Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

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Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): I appreciate the Minister's comments. Is she still confident that the Government will hit the 30,000 figure?

Angela Eagle: We need to remove 2,500 people per month to hit 30,000. One does not need to be much of a mathematician—I am not—to realise that. It is an ambitious figure. However, we are committed to gearing up the system to achieve 30,000. Hon. Members have the figures in front of them.

The amendments would make it harder for us to achieve the figure, partly because they create a distinction between what we have called removal centres and the decision to rename all detention centres removal centres. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam even suggested that we should have detention centres and removal centres and, I presume, shuttle individuals from one to the other depending on the status of their cases.

It is our intention to ensure integrity in the system and effect removals in good order. We will continue to keep immigration offenders as well as asylum cases in detention when there is a reasonable justification for doing so, in the circumstances I outlined. Hon. Members should remember that only a small minority of people are detained. I dispute the suggestion of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Lazarowicz) that people are detained almost arbitrarily. I will not say that mistakes have never been made—he may have come across some—but there are opportunities to put them right and we do not take lightly a decision to detain someone.

I hope that, with that explanation of how removal centres will be used, the amendment will be withdrawn. If accepted, it would make it harder for us to run an effective removal system and to put more integrity into the system.

Mr. Malins: For the second time, I rise to say that, for the reasons that I gave, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman, being of the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 89, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question agreed to.

Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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Clause 48


Mr. Malins: I beg to move amendment No. 234, in page 26, line 22, leave out 'eight' and insert 'seven'.

This is a short probing amendment. The right of an applicant detained for further inquiries at a port under section 16(1) of the Immigration Act 1971 to apply to an adjudicator or immigration officer for bail under paragraph 22 of schedule 2 to that Act becomes effective after seven days. Why does clause 48 refer to eight days, which is a day longer than the more traditional period that applies in the earlier legislation and in the criminal justice system? No explanation for the increased period is apparent, other than administrative convenience. I should be grateful for an explanation.

Angela Eagle: I hope that I can provide an explanation that satisfies the hon. Gentleman. The transfer of authority to grant bail after the eighth day of detention reflects organisational changes in the immigration and nationality directorate that are part of ongoing improvements in service delivery. The provision is part of the measures to ensure that immigration officers are deployed to best effect—on front-line control and enforcement work. Bail applications need not be dealt with exclusively by immigration officers.

The transfer of the power to grant bail from immigration officers to the Secretary of State or IND officials will help to ensure that immigration officers can be deployed in enforcement work. The timing of the transfer—after the eighth day—reflects the point at which management of a person's detention is planned to switch from the port or enforcement office to IND caseworkers. It is sensible for the authority to grant bail to be transferred at the same time, rather than a day earlier.

Mr. Malins: I am grateful for that explanation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Malins: I beg to move amendment No. 256, in page 26, line 41, leave out subsection (6).

The Chairman: With this we may discuss the following amendments: No. 266, in page 26, line 42, leave out 'cease to have effect' and insert—

    'have effect immediately with the coming into force of this Act.'.

No. 233, in page 26, line 42, leave out 'cease to'.

Mr. Malins: Amendment No. 256 would prevent the repeal of part III of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, and deals with the important topic of bail. I am sure that many members of the Committee are disappointed and concerned about the proposed repeal of those provisions, which provide for automatic bail hearings for detained asylum seekers. The Government accepted the need for such hearings in 1999, but the legislation was never implemented.

When introducing the then Immigration and Asylum Bill, the then Home Secretary said that:

    ''detention . . . is necessary in a small number of cases, but there must be proper safeguards. Part III fulfils the commitment in the White Paper to introduce a more extensive judicial element in the

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    detention process. That will be achieved by introducing routine bail hearings for those detained under immigration legislation.''—[Official Report, 22 February 1999; Vol. 326, c. 39.]

It is a major disappointment to many NGOs in the field that part III has never been implemented. Indeed, the implementation of those provisions may well be necessary to ensure compliance with article 5 of the ECHR, which guarantees

    ''liberty and security of person''.

The Bill contains no alternative safeguards to those in part III, so it is obvious that repealing those provisions will mean that there is no proper judicial oversight of the original decision to detain. That could lead to non-compliance with UN guidelines on arbitrary detention. The Minister may say that it is open to the person concerned to make an application for bail, but in reality that is not satisfactory. The automatic triggering of bail applications that we envisage is a good thing, and should be introduced without delay.

I express my regrets—which I think are shared widely—about the provision. I argue for the removal of subsection (6), as that would enable the bail provisions in part III of the 1999 Act to be implemented.

Mr. Gerrard: This is one of the provisions of the Bill that I find very disappointing. We had a long discussion in Committee in 1999 about the need for the provision of automatic bail. As the hon. Gentleman said, people may apply for bail in any case, but my experience is that for many people there are significant difficulties associated with doing so. It is often difficult to find adequate legal representation to make a bail application. Also, many people in such circumstances have problems finding sureties, even though there are now some organisations that try to help in providing sureties when they are required.

When we are dealing with the detention of asylum seekers and immigration detainees, we are generally dealing with people who are being detained on an administrative decision without having committed a criminal offence. No court has made the decision to detain them. We should be as careful as possible to make sure that a person's detention can be scrutinised and challenged.

On Second Reading, there were suggestions that bail would be used to frustrate the process of detention and removal. It is difficult to argue that, as that has not happened. Let us imagine the case of someone in detention whose asylum claim has been rejected; whose appeal has been refused by an adjudicator; who has tried to take their case to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and has been refused; and whose lawyer has tried to get a judicial review and has been refused. I can understand the argument that if removal directions have been set and that person is due to be removed in 10 days, there would be no point in a bail hearing after they had been in detention for seven days. I would perhaps have sympathy with that argument.

However, that is not what this is all about. It is about ensuring that those who are detained have the opportunity to challenge the decision to detain them. I am sure that some hon. Members will have seen the

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study undertaken by the faculty of humanities and social sciences at South Bank university, which considered what happened to people who had been given bail. It found that the vast majority—more than 90 per cent.—of those given bail complied with their bail conditions. There is no evidence that when people are given bail they abuse it and do not comply with the conditions. It is also tremendously expensive to keep people in detention, compared with letting them out on bail in compliance with bail conditions.

I cannot see the argument behind removing access to bail. We spent long hours only three years ago discussing why it was needed. In the end, the automatic bail hearing was accepted as a Government proposal, but it was never put in place or tested to examine whether it would work.

6 pm

I go back to points that were made during the earlier debate. We are clearly detaining many people who are at the point at which decisions have not been made on their claims. I heard what the Minister said about shifting the process, but there is a long way to go to achieve that. It has been said that detention will occur at the end of the process and just before removal, but we are a long way from that. I know that only a small percentage—about 2 per cent.—of people are detained at any one point, but if one examines the totality of how many asylum seekers have been detained, a considerably higher percentage have been detained at some point during their claim process.

I am disappointed by the change to remove what most people considered to be one of the relatively few positive changes that were made by the 1999 Act.

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