Section 95 is adequate was undermined on 9 April 2014 when the High Court handed down its judgment in a case which the judge described as considering,
“what was sufficient to keep about 20,000 people above subsistence level destitution, a significant proportion of whom are vulnerable and have suffered traumatic experiences”.
The ruling states that the Government failed to take account of items that must be considered as essential living needs, such as non-prescription medicines, nappies, formula milk, other requirements for new mothers, basic household cleaning goods and the opportunity to maintain relationships and a minimum level of participation in society. The court also found that errors had been made by the Government in calculating the amount required for asylum seekers to meet their essential living needs. The Government failed to take into account the extent to which asylum support had decreased in real terms in recent years.
We should be leading in these human rights issues. The United Kingdom has a fairly good record, but now we are dragging our feet and causing great hurt and harm to so many people. That is why I cannot see any objection whatever to reducing the number of months from 12 to six. I cannot see an argument for it. Therefore, I ask the Government to consider very seriously the need to think again on this issue.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno for once again valiantly trying to change UK government policy in this area. The difficulty is that successive UK Governments have not allowed asylum seekers to work, and for very good reason. On the face of it, and especially for the general public, it appears to be an odd position to maintain, but it is the right one.
I, too, welcome my noble friend the Minister to her new role and in this important and interesting area of government policy. However, I hope that she can resist the tempting dish that my noble friend has so skilfully offered her.
The last time we debated this issue, noble Lords explained—as I expect some will explain today—how valuable to one’s self-esteem is the ability to work and support society. I totally agree. My wife’s brother-in-law has vascular dementia and his short-term memory is down to 30 seconds or less. However, under direct immediate supervision, he is still able to help me in my classic commercial vehicle restoration activities. By the time he gets home, he has absolutely no idea of what he has done or where he has been. The interesting point is this: his feel-good benefit lasts all evening, and my sister-in-law reports that he is much easier to look after, so we can agree that work is good for you. The Committee should not forget that asylum seekers can undertake voluntary work, but I accept that it might be difficult to find.
The problem is that most of the working-age population of the world would like to come to our green and pleasant land to live and work—if not here, then to the United States, where they have similar problems. It is no good looking at other EU states that have more relaxed rules without understanding the full context of those rules or accepting that the UK is the most desirable destination in the EU. I think that answers my noble friend’s point about why we receive more applications for asylum than other EU states that have more relaxed rules about work. If I am wrong, why do people dice with death trying to get to the UK?
There is a well trodden route for economic migrants from outside the EU. They apply for a visa, start working in the informal sector of the economy—thus, to some extent, depressing the market rate for legitimate workers—and eventually, we hope, they will be detected as overstayers. At this point they might suddenly remember that they are asylum seekers. Alternatively, they obtain a visitor’s visa, travel to the UK and immediately claim asylum, possibly having destroyed their travel documents en route. In many cases, it is advantageous for them to make their claim as difficult and as time-consuming as possible in order to stay in the UK for as long as possible.
If my noble friend the Minister were to comply with my noble friend’s wishes, the number of economic migrants would undoubtedly increase. This would have an adverse effect on three deserving groups. First, it will affect those genuine visitors seeking a visitor’s visa, who will inevitably find it harder to get one if they are a borderline case. Secondly, those asylum seekers who have a genuine but complex case will find that it will take longer than necessary to determine because finite resources are being expended on bogus cases. Finally, the UK taxpayer will have to devote more resources to running the system.
I hope that the Committee does not see me as an out-and-out xenophobe, because I am not. I look forward to a later opportunity to give the Committee—or perhaps the whole House—my views on the benefits of the free movement of labour throughout the Community and, in particular, how this benefits us and other EU states. Offering work to asylum seekers will benefit no one, and we certainly cannot welcome everyone, from anywhere, who wants to come and work here.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the noble Baroness to the government Front Bench and look forward to the many exchanges that I suspect we will have.
