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Mike Gapes: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hancock: No, I will not give way again to the hon. Gentleman. He has only just come into the Chamber.

Annabelle Ewing: I echo the point that the debate was being conducted in a civilised manner and that the intervention by hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) lowered the tone considerably. If anyone should express regret about language used, we should start with the Home Secretary and his extremely unfortunate use of the word "swamping".

Mr. Hancock: That is a helpful contribution, because it reminds the House of that unhelpful and rather sad event.

We have an obligation to children. I want the Minister to assure me that there are commitments on which the Government are not going to renege. I want an assurance that the comments made by Lord Rooker when he had responsibility for these matters in the other place will be adhered to. Furthermore, we must be assured that the arguments made about early access to judicial procedures have been heeded and that such access will be available. Anything short of those assurances will seriously undermine the nation's credibility not only inside the country, but outside.

Ms Rosie Winterton: We have had a wide-ranging debate and many hon. Members have made powerful speeches about points of concern. It underlines the fact that we are all interested in ensuring that we have a system that deals with vulnerable people not only fairly and quickly but firmly. I hope to be able to give

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assurances on many of the points made and to explain in more detail some of the background to the decisions that the Government have made and to our proposals.

I thank hon. Members for their support for new clause 9, which shows that we listened in Committee and that we have come back with appropriate changes. The changes in the Bill do not alter the types of people who are in removal or detention centres. It is the person who makes the decision about detention who is changed. Decisions are already made about families who are referred to detention centres. There has to be a choice in this matter. Whatever the reasons are for referring the principal member of a family to a detention centre, such decisions are not taken lightly, in terms of detention in the first instance, and also in terms of removal, which is a different matter. Separation of children from their families is not a road that we would want to take.

Annabelle Ewing: As I mentioned, it has already been suggested by the Scots Parliament cross-party group on refugees that community reporting is an alternative way of proceeding—a point that I am sure has been made by many others. The family would not be split up, but live in the community and report to the police with whatever frequency was deemed appropriate.

Ms Winterton: Of course, there are different options. I reiterate that there is always a presumption of granting temporary admission or release with reporting conditions. It is only in terms of detention from the outset, when there are strong grounds for believing that individuals would not comply or problems in identifying somebody, that such a course of action is taken.

All cases are usually reviewed within 24 hours by a more senior officer than the one who took the original decision. They are also reviewed administratively at monthly intervals, and progressively more senior levels in the immigration and nationality directorate or Immigration Advisory Service consider the decisions. Such decisions can change. For example, that may happen if it is felt that because an appeal is imminent, the likelihood of abscondence has lessened. During that period, there is always scope for the decision to be reviewed and the ability to apply for bail.

Simon Hughes: First, does the Minister accept that, as has been mentioned in other contexts, there is all the difference in the world between a decision being reviewed by another member of Government staff and its being reviewed by an independent member of the judiciary—a magistrate or judge? Secondly, she said that the Bill did not change whom we put in the centres, only who puts them there. In that case, there is no reason to change the name of detention centres. At the moment, it is accurate as they are used for detention, but the future name of "removal centre" is inaccurate, as some of the people who are held may not be removed.

Ms Winterton: I reiterate that the ability to apply for bail is included in the scenario. For people who are staying in removal centres because they are going to be removed, a very short period is involved, by and large, because removal directions will have been set. If somebody asks for judicial review of their removal

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directions, their stay will be prolonged. When such directions have been set, however, the time is relatively short, as some of the figures given by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) demonstrated.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) made a very important point about children in removal centres, or what are currently called detention centres. He said that his amendment might be deficient and that it was tabled at a late stage, but he made a powerful speech, and I hope that I will be able to give him some assurances.

5 pm

Removal centres are subject to inspection by Her Majesty's inspector of prisons, and where educational facilities are present Ofsted will be involved in the inspection. As regards the Children Act 1989, the inspector of prisons has to ensure during inspections that the facilities offered are in line with the care that would be given under that Act. Obviously, we as a Government cannot instruct the inspector of prisons to make inspections, but thematic inspections, among others, will start in the near future. We are confident that no child in the centres would be denied human rights as guaranteed by the Human Rights Act 1998 and that they would receive adequate protection and a guarantee of their welfare.

Jeremy Corbyn: The Minister says that there would be an inspection by Her Majesty's inspector of prisons. Would there be a facility for a visit and inspection by the local social services authority, which seems to be a far more appropriate body to consider the rights and needs of children than the prison inspector?

Ms Winterton: Local authorities have no right to inspect centres in such circumstances.

Jeremy Corbyn: My understanding is that social services departments are given a specific responsibility under the Children Act to examine the children's welfare, and the prisons inspectorate does not fall within the ambit of the Act. Surely that issue must be resolved.

Ms Winterton: The provisions do not apply in that respect, but perhaps I can reassure my hon. Friend by saying that removal centre contractors work closely with local social services, and we expect them to continue to do so.

On the way in which centres are organised as regards family accommodation, such accommodation is entirely separate, secure and away from the remainder of the centre. There are education, care and play facilities, and professionals are involved in the care of the children. We envisage that that will continue in any new facilities.

The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) deals with the length of time for which people could be detained in removal centres. It would create an explicit requirement to detain a person for no more than a "reasonable period". Although there is no express requirement in legislation to detain persons for no more than the "reasonable period" necessary in the circumstances of each case, domestic and European convention on human rights jurisprudence is clear and well established on that point, as the hon. Gentleman said.

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The power to detain may be exercised only for the specific purpose authorised by the statute. Detention is permitted only for as long as is reasonably necessary for that specific authorised purpose and the detaining authority must act with due diligence to pursue it. The principle is well understood and we therefore do not believe that it needs to be stated in the Bill.

I want to consider the issue of renaming detention centres "removal centres". Renaming the centres will reinforce the key role that detention plays in removing those who have no lawful basis for staying here. It does not signal a change of function for centres. Hon. Members have argued for a separation of those who are detained from those who are detained pending removal. However, we do not believe that it is feasible to make that sort of distinction in the centres. Removal centres will always need to be used in other circumstances and at other points in the process when we have power to detain.

Mr. Malins: Does the Minister believe that removal centres will always contain some people who are not subject to removal?

Ms Winterton: Yes. It may be necessary for removal centres to contain such people. That currently happens, and we are changing not the purpose of the centres but the name, to reflect the process more clearly. As hon. Members know, that fits an overall plan of ensuring that we have a clearer idea of people's position throughout the process. Hon. Members must consider the changes in the context of the other changes, such as trialling accommodation centres, and trying to establish a system whereby we can keep in touch throughout the process with people who seek asylum. The process must be firm and fair from beginning to end. If we believe that there is a danger of people absconding or if facilities are necessary for identifying people when there are problems, it is important that we have the ability to deal with that. Separation is not feasible.

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