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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I think the Adimi case was heard along with the other two cases and I think that the judgment tomorrow will deal with all three.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am sure that is right. I am obliged to the noble Lord. As I think I have just said, we must await the judgment tomorrow.

Lord Avebury: I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his careful reply. Of course I did not expect him to accept these amendments just as they stand, bearing in mind that they were drafted in rather a hurry following my reading of the article in the Independent. I entirely accept what the noble and learned Lord said about the legislative route not necessarily being the right one. However, I am concerned that the multi-agency forum, which the noble

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and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said is to be convened by the CPS, may not hold many meetings over the summer months and that when we return in October we shall not be much wiser as regards what conclusions have been reached. As the noble and learned Lord said, we have to await the judgment tomorrow and allow the participants in the multi-agency forum time to consider that before they meet.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord can say a little more about the time-scale of these matters as that would be helpful. I hope that he can also say which agencies have been invited to participate in the forum. It seems to me essential that UNHCR and the chief protection officer there should be involved. It occurred to me only while the Minister was speaking that one possible solution is that where any doubt exists about the compatibility with Article 31 of any prosecution, the advice of UNHCR could be sought. If it issued no objection, as it were, it would be perfectly all right for the prosecution to proceed. However, if UNHCR said that it believed that there was some doubt about whether prosecuting a particular person was compatible with Article 31, it would be a good idea not to proceed.

What happens to all the cases that have been disposed of? If the estimate of the Independent is correct; namely, that 1,000 people have been prosecuted and imprisoned as a result of cases which were not properly brought under Article 31, that is an extremely serious matter. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will take that as seriously as did the Independent.

If the multi-agency forum is to deal with cases that may come before the courts in the future, it will be wrong if we do not at the same time address our minds to the people who are wrongly in prison as a result of breaches of Article 31 in the past. I foresee that if we do not do that the Government may be subject to civil proceedings for wrongful imprisonment. In the light of Lord Justice Simon Brown's judgment, and the confirmation of it by the Court of Appeal--if that takes place--people who have been wrongly imprisoned may subsequently take the Home Office to court and gain substantial compensation. Would not it be better to pre-empt that by addressing the wrongful imprisonment before it comes to that point and to allow all those people who were not dealt with properly under Article 31 to be released from custody?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: First, the organisations which will attend the multi-agency forum are the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the immigration service and UNHCR. Secondly, we aim to have the meeting of the multi-agency forum in September, not October. Obviously, we do not know what the result will be tomorrow, but cases which have been disposed of may be subject to appeal. The case of Mr. Sorani--which is one of the appeals being considered by the Divisional Court, in relation to which judgment is to be handed down tomorrow--is an appeal which was out of time.

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So individual cases may still be raised as long as leave is given to appeal out of time. How they are then dealt with will depend on each individual case.

Lord Avebury: I shall have to let the matter rest there. There is not much more we can do until we see the judgment tomorrow. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 195H to 197 not moved.]

Clause 137 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 198 not moved.]

Clauses 138 to 141 agreed to.

Clause 142 [Visiting Committees and inspections]:

The Earl of Sandwich moved Amendment No. 198A:

Page 95, line 28, at end insert--
("(6) In any case where a child is detained in a detention centre under this Part of this Act, the Secretary of State shall arrange for an inspection of the detention centre by the Social Services Inspectorate not less than twice a year.").

The noble Earl said: I rise to move Amendment No. 198A which stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne.

The amendment seeks to provide for regular inspection by the Social Services Inspectorate of any detention centre where a child may be detained. Under the amendment, there would be statutory provision to place responsibility on the detention centres to safeguard the protection of children, corresponding to standards now provided by social service departments.

Under Clause 142, it appears that visiting committees can inspect as well as report, although the word "inspect" does not appear in the text of the Bill. Such visiting committees--formally appointed by the Secretary of State and funded by the Home Office--are not always, I suggest, impartial or qualified enough to assess children's needs, unlike regular inspections which could be carried out through the SSI under the Department of Health. In practice, visiting committees consist of groups of individuals who operate a rota system and report only occasionally. They do not carry out a full inspection.