On this issue, I side very much with the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, rather than with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. In doing so, I declare an interest as a member of an independent asylum commission which studied this whole issue for three years and reported to the previous Government in 2009. Right at the heart of what we said was that we were very concerned that within the Home Office there was what we called a culture of disbelief. This amounted to a general disbelief of anyone coming to this country. This included people who had been victims of torture, whose stories were also disbelieved. We felt that that was unattractive, not least because it influenced too many decisions that had to be made objectively and were conditioned by something else. During that experience I also saw something that I never thought I would see on the streets of this country—namely, the distribution of Red Cross food parcels to destitute asylum seekers in Manchester. The Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, who was leading the delegation, asked whether he could take one of them away and try to live on it for a week. His report on that, which was included in our report, makes salutary reading.
I suspect that the inadequate reasons that the Government put forward for resisting the suggestion that the period might be reduced to six months, which were questioned by the High Court in the 9 April judgment to which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, referred, hides a deeper malaise in the Home Office, to which I last drew attention during the passage of the Immigration Bill through this House. At present, there is a monstrous backlog of 500,000 unresolved applications to come to this country. That millstone has not just arrived; it has built up over years. I cannot believe that any system can work properly if it has a millstone of that proportion hanging round its neck. During the passage of the Bill, I made the suggestion that it would only be good sense for the Government to make special arrangements to have that backlog cleared as quickly as possible by drafting in extra people to do the work, which, admittedly, would involve expense. However, having cleared the backlog, the system would be able to function properly, processing day-to-day applications as they arrived.
When a former Home Secretary, John Reid, described the immigration system as being not fit for purpose, I entirely agreed with him because it included many aspects like this. At the time, I was privileged to be working with it as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, with responsibility for inspecting immigration detention centres, so I was close to the coal-face.
There is no evidence at all that the proposals for the punitive 12 months mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, would succeed in deterring what are called economic migrants. Indeed, I think that the economic migrant scare is just that. Of course, there are people who come for the wrong reasons, but the vast majority do not. It is entirely unworthy of this country, with its traditional record of offering sanctuary and as a place where human rights are observed, to persist in the myth that everyone coming here is an economic migrant, a vandal and a vagrant who should not be here. We need to remove that suggestion from any reasoning of why processing cannot happen more quickly. If people got down to it and the designed procedures were operated properly, it would be perfectly easy for all applications to be completed within six months, as happens in other European countries, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, has stated. If they can do it, so can we. It requires will and determination but it can be done. I agree that it is ludicrous to go on with the reasons that, allegedly, we cannot do it and cannot afford it. I do not believe that.
The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, is right to talk about raising the level of support given. The suggestion has been made that it should be 70% of the income support rate—which seems nearer to the £53 that the noble Lord mentions than the £36, which I defy anyone to live on. I absolutely agree with him that the abolition ruling on 25 July 2002 was a mistake that ought to be rectified as soon as possible. Having cleared the backlog, there is absolutely no reason why we should not proceed in a civilised way with the aim of having a six-month ceiling for all decision-making.
My Lords, what I have to say is not original but I do not think that means it is not worth saying. Just because it is not original does not mean that it is trite. However, what is not trite is my welcome to the Minister. This may not be the last time we debate this issue.
It has been anticipated but I am going to say it: I doubt any of us can truly understand what it must be like to seek asylum, or even to be driven to seek to be allowed to live in another country without the reasons which would back up an asylum claim but simply out of concern for one’s own family and to make a reasonable living. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has referred to the baggage around the term “economic migrant”. On the one hand it is vagrancy and laziness; on the other, it suggests a degree of greater affluence than is generally the case. Again this point has been anticipated, but I cannot imagine what it would be like not to be allowed to work; it would dominate my sense of self-worth and my well-being. However, those issues would not dominate if I were trying to live on £5.23 per day—I could not do it for a week, let alone six months— and I have what Mr Justice Popplewell in the recent judicial review called a “significant wardrobe”. I am not someone who, as he described it, arrives,
“with no more than the clothes they stand up in so that the asylum support has to provide for an initial stock of sufficient clothing and footwear for the English climate”.
