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Lord Glentoran: The Minister will appreciate that I am working on information given to me by a government body. It states that what is envisaged in Clause 45 and Section 23 is inadequate and that there are other aspects to immigration in Northern Ireland. I mentioned, for instance, the lack of detention centres, the distance from Belfast to the centre and that no arbiter lives in that part of the world, which involved a great deal of time and extra cost. It is clear that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission believes that the Bill's provisions are totally inadequate.

However, perhaps the Minister will ensure that his department investigates these matters more fully. The responsibilities on the Secretary of State are clear. We may return to the issue at a later stage, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clause 46 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [The Immigration Appeal Tribunal]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 100:


Page 106, line 5, at end insert ("after consultation with the Advocate General for Scotland").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 100 on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. l01 and 102. They relate to Scotland.

The purpose of Amendment No. 100 is to ensure that there is adequate consultation with the Scottish United Kingdom Law Officer prior to the appointment of the members of the tribunal. Amendment No. 101 ensures that there is adequate representation among the office bearers from Scotland. With the creation of a Scottish Parliament, it is important that either the President or Deputy President can address matters of Scottish law raised in the tribunal, which may be adjunctive but nevertheless important in the decision-making process.

Finally, with the creation of the Scottish Parliament, it is appropriate that the Scottish United Kingdom Law Officer is able to provide input to the decision-making process in respect of an area of United Kingdom law. This extends to decisions in relation to the number and appointment of adjudicators.

I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will be as impressed as I am by my new-found expertise in Scottish law. If he is not impressed, he will certainly be surprised. No doubt he will either commend the amendments or find a convincing argument against them. I beg to move.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am not surprised but, as your Lordships would expect, I am impressed!

I understand the concerns which have moved the noble Lord to bring forward Amendments Nos. 100 and 102. However, I am afraid to say that they raise significant issues of principle for both the devolution legislation as it applies to judicial appointments and for the Lord Chancellor's overall commitment to make appointments entirely on the basis of equality. Therefore, I cannot support either of them. First, asylum and immigration matters are reserved matters in terms of the devolution legislation. The current arrangements, which do not require consultation, are in the view of the Government wholly adequate.

Amendment No. 101 also raises considerable problems. The Lord Chancellor makes all judicial appointments on the basis of merit. The Lord Chancellor appoints those who appear to him to be the best qualified, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion or disability, except where the disability prevents the fulfilment of the physical requirements of the office. All candidates for appointment who meet the statutory criteria, irrespective of the jurisdiction in which they gained their legal qualifications and experience, are judged on that basis. Therefore, it would be wholly inappropriate to fetter the judgment of the Lord Chancellor on relative merit in this way.

In those circumstances, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw all three amendments.

Lord Renton: The noble Lord made mention of devolution. It is clear that the Bill applies to Scotland as well as to England and Wales. In order to make sure of that, one turns to the last clause of the Bill, Clause 158, where subsection (6) says:


    "This Act extends to Northern Ireland".

I have always understood--I hope correctly--that where an Act is intended to apply only to England or Wales, words of limitation have to be included. There are no such words of limitation in this Bill. That is why I assume that devolution does not affect the control of immigration or asylum in relation to Scotland and that such maters are to be dealt with on a United Kingdom basis. Is that correct?

Baroness Williams of Crosby: Referring to the situation in Scotland, as I understand it, the amendments propose only that Scotland be consulted, not that it has a decisive power in the matter. No one doubts the wisdom of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the importance of the appointments being made on merit. Is it not perhaps possible that the Scottish Law Officers would have knowledge of people of merit within Scotland whom they may wish to advance to the Lord Chancellor before he makes his final decision? It is hard to see what the objection is to consultation, as distinct from an objection, which one fully understands, to sharing decision-making in this matter.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: On the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, he is entirely correct

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in believing that the Bill applies to the United Kingdom. The Bill concerns--not exclusively--the arrangements for giving people leave to enter and remain in the United Kingdom.

As to the point raised by the noble Baroness, the amendments propose that in relation to every single appointment to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and in relation to the appointment of a president of certain tribunals there should be consultation with one Law Officer only, the Scottish Law Officer.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is entitled to consult with whomever he likes in relation to that appointment. It would be quite wrong that in relation to such appointments the one person whom he is statutorily bound to consult is the one Scottish Law Officer in the United Kingdom Government. I believe that it would be an unbalanced provision to have in the Bill.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. This issue arises principally because of devolution to the Scottish Parliament. I understand the point made by the Minister about there being a provision on the face of the Bill that the Lord Chancellor has to consult. Perhaps between now and the next stage of the Bill the Minister will consider whether he, on behalf of the Government, can make a statement that there will be consultation which will include Scotland, so that the Scots will not feel that they are being left out of this process. This Bill covers the United Kingdom and that is important. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 47 [Adjudicators]:

[Amendment No. 102 not moved.]