This matter is urgent because, as we have heard, a large proportion of detainees are still awaiting their initial determinations. Many, including unaccompanied children, are detained for months or more than a year. The Refugee Council has worked with about 80 cases of unaccompanied refugee children detained in the past year, some in adult prisons.

Regular inspection by the SSI would help to promote good practice in the detention centres and ensure the best interests of children according to the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as translated into the Children Act 1989. Under that Act it is necessary to consider whether a child is being given the right to exercise his or her rights in practice.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, in the letter that I mentioned earlier, reassured me that under

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the present Bill the role of the visiting committees will be to,

    "ensure that all detainees, including families, are treated in a fair and humane manner".

I am not sure that that implies an enhanced role, but I await the reply of the noble and learned Lord. I also recognise the valuable role of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, which is reinforced in the Bill.

However, I repeat that the work of those committees is not the same as regular inspection or the occasional visit by the Chief Inspector of Prisons; nor is it enough for the Secretary of State merely to have regard to the views of the local authority child protection officer, as the noble Lord pointed out in his letter, in respect of family accommodation, although I know that the Minister has been trying to help. Again, I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Perhaps I may trespass on the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. Amendment No. 201 is grouped with this amendment. It seeks to ensure standards of childcare and training which conform to those of local authorities. Apart from providing basic childcare services, I have learned that staff need to acquire skills in child development, counselling, ethnic minority needs, psychiatry and healthcare, among others.

As I have seen for myself at Campsfield House, it is not only the outward and visible signs that matter. I have information from Tinsly House at Gatwick, which is known to aim at higher standards than elsewhere--despite what was said in the critical article this week in the Independent--that more activities are needed and that there are not enough skilled staff, especially at weekends, to cope with the low morale, to which I referred in a debate last week. That is compounded in the case of young people.

Some local authority social workers in Sussex--in other words, in the same area--are concerned about that apparent imbalance between standards in immigration provision as compared with those in social services. This amendment is designed to meet that concern. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Dholakia: I am delighted to support Amendment No. 198A and to speak to Amendment No. 201. Amendment No. 201 is a probing amendment to seek assurances that if children are detained under immigration proceedings, childcare standards are comparable to those employed in other residential settings provided by local authorities.

The starting point underlying our concerns regarding the detention of children arises from examination of Article 31 of the 1951 convention. That exempts refugees coming directly from a country of persecution from being punished on account of their illegal entry or presence, provided that they show good cause.

The White Paper states in paragraph 12.3 that,

    "detention is normally justified ... where there is a reasonable belief that the individual will fail to keep the terms of temporary admission or temporary release; initially, to clarify a person's identity and the basis of their claim".

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While it is admitted that the detention of families and children is particularly regrettable, there is a presumption that detention will be used more frequently prior to status being determined.

I draw the attention of the Committee to UNHCR guidelines on applicable criteria and standards relating to the detention of asylum seekers. There are ample examples on those standards written by bodies working in the childcare field in this country.

If children are to be detained with their families within detention centres, together with unaccompanied children in "exceptional circumstances", there is a vital need for minimum standards in the management and structure of detention centres, and for all staff to have appropriate training to fulfil those conditions. Every effort must be made within the management of structure and practice in the centres to protect children from exploitation and discrimination. That cannot simply be left to the good intentions of the Secretary of State, but must be written into the Bill to set a legal framework of principles and standards.

We want to see standards within detention centres comply with the Government's obligations under domestic and international law to safeguard the welfare and rights of all children without exception, regardless of their age, status, nationality and gender. It is essential, therefore, that responsibilities to children are set out in the policy and procedures, and that they clearly set out children's opportunities to gain: experience of family life; provision for a suitable education--preferably outside the detention centre, so that there is equal access to a range of opportunities; provision for a child's early years in order to stimulate the development of personal skills, interests and intellect; specific attention to meeting the ethnic, cultural or religious needs of children; and the meeting of any special needs arising out of disabilities, mental health concerns, or other circumstances.

We should like assurances as to how detention centres will not only safeguard children's distinct needs, