Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Russell: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps he will allow me, on behalf of my noble friend and myself, to offer the warmest thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I discovered this morning that Mr. Igbinidu has been allowed to stay. When my noble friend rose just now, she had not yet received that information. Now that she has, she wishes to be associated with those thanks.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister's speech will teach me to seek the agreement of the Government Front Bench by using their own words. In effect, by saying that this amendment will not work because it will bite too late, the Minister is saying that his own words, which the Government persuaded the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool to accept at Report stage, will also bite too late for the accelerated procedure under Clause 1. If it applies to one, it applies to the other. He cannot have the argument both ways.

2 Jul 1996 : Column 1326

With this amendment, we seek, in the Government's own words, to ensure that at whatever stage an applicant produces evidence which establishes reasonable likelihood that he has been tortured, that stage will trigger the restoration of benefits. It is not necessarily the case that the person established such a claim at the very beginning of his application, and it may well be that he has been denied benefits. But at the stage when he substantiates such a claim, it is not by any means clear to me that the Government will immediately grant asylum or exceptional leave to remain.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I wonder whether I may be helpful to the noble Lord. Perhaps I should say with regard to the evidence that the effect of the amendment differs from the torture exemption in Clause 1. Under Clause 1 it is open to the adjudicator to disagree with the Home Office and decide that there is a reasonable likelihood that the appellant has been tortured. That reinstates the right of appeal to the tribunal and provides the appellant with a further opportunity to put his case.

I am not sure if we are at cross purposes. Certainly, I should not like the noble Lord to think that my noble friend Lady Blatch had not acted totally honourably in respect of the amendment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool to which she agreed.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I did not use the word "honour" and I do not use such words. I do not think I need respond to that part of the Minister's reply.

If there are consequential amendments which would follow to parallel the role of the adjudicator and the possibility of further consideration which exists under Clause 1, then it would be possible for the Government to introduce them as an amendment to a Lords amendment at the Commons reconsideration. We are necessarily at a very late stage of the consideration of the Bill--not because I chose to bring forward this matter late but because the Government chose to bring forward this clause late and at the very last possible minute.

I shall not apologise, given the time that we have had and at this late stage of consideration of the Bill, for overlooking the possibility that there might need to be consequential amendments. The fact of the matter is that applicants for asylum, asylum seekers, make claims of having been tortured at several possibly different stages in the course of their application. Some of those people, the more self-confident, perhaps those who have been less damaged by torture, can perfectly well make their claim of torture at a very early stage. I hope the Minister will agree that in such cases it would be grossly unjust to deny them benefit as soon as that claim had been reasonably established in the terms which the Government inserted into Clause 1(5).

But it is also not uncommon for an applicant to produce evidence of torture at later stages. Torture victims need time to talk; they need time to disclose and time to learn to live with their experience. They may not be able to think about it, let alone talk about it, before then. We know of a case dealt with by a London

2 Jul 1996 : Column 1327

solicitor in which a lady did not disclose the fact that she had been raped in prison until the hearing in the Court of Appeal. Despite the allegation having been made at such a late stage, she won her appeal. So at whatever stage a well substantiated and well founded claim of torture is made, surely at that stage--it ought, of course, to be as early as possible--benefits should be restored.

Can the Minister give some indication of the protection which might exist for those who have established a claim of torture without having yet established a claim for asylum or exceptional leave to remain? Or is the Minister saying that there are no such cases?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I may respond to that question, with the leave of your Lordships' House.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, I wonder whether the two Members of the Front Benches do not realise that the House is sitting and we are not in Committee.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: Hear, hear!

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may respond very quickly. I tried to make it perfectly clear that a claim of torture is rightly and properly to be considered at the time of the asylum application claim. That is the right and proper place. As I indicated in my intervention--I tried to keep my speech as short as I could--the concession that we have made ought to allow people who have a claim a route to reconsideration if the adjudicator thinks that that is right and disagrees with the Home Office on the basis of the evidence that he has in front of him on the claim of torture.

But I do not believe that a claim of torture--just a claim--should be sufficient to reinstate entitlement to benefit. Where applicants adduce evidence of a reasonable likelihood that torture has taken place, then the pressure point, if I may so call it, is the pressure point of changing the decision and ensuring that he obtains status as a refugee or exceptional leave. Then he obtains both. He gets refugee status or exceptional leave and the benefit. I do not think I can go much further than that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I certainly will not apologise to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham. We are dealing with this matter at this stage of the Bill, not through any wish of our own but because we are forced to do so.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, I was not asking for an apology. I was only asking the noble Lord to obey the rules of the House.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in my closing speech on an amendment it is perfectly legitimate for me at any stage of the Bill to seek clarification from the Minister. It is for the benefit of

2 Jul 1996 : Column 1328

this House and the consideration of any individual amendment to have the facts clearly before us if they have not been established before. This is the first time that the amendment has been debated. It was not possible to debate it in Committee because of the time available yesterday. I do not in any way acknowledge that there is anything improper about the way in which I, or indeed the Minister, have conducted the debate on this amendment. The Minister has not told me, as I asked him to do, that there are no cases where somebody who, to use the words in the amendment, has established a reasonable likelihood that he has been tortured will continue without benefit until the final decision as to his refugee status or exceptional leave to remain has been resolved. There are therefore people who, having made a reasonable claim of torture, not merely on the balance of probabilities of the case but which has been established, are still going to be deprived of benefit.

I do not see how, in a civilised country, we can force people who have been tortured into destitution in the way that is proposed by the Government's amendment. I do not believe that they intended it that way but that is the effect of their new clause, and I shall seek the opinion of the House on the amendment.

4.30 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?

*Their Lordships divided: Contents, 91; Not-Contents, 145.

Division No. 2


Addington, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L. [Teller.]
Barnett, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Clancarty, E.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Ezra, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Glenamara, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Grenfell, L.
Grey, E.
Halsbury, E.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Ilchester, E.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Lockwood, B.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandwich, E.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shannon, E.
Shepherd, L.
Southwark, Bp.
Stallard, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strafford, E.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.


Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Bradford, E.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brentford, V.
Bridgeman, V.
Brigstocke, B.
Bruntisfield, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Caldecote, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Chorley, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Coleraine, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cuckney, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Ellenborough, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Finsberg, L.
Forbes, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gibson-Watt, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Henley, L.
Hertford, M.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Inglewood, L.
Ironside, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Kenilworth, L.
Kimball, L.
Kintore, E.
Knollys, V.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Lucas, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
Manton, L.
Marlesford, L.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Middleton, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Newall, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pender, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodney, L.
St. John of Fawsley, L.
Saint Oswald, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slim, V.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Swinfen, L.
Swinton, E.
Tebbit, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wedgwood, L.
Wilcox, B.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

[*See col. 1364.]

2 Jul 1996 : Column 1330

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page