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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: With regard to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, sufficient numbers of female officers will be recruited to ensure that they are available in circumstances where the immigration service would expect to encounter women. I made it clear when responding to the amendments that sensitivity and co-operation are of enormous importance in relation to this area of the Bill. I entirely accept what the noble Lord is saying in relation to, for example, personal searches of any sort giving rise to particularly sensitive issues. The sex of the person searching and the person searched must obviously be looked at very carefully. I reiterate that sufficient female officers will be recruited and engaged to ensure that they are available in circumstances where we expect to encounter women.

I cannot give the numbers for which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked, but I shall write to him with the numbers that he seeks. The present position is that about 50 immigration per cent of officers are female. But that does not quite answer his question. The noble Lord asked for not only the proportion, but the numbers.

I turn to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. As ever, I do not believe that there is that much between us. Perhaps I may be wearisome and take the noble Baroness to Clause 125(2), which permits an immigration officer to search the arrested person,

The powers in Clause 125(2) and (3), which apply if the officer believes that there is a danger, if the arrested person has something which may assist his escape, or evidence, can be exercised,

    "only if the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that the arrested person may have concealed on him anything of a kind mentioned"

in subsections (2) and (3). Any such search is already limited to the three circumstances identified. Those are, if the arrested person presents a danger to himself or

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others; if he has something which might assist him in his escape; or if he possesses something which might be evidence in the case. It is in those circumstances, and only in those circumstances, that such a search can be made. That includes that only in those circumstances can a search be made of the person's mouth.

I anticipate that the noble Baroness would not object to a search of someone's mouth being made if there were reasonable grounds for believing that what was in the mouth could present a danger to that person or to others, which includes drugs. Equally, she would not object if there was something in the mouth that could be used to assist his escape. I anticipate that she could not object, although it is not on the face of her amendment, if there was evidence in the mouth. Those are the only circumstances in which such a search can be made. It can only be made where it is reasonably required for the purpose of discovering any such thing.

I do not believe that the proposal made by the noble Baroness in Amendment No. 193XA is very different from what is already on the face of the Bill. It is no different from the position in relation to ordinary police work save that it is limited to matters with which an immigration officer is concerned. I very much hope that I have put the noble Baroness's mind at rest. I do not believe that we are very far apart in relation to what we are trying to achieve. I hope that she will not regard it as disrespectful if I say that I was not being disingenuous in what I said. I believe that we share the same motives.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark appeared to be complaining that provisions were on the face of the Bill in Part VII. That does not seem to me to be objectionable in a case where we are dealing with the rights of people to arrest other people, or to conduct searches of this sort.

8.45 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My diocese covers several urban boroughs. One of the problems with which we have had to deal during the past 12 months or so is the deep suspicion which many of the people living in my part of the world have towards the police. The stop-and-search laws have contributed to that over the years. It is not the fact that provisions are spelt out in great detail, but the way in which this particular provision is spelt out, which would, I feel, be received in a negative way in the part of the world where I minister.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: I am not wholly persuaded. One understands that it is a balance of the effects. Of course I agree with everything that the Minister said about the reasons why one would undertake a search. In my view, important though they are, they do not outweigh the effects on race relations of undertaking searches at all in respect of immigration offences. Having said that, I shall consider carefully the Minister's comments. I see the force of his argument but I believe that the force of the argument the other way happens to be stronger. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendment No. 193XA not moved.]

Clause 125 agreed to.

Clause 126 agreed to.

Clause 127 [Access and copying]:

[Amendments Nos. 193YA and 193ZA not moved.]

Clause 127 agreed to.

Clauses 128 to 130 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 193A not moved.]

Clause 131 [Detention of persons liable to examination or removal]:

[Amendment No. 193B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 194:

Page 88, line 22, at end insert--
("( ) In the 1971 Act, after paragraph 18(1) of Schedule 2 insert--
"(1A) A person detained in Northern Ireland under paragraph 16 shall not be held in prison."").

The noble Lord said: The amendment concerns the detention of people in Northern Ireland. As was mentioned earlier in our debate, each year for the past year or two some 400 people have been involved in the immigration and asylum-seeking process. As elsewhere, quite a number of those need to be detained for a period of time. However, there is no detention centre in Northern Ireland. As a result, those people have to be detained in one of the prisons in Northern Ireland. I happen to know about the prisons in the Province, as I was responsible for them for a short while when I was security Minister. Indeed, I visited all of them on quite a number of occasions.

I have also visited a certain number of prisons in the rest of the United Kingdom. I have to say that, for extremely understandable reasons which I entirely support, Northern Ireland prisons are very secure places. They have regimes of considerable strictness, for reasons which all noble Lords will appreciate immediately. However, the question is whether those prisons are appropriate for detaining people under this legislation.