That is apart from food, healthcare, personal care and so on.
It is clearly common ground that the amount provided is considerably less than income support, the minimum wage or the London living wage. The word “living” is in there for a reason. The London Assembly is one of the organisations—political and non-political, secular and non-secular—which has supported the proposition put forward by my noble friend, and one might expect that in London this would have the most impact.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, I have not seen anything to support the assertion that we deter economic migration. As has been said, this is not a view shared by many other European countries with shorter periods of restriction.
Recent news reports—and not only recent reports—have indeed talked about people dicing with death, but they have diced with death to get across the Mediterranean to Lampedusa, mainland Italy or Greece. I do not recognise the description given by my noble friend Lord Attlee. This view of immigrants is applied to asylum seekers by people who do not distinguish between migration and asylum-seeking. I do not charge my noble friend with that—we have had this conversation on the Floor of the Chamber and I know that he makes the distinction—but there are people who say of the two populations that they come only for the benefits.
If an asylum seeker is keen to contribute to society and has not been fast-tracked out within the six months, as I suspect many economic migrants would be, and is seen to be keen, that might be something of an answer to that mindset or, frankly, that prejudice. However, from what I have seen, the policy proposed by my noble friend has public support. We are all very aware of the need to do anything that can assist integration and community cohesion. Not permitting work has a danger of producing the converse, of making very vulnerable people even more vulnerable to exploitation and driving them underground into the black economy. It would help, too, to ease the transition for those who are given status—and there are quite a lot—when their claims succeed.
Of course, a lot can be said about the importance of work for physical and mental health, for keeping up one’s skills—life skills, social skills and skills in handling relationships—and for keeping up one’s confidence and being able to show a prospective employer that one has been employed.
The point was made—I do not know by whom—that many asylum seekers are self-employed. That does not surprise me. If you have the get up and go to face getting up and going, you will probably have something of an entrepreneurial spirit. I do not need to spell out the impact of poverty on dependants, including children, and on their development and learning when combined with being uprooted from one’s original country and culture. I was struck by what Z, a torture survivor said—I think in the recent case but certainly in the report of the case—that,
“for me when you are poor there is no life for you. It is a kind of prison. It is worse than prison.
The Still Human Still Here consortium urges a geographical pilot covering at least two regions—of course, asylum seekers have no choice about where they are dispersed to—for a year to allow for assessment of whether allowing this group to work does indeed lead to an increase in unfounded applications, or whether it helps integration and provides value for money, taking into account administrative costs but also savings from not having to pay for support. I urge the Government to engage with the NGOs and the various organisations which, struggling on very little money themselves, are doing very good work, not just with direct support but in drawing attention to the issues.
I can think of little so demeaning as being prevented from working. Frankly, six months without work seems an unattractive proposition. We demean ourselves as a country with this restriction—perhaps “exclusion” would be the better word.
I know the views of my noble friend Lord Attlee about free movement in the EU. He took me by surprise once when he answered a Question from me very sympathetically on this. He now argues that such a change in policy would prejudice those who are not bogus asylum seekers. I continue to have the view that they are bogus only because that is how we label them. Our systems—this is very much the point of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham—need to be good enough to identify asylum seekers with well-founded claims without unreasonable delay. They should not cause problems which in themselves penalise asylum seekers.
The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, is to be congratulated on the determination with which he pursues the issue of asylum seekers awaiting application decisions and their right to work. Like all other noble Lords who have spoken, I add my welcome to the Minister.
As we know, in essence asylum seekers can apply for permission to work if they have waited for longer than 12 months for an initial decision on their claim and are not considered responsible for the delay in decision-making. The regular calls to extend asylum seekers’ rights to work have not found favour—as has been said—with successive Governments on the basis that it could encourage and lead to an increase in unfounded asylum applications and that the faster processing of asylum cases made the case for allowing asylum seekers to work less compelling.