Clause 47 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Adjudicators]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 103:


Page 108, line 15, at end insert ("which shall include ensuring that adjudicators receive training in methods of dealing appropriately with children").

The noble Viscount said: Amendment No. 103 concerns unaccompanied children in the appeals process. If an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child has an application for asylum refused, he or she can appeal to a special adjudicator. Unaccompanied children must give evidence and be cross-examined on that evidence. The hearings tend to be formal and perhaps daunting for a child. They may have had to change their legal representation at this stage and be represented by a barrister whom they meet for the first time at the appeal.

Amendment No. 103 was tabled because of the concern expressed by children--a concern that we share--that young people who have gone through the appeal process found it intimidating; that they did not understand what was happening; and that they were frightened and found the adjudicator difficult and unfriendly. Of course, we accept that many special adjudicators make a huge effort to make the hearings

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more friendly; that there is now greater provision for hearing cases on the papers which frees children from personal appearances; and that a pre-hearing review should be held in all unaccompanied children's cases to agree conduct.

Options can be taken up such as holding the hearing in camera, excluding the public, arranging a hearing in a less formal manner or using a video link. A range of measures exist in other areas of domestic law concerning the welfare of children which are much more extensive. They are not replicated in the immigration appellate authority. That creates an anomaly and discriminates against an unaccompanied refugee child.

In many areas of domestic law the welfare of a child in the proceedings of the court is paramount. For example, the Children Act 1989 sets out in statute a welfare checklist for a child which is to be taken into account by the judges. Guardians ad litem are appointed to safeguard the child's interest, and a presumption is made in family law proceedings and criminal law where a child is a witness that they will not attend court.

The organisations concerned about children would like to see more child-friendly procedures and guidelines in appeals for the protection of vulnerable children. That is purely drawn from the good practice within domestic law. They would also like to see training for special adjudicators in child-friendly procedures so that they can make full use of the procedures available to assist them in improving the experience of appeals for these vulnerable children.

Amendment No. 103 is important, as is Amendment No. 104. They attempt to replicate the safeguards in our domestic law, which are well used and well known, into this process. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I should like to express my support for Amendment No. 103, as moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and for Amendment No. 107. I do so, not least because there is some concern that the removal of the protection of the Children Act 1989 as an umbrella of safeguards for children leaves them in a peculiarly vulnerable position. Therefore, it is important to send all the right signals through this legislation of the Government's continuing concern for the welfare of children.

I know that legislation should not be used just to transmit a series of semaphore signals, but sometimes signals as well as substance do count. This Government are well aware that image, reputation, and so on, count quite a lot. Indeed, the signals that this legislation sends are almost as important as what is contained within it.

The principle that these amendments assert is that children should be children first and asylum seekers second. That is a recurring theme, and one to which we shall return when we reach Part VI of the Bill, which deals with the support available to children. That issue was raised earlier when I questioned the Minister of State about the way in which children are treated when they are in detention centres.

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These two amendments deal with the need for special procedures and training. They are to be welcomed because they express the importance of recognition of the special needs of refugee children being on the face of the Bill, which is where that provision ought to be. Perhaps I may cite two pieces of evidence in favour of the amendments from two very respected organisations. The first comes from the Medical Foundation, which said:


    "The government has made specific reference to unaccompanied children only in caveats on support proposals, not in proposals concerning the determination of the asylum application. We are concerned that no account has been taken of the need to provide support and representation for the unaccompanied child, nor special attention paid to the difficulties children face either in articulating and comprehending what has led to their flight or in establishing a relationship of trust in which context they may begin to talk about their experiences of violence".

At the end of its submission, the foundation says that,


    "the overall expedition that is vital in children's cases must not be sacrificed to arbitrary time limits for particular stages of the procedure, and children and adolescents need the support of an advocate and a carer".

I think that the Minister will probably accept and agree with that latter point.

Amnesty International also made representations in June of this year in its publication, Most vulnerable of all: the treatment of refugee children in the UK. In fact, AI devoted a whole chapter to unaccompanied refugee children in the appeals system. In that chapter, it observed:


    "It should be acknowledged that several special adjudicators do make an effort to be more friendly to the unaccompanied child appellant, but others do not ... It appears to be the case that, in the absence of a Practice Direction, the conduct of a hearing depends upon which special adjudicator the unaccompanied refugee child draws".

Clearly, a system which can end up like a lottery-- dependent upon which adjudicator is available--is one which will not do. Therefore, I hope that the Government will take this opportunity to accept the amendments in their current form. If they cannot do so tonight, perhaps they will take them away and look at them in the general context of the provision being made throughout the Bill for the welfare of children.

There are gaps here; indeed, it is a little like the curate's egg in that it is there in parts. It is quite clear from some of the signals which the Government have sent that they do want to plug those gaps. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who has just spoken, I commend the Government for what they have already done. However, I think that they can go further. As I said, I hope that they will take this opportunity to do so. If they cannot do so tonight, perhaps they will be able to do so on Report.


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