Most of the men who are detained are kept in HMP Magilligan, which is right at the far end of Northern Ireland; indeed, it is beyond Londonderry in a rather windswept and extremely inaccessible place on the lough. People do not always realise that it is a long way from one side of Northern Ireland to the other. The communications are not brilliant from the point of view of someone trying to take public transport across the Province. Therefore, for the men to be detained in that prison is not only to keep them in a very tough prison, but also to do so in a place which is far away from anyone likely to be able to advise them on the legal assistance that they may require when pursuing their case, and so on.

The women in such circumstances are detained in HMP Maghaberry, which is principally a male prison with a female wing attached to it. Despite the troubles in Northern Ireland, very few women are in prison in the Province at any given time. I remember visiting the

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prison on one occasion, and, if I remember correctly, there were 27 women prisoners at the time. Several of those woman had committed the most horrific crimes that it is possible to imagine, as part of the terrorist effort. However, one of the ladies had not paid her television licence. Admittedly, it was a rather serious case in that respect and she was not detained for long, but in such a tiny prison it is impossible to run a regime determined precisely by the crimes committed; or, indeed, to do so to accommodate the individuals covered by this legislation in a way which I entirely accept is necessary.

Therefore, the moving of this amendment is not an attempt to persuade Members of the Committee that we should constrain the Government by passing the amendment in the exact form in which it appears on the Marshalled List; I seek merely to raise the issue of the lack of a detention centre in Northern Ireland to which either males or females can, conveniently, be sent. I should perhaps have pointed out that Maghaberry prison is much more accessible geographically to Belfast and large parts of Northern Ireland.

In putting this Bill into effect, can the Minister say whether the Government have any plans to create a detention centre in Northern Ireland which would provide more appropriate conditions in which to detain the relatively few people who, nevertheless, need to be detained under these provisions? I beg to move.

Lord Avebury: Perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 194A and 194B, which refer to Schedule 16 to the Immigration Act 1971. That legislation sets out four sets of circumstances in which a person may be detained by an immigration officer, which are as follows: first, pending his examination and pending a decision to give or refuse him leave to enter; secondly, pending the giving of directions and his removal in pursuance of any directions given; and, then, thirdly and fourthly, in cases where that person is detained on a ship or an aircraft in which he has just arrived.

The only one of those four circumstances which is dealt with by these amendments is the second; namely, where the person is detained pending the giving of directions and his removal in pursuance of any directions given. We are saying is that such a person can be detained by the Secretary of State in such place as he may direct and that it is only where the person has just arrived and where his examination is pending--or, indeed, where a decision has yet to be taken on whether to give or to refuse him leave to enter--that that person should not be detained in a prison.

The Government say that they want to concentrate detention at the end of the asylum process, but the reverse has been happening. The vast majority of the people who are held in prisons and detention centres are those who have just arrived and who are awaiting examination by an immigration officer or awaiting a decision on their case. As noble Lords may remember, in his report on Haslar of August 1998, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said:

    "we consider it is inappropriate, save in exceptional circumstances, for Prison Service establishments to be used to hold detainees who

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    have neither been charged with any criminal offence nor been subject to judicial process. Indeed, such detention contradicts the Prison Service's own statement of purpose which states that: 'Her Majesty's Prison Service serves the public by keeping in custody those committed by the courts'".

Broadly speaking, the Government have accepted Sir David's argument. This amendment simply requires them to act in accordance with their stated intentions in relation to this class of persons dealt with under Schedule 16 to the Immigration Act 1971.

For some time now, the information about the number and location of Immigration Act detainees has been given by the Home Office at the end of each month in a set of figures which is lodged by the prison department in the Library of the House. These have been tabulated and displayed for the past year or so on the Website,, so that noble Lords, or anyone else, can see what is happening to these figures over a period of time. The figures for the end of May were lodged, I believe, on Wednesday of last week.

Looking at the pattern over the past few months for which the figures are available, we see that the number of detainees in prison has exceeded 500 in seven months out of nine and that, over that period, the average total number of detainees overall in prisons and detention centres was 959. Of course, the overwhelming majority had not committed any criminal offence. There would be a handful of persons recommended for deportation on completion of a custodial sentence where the procedures had not been completed by the end of their sentence.

We are not seeking to alter the present position which is that the Secretary of State must have power to detain these individuals beyond the end of their sentence, although we would hope that the procedures could nearly always be completed by that date. I raised this point at Second Reading. The Minister wrote to me on 9th July saying:

    "It is the policy and practice of the IND to complete all necessary action prior to the completion of the person's prison sentence so that deportation coincides with the person's release from prison. Regrettably this is not always possible and there are a variety of reasons for this. The person's prison sentence may have been short or significantly reduced on appeal; there may have been a delay in notifying the IND of the conviction; the person may have made late representations against his deportation or there may be difficulties in obtaining a travel document".