The coalition Government—both parties—adopted a similar approach to that of the previous Government. Mr Damian Green, when he was the Minister concerned, said:
“Extending the permission to work policy”,
by reducing the time period,
“risks abuse of the asylum system by economic migrants and detracts from the aim of encouraging those whose claim has failed to return home voluntarily. Our focus … is on implementing new ways to speed up the processing of applications, while also improving the quality of decision making”.—[Official Report, Commons, 11/10/11; col. 65W.]
It is on this aspect of the speed of decision-making that I will ask the Minister a few questions.
If there were not delays in dealing with some applications—I understand that a clear majority are dealt with within six months—there would not be the kind of concerns being raised in today’s debate. The number of applications was at a peak in 2002 at over 80,000. That fell dramatically to under 20,000 in 2010 and has started to rise slowly since then. In the year ending March 2014, there were some 23,731 asylum applications—a rise of 5% compared with the previous 12 months. I understand that at the end of March 2014 some 19,685 applications for asylum received since 2006 from main applicants were pending a decision—that is, initial decision, appeal or further review—and that this was 38% more than at the end of March 2013. Could the Government give a breakdown of that figure? Just how long, in terms of numbers of years, have these 19,685 applications been pending a decision and what has been the reason for the delay, where there has been one?
The Government say—as have successive Governments—that some asylum seekers are responsible for the delay in decision-making. How many of those 19,685 applications received since April 2006 are the Government saying have been delayed solely because of the actions, or lack of actions, of the asylum seekers themselves? To what extent are the delays due to the processes for which the Government, or government contractors or agents, are responsible? How many staff are dealing with asylum applications and how have those numbers varied in each year since 2001? How long is it taking for appeals to be heard through the Courts and Tribunals Service? Is it the case that on the day of a tribunal hearing, or shortly before, it is far from unknown for the Government to ask for the case not to proceed because they want more time to make further investigations and that this then puts such a case back towards the end of the queue?
If the Government can show that the delays are almost always attributable to the asylum seekers themselves, their position is a much stronger one. The number of asylum applications has been relatively constant since 2005, ranging between some 19,000 to just over 25,000. So, bearing that in mind, one would think that it would have been possible to ensure that we now had a process for dealing with asylum applications where responsibility for any delays could not be laid at the door of government. I hope that when the Minister responds she will be able to prove that that is the case and that government indifference or incompetence is not a significant factor in those delays.
My Lords, I am happy to be involved with this debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, who not only asked me my first Question but has engaged me in my first debate. When researching this subject, I noticed that he has an almost Wilberforcian determination to bring the issue forward.
As noble Lords have outlined, the Government’s policy is to allow asylum seekers to apply for permission to work only if they have not received a decision on their claim after 12 months because of reasons outside their control. This is fair and reasonable. In the Government’s view, it is vital that we maintain a distinction between economic migration and asylum. Many noble Lords have raised the issue of the crossover where people awaiting asylum can work. The policy in place is specifically designed to mitigate this risk and to protect labour markets by restricting employment, when permission is granted, to occupations on the shortage occupations list published by the Home Office.
As many noble Lords have said, the desirability of the United Kingdom as a destination for economic migrants is not in doubt—this is a great place to live. The Government have been successful at reducing non-EEA migration, but EEA migration remains high as those who benefit from EU free movement come here to look for work. Widening access to the labour market by relaxing our policy on the right for asylum seekers would send the wrong signals and damage the significant progress that this Government have made in controlling migration.
My noble friend Lord Roberts referred to the attitude of other EU countries to asylum seekers. I have looked into this. It is true that if you arrive in Greece you can work straightaway. However, you cannot avail yourself of some of the asylum support and accommodation that we provide in this country, and life could be made far more difficult for you ultimately. He also referred to Sweden, which is a very good case in point. In Sweden you have to have a personal identification number in order to work. However, in order to work as a migrant you have to learn Swedish and do extensive volunteering work, which in itself takes up time.
