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Lord Renton: I do not see how the Government can accept this amendment. The noble Lord suggests that a police officer, who may not be a very senior one, should be placed in the position of having to obtain evidence,
Lord Campbell of Alloway: I will be very short. As my noble friend Lord Renton has just said, it is a fantastic amendment. Just examine it for one moment. Let us consider the words "a constable knows". How will the constable know about all of the matters in subsection (4) to which my noble friend has referred? The only way in which he can know is if somebody else can tell him, or somebody else can hand him a document. Therefore, he can know only what he is told by somebody else. The whole structure is totally fantastic. I know of no other provision in any other statute cast in this form. The way in which it is cast at the moment seems to be fairly workable from an administrative point of view. If it were accepted, the amendment would throw the whole administration and make a total nonsense of it.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: I have great sympathy with the problem raised by this matter. Frankly, I believe that the amendment goes too far. I am worried by how "reasonable grounds" can be defined. Perhaps the Minister could look at that at Report stage.
I have in mind the particular case of a black man born in London who went to a police station to report the theft of items from his girlfriend's car. Instead of pursuing the theft, the duty police officer questioned him about his immigration status. When he said that he was British he was accused of lying and arrested on suspicion of an immigration offence. He was taken to his home in handcuffs so that his British passport and birth certificate could be inspected. In total, he was detained for three and a half hours. Obviously, there may be other surrounding circumstances in this case of which I am not aware. It appears that the noble Baroness is aware of them.
Nonetheless, there is a real fear that the colour of a person's skin may appear to be "reasonable grounds", particularly if there is some aggression in the case. I should like the Minister to look again at the words
Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: With great respect to the right reverend Prelate, that will not do. First, we are discussing the amendment which states "knows". In order to know a thing it must, first, be true--in fact, objectively as a fact; and, secondly, one has to have the knowledge that it is a fact. It is the first point which makes the amendment unacceptable.
As regards the colour of skin, and all that, I think that most of us would agree that what is reasonable and what is not reasonable is a question of fact. But a tribunal must be expected to have a little common sense. It would be wrong for a tribunal to find as a fact that the colour of a man's or woman's skin was a reasonable ground for thinking that they had committed an offence. It might be some reason for making further inquiries, but it could not be a reasonable ground for thinking that the person has committed an offence. There must be evidence that the person did commit the offence.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I had not intended to speak again before the Minister responded, but having had three speakers from the Government Benches so fundamentally misunderstand the amendment, I have to come back. This subsection of Clause 7 relates only to arrest without warrant. There is perfectly good provision under subsection (2) for an arrest with a warrant from a justice of the peace, where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person who is liable to be arrested can be found on premises. There are perfectly good procedures for a constable or an immigration officer to seek a warrant where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting.
Where there is less awareness of the potential for an offence to have been committed, the proper procedure is to apply for a warrant. All we are considering now is an amendment to the subsection which deals with an arrest without warrant.
Lord Renton: Is the noble Lord aware, as I think he should be, that there are scores of examples in our legislation, and in the common law, where a police officer may arrest without warrant without having to claim that he knows that the offence has been committed?
Lord Avebury: I am worried about the clause for a reason with which the Minister will be familiar, because she put it into my mind on the last occasion when we were discussing the Bill. She claims that an illegal entrant remains of that status, no matter how long before he is given leave to remain in the UK; but once a person has entered unlawfully he retains that status for the rest of his life. That is what the Minister said. She said in relation to a particular individual that he is and was an illegal entrant.
Later the clause provides that one of the offences to which that power will apply is illegal entry. I am afraid that the power which is conferred on police officers under subsection (1) will extend to people who entered through one of our ports of entry with improper
As I understand it, the example given by the right reverend Prelate is one of a number which have been brought to the attention of the CRE. If the CRE has those anxieties--no doubt it has conveyed them to the Government just as it has to the right reverend Prelate and Members of the Committee--surely that is a matter that should be taken into consideration. If the Minister does not like the particular words of the amendment, she should at least say that the Government will consider the anxieties which have been expressed on all sides of the Committee by those who have had something to do with ethnic minorities, and by the bodies outside whose duty it is to safeguard the interests of ethnic minorities in our society.
Lord Hylton: On the assumption that the general principle of the first subsection is acceptable, will the Minister consider whether the wording "he reasonably suspects" would be preferable to "has reasonable grounds for suspecting"? The Minister may not feel like replying instantly, but perhaps she could let me know later.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: Perhaps I may deal with the concerns of the right reverend Prelate, which he suggested that my noble friend the Minister should consider on Report. It is the question of the colour of the skin which was largely dealt with by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham a moment ago. Perhaps I may suggest to the right reverend Prelate that what cannot be done is to have a different regime depending upon the colour of a man's skin. So how on earth does he expect my noble friend the Minister to deal with his concerns?
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: It is interesting that everyone seems to talk about immigration as if it were merely an issue of colour. An Australian journalist recently told me that there are over 40,000 illegal Australian immigrants in this country, and that they are constantly in fear of having a motor accident or something similar which will reveal their status. It is not just an issue of colour. On the point raised by the right reverend Prelate when someone was told that he had to prove that he was British, and so on, I am a great believer in identity cards. If we had them, that person would have had it on him and he would not have gone through that problem.
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