I think that the notification to the IND of convictions which are accompanied by a recommendation for deportation should always be immediate and automatic, and that the procedures for obtaining a travel document, if that person does not already have one, should be set in motion immediately after conviction. I wonder whether the Minister could ensure that administrative inefficiency in such matters is not used as a reason for keeping these people in prison for longer than is necessary.

The Minister also mentioned the category of high-risk persons requiring security and control to a degree not appropriate in immigration detention centres. Although there is a very small number of people deemed to be

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security risks held initially under the Immigration Acts, I suggest that the need for this power should be made out.

I shall give one example. A group of five Egyptian asylum seekers were recently held in Belmarsh on the grounds that they were security risks, but when they went on hunger strike they were immediately transferred to Rochester. They applied for habeas corpus and the day before the applications were to be heard in the courts they were released. I believe that they were not subsequently taken back into custody. The reasons for keeping them in a high security prison such as Belmarsh in the first place were obviously invalid.

Another category which the Minister mentioned in the letter he sent me this week is that of persons requiring healthcare or medical treatment which is available only in prison in circumstances where it is not appropriate for the person to be released or placed under long-term hospital watch in an NHS hospital. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there has been no consultation with organisations representing mental health interests, but MIND told me that in any case seriously ill patients are always transferred from prisons to NHS hospitals. MIND pointed out that an internal review of the adequacy of facilities in the prisons for these patients is being conducted jointly by the Home Office and the Department of Health. Under these circumstances we on these Benches do not accept that patients should be transferred to Wormwood Scrubs or Rochester on the sole ground that only in this way can they be given proper care.

Thinking about the remainder of the Immigration Act detainees who are not criminal, I wonder whether the Minister can say what he thinks the reduction in the numbers will be as the time taken to reach first decisions is cut. Last Monday the Minister said that if the maximum period of detention were limited to six months it would not make much difference. However, he says in the letter to me that there are no fewer than 120 people now in detention whose stay in custody has lasted more than six months. I should have thought it might be quite a significant reduction.

The Minister also states in his letter that new Aldington which is being built to accommodate Immigration Act detainees will take at least 300 people and that a new detention centre for 250 detainees is to be provided as a replacement for Harmondsworth and the Queen's Building at Heathrow. He adds that there is to be a further detention centre in the north to accommodate about 150 detainees and that the Government are looking at the possibility of using the Cat D unit at Lindholme prison for that purpose. It could be ready in less than nine months. The Minister's statement that by this means ad hoc use of prisons for detainees in the north can be eliminated is most welcome.

With regard to Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Minister says that the numbers are too small to justify separate detention centres, although in Scotland there is a unit for detainees which forms part of Longriggend prison. Presumably that must have become a matter for the Scots, if they wish to pursue it. In the case of

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Northern Ireland--mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cope--the figures I mentioned earlier show that there is no one in Magilligan at the moment although at one time there were as many as 12 during the past year. The maximum in Maghaberry over that period was two. Therefore it would be rather difficult to justify the construction of a purpose built detention centre in the Province. However, I accept that it would be anomalous if, at a time when we are moving towards the accommodation of all these people in detention centres rather than prisons in the rest of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland alone has to keep people in what are, as the noble Lord described it, exceptionally secure conditions.

Another matter I wish to raise, if I can hang it on the peg of this amendment, is the recommendation of the chief inspector that statutory rules for immigration detainees should be drawn up so that both staff and inmates would know what was expected of them. Those rules are to be made under Clause 143 of the Bill and it seems to me that they may have a bearing on the plans for Aldington and the other new centres to be constructed. For instance, what provision is to be made for religion in these centres? If we read across the rules for prisons to detention centres, the spiritual care of people detained in these centres becomes a matter which has to be considered in the provision of the accommodation. Presumably there has to be a multi-faith centre and a church. If an increasing number of the detention inmates are Moslems, there might even have to be a special purpose mosque. Have the Government discussed this matter with the nominating authorities of the minority faiths who know something about the needs of their adherents in the prisons?

As another example, it could be important to know what provision for education will be made under the rules. In his report on Haslar the chief inspector said that it was intolerable that education had been cut there by 50 per cent, not in line with immigration service policy, but in line with cuts required of the Prison Service. If educational facilities are to be restored for detainees in purpose built institutions, this may well have implications for the size and nature of the facilities which are to be constructed. The rules have been circulated in draft and I believe that the chief inspector commented on them about a month ago. Have these comments been taken into consideration in the design of Aldington and can they be satisfied by the facilities at Lindholme? I hope that if the Government wish to have powers to detain non-criminal Immigration Act detainees in prison, they will come forward with their own amendment on Report limiting the categories of people to whom the powers apply.

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