Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 107:

Page 12, line 16, after ("released") insert--
("(i) into the care or supervision of a voluntary organisation, or

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No.107 and speak also to Amendment No. 109, which is closely connected with it. I speak also to Amendment No. 108, which provides an alternative method of diminishing the practice of detaining mainly asylum seekers but no doubt also some immigrants. The amendments are all the more necessary since the Government voted down Amendment No. 1 at Report Stage which would have provided an independent review of detention after a person had spent seven days locked up. One route is the use of reputable voluntary

24 Jun 1996 : Column 754

organisations. Another route is by not setting bail which is excessive, not only to the person who applies but to those who may provide sureties on his or her behalf.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, when we considered this Bill in Committee we discussed Amendments Nos. 138 to 140, which were framed in exactly the same way as this group of amendments. We had an interesting and useful debate at that time. I apologise if I cover the same ground this evening. It is difficult not to do so because the arguments remain the same.

The clear intention behind this group of amendments is to alter the way in which people are released from detention. Instead of being released on bail, a person who is detained can be released without preconditions into the care of a voluntary organisation specified by the Secretary of State for that purpose. It is not clear how those who would be released into the care of these organisations would be separated out from those who would continue to rely on the bail system for their release. Neither is it clear how these organisations would take on this supervisory role, nor how it would be funded. There is no mention of a sanction being applied if the person who has been released fails to return from the care of the voluntary organisation at the appointed time. The financial penalties in the bail system are aimed at compliance, but there is no equivalent encouragement to compliance in the system now proposed.

A further measure is proposed which would require an applicant's personal means and circumstances to be taken into account when fixing the financial levels for any recognisance or bail bonds. That appears to be a superfluous addition because subparagraph (2) of paragraph 22 of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 already allows adjudicators very wide freedom when setting the conditions of a recognisance or bail bond, including whether or not to require sureties.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, when introducing Amendment No. 138 and the related amendments in Committee, stated that he had four principal objections to the practice of detaining immigrants. These were the cost of detention, the waste involved in requiring advisers who specialise in immigration cases and their interpreters to travel to distant detention centres in order to provide advice, the distress caused by detention, particularly to those who come here fleeing persecution in their own country, and finally that detention tends to criminalise immigrants, helping to establish a perception in the minds of the general public that all immigrants are illegal and outside the law. The noble Lord went on to explain that the proposed amendments would help to minimise the practice of detaining immigrants by encouraging the voluntary sector to take on responsibility for supervision.

I was taken to task during the earlier debate in Committee for repeating a phrase which he suggested had become the mantra of successive immigration Ministers, "detention is used only sparingly and as a last resort". I make no apologies for repeating it again now because it is true. The numbers of people detained under powers in the 1971 Act at any time are minuscule when considered against the numbers arriving as a whole.

24 Jun 1996 : Column 755

I hope that I have explained why I regard the alternative system proposed by these amendments as unsatisfactory. The bail system generally works well and the major criticism levelled against it has always been that certain people are excluded from applying for bail because of the stage their particular application has reached. We have included measures in this Bill to extend the right to apply for bail to all of those who are detained, irrespective of the status of their case. The system proposed by these amendments would serve merely to confuse the picture, posing questions which I have outlined but without providing any answers. I would like to make clear that in expressing my objection to these measures I intend no criticism of the voluntary sector, for which I have nothing but the highest regard. I was its particular Minister for a very long time, and I regard it with great affection and have enormous respect for the work that it does. I urge the House not to accept the amendments.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I regret the fact that the Minister continues to offer a dead bat to every amendment proposed on the Bill. One might have thought that she would welcome something which

24 Jun 1996 : Column 756

would help to reduce the number of persons detained each year. If the Government feel that some kind of pre-condition might be necessary before individuals are released into the care or under the supervision of a voluntary organisation, why do they not have discussions with the voluntary sector as to what those pre-conditions should be. One might also have thought that the Government would welcome a possible reduction in cost, which is considerable at present. Nevertheless, at this time of night I do not intend to press this matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 110:

Line 3, leave out ("immigrants and the employment of immigrants") and insert ("persons subject to immigration control and the employment of such persons").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 76. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

        House adjourned at half past one o'clock.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page