The issue of whether it takes too long to consider asylum claims has been raised. The Home Office is addressing the issue. In 2012-13, 78% of asylum claims received a decision within six months. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that all asylum claims must be carefully considered and that this takes time and resources.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned the backlog, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I have some figures about the number of additional staff being drafted in. I understand that 160 new decision-making executive officers are in place to deal with this, as are 90 administration officers. Nearly 80% of claims are dealt with within six months. However, it is important that the Government do all that they can to deter unfounded claims, not least because such claims must still be decided and this slows down consideration of genuine claims at the expense of people who really need our protection.
Perhaps I can go through some of the other points made by noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Roberts talked about the judgment this year that asylum support needs to be reviewed. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, also mentioned it. The judge did not say that the current rate was too low; he said that the methodology for making decisions was flawed. We are, therefore, reviewing that and a report on the outcomes will be produced on 9 August.
My noble friend Lord Roberts also asked whether Azure cards could be offered in Lidl and Aldi. My noble friend kindly gave me the heads-up on the issue yesterday and I have approached my noble friend Lord Taylor, the Minister, to ask whether this could be looked into.
My noble friend Lord Roberts talked about medication, which is, in fact, fully covered by the NHS. I am pleased to report that asylum seekers awaiting a decision can have full access to the NHS, including help with getting to health facilities. He also brought up the issue of the standard of housing. I have to say that it is varied but I can absolutely assure him that any accommodation provided must be fully equipped and appointed with all necessary items.
Several noble Lords raised the issue of self-esteem and the inability to work during the stressful time awaiting an asylum decision. It is absolutely the case that people awaiting decisions on asylum claims can volunteer. They are also not necessarily poor, although I accept that, in giving up their homes and livelihoods in their countries of origin, they may well be poor—but not necessarily. They are able to volunteer. This goes back to the point about not muddying the difference between an asylum claim and seeking a work permit. My noble friend Lord Attlee made the point about volunteering and the UK being such a great place in which to live—hence the number of applications that we receive. My noble friend also made the good distinction between the genuine asylum seeker and those seeking work.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, talked about the culture of disbelief. We cannot accept that there is such a culture. All claims are considered on their merits, the evidence and the law. The noble Lord might be pleased to know that on average we grant asylum in 30% of initial decisions.
I have covered the issue of the backlog. The number of undecided cases predating 2012 is decreasing and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, might be pleased to know that we have made a decision in all pre-2011 cases. However, I will look into some of the questions and statistics that he asked me about and, if I have not covered everything, we will ensure that those questions are addressed.
Several noble Lords commented on our decision about reviewing the point at which we would allow asylum seekers to seek employment. We have not reviewed that issue, which lies entirely within the 2003 reception conditions directive. We make a distinction between people seeking asylum and those coming here to seek work.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee made several points, including on asylum seekers not being allowed to work—I referred to volunteering in that regard—and on integration and community cohesion. I acknowledge that an asylum seeker might feel isolated, but we are an incredibly integrated community, particularly in the capital, London, and, indeed, elsewhere in the country. We pride ourselves on that integration and on our tolerance and much work goes on to promote that. My noble friend also said that we need to have good systems. I hope that some of the figures that I have mentioned reassure her. Indeed, almost 80% of the claims are heard within six months.
I hope that I have answered all the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. However, I note that he is about to rise to tell me which ones I have not answered.
I took it from an earlier comment that the noble Baroness made that she would check to see whether all the questions that I raised had been answered and, if that was not the case, would write to me soon. That is perfectly acceptable from my point of view. However, I was particularly interested in the figure in the briefing that we received—as far as I know, these are Home Office figures—on the 19,685 applications received since April 2006, and the issue of how many of those the Government are attributing to delays arising from the actions of asylum seekers and how many are due to the actions of the Government.
Before my noble friend sits down, as we are well within the hour, she mentioned the decision being announced on 9 August, following the review. I accept her point that this is about the methodology, not the amount. If she cannot do so now, and she may not be able to, will she let us know fairly soon when the announcement, which will be made on a Saturday, will take effect if there is to be a new rate? Is there any possibility of the announcement being made while Parliament is still sitting so that we might have an opportunity, possibly as the least important people involved in this, to debate and air the issues that will arise from the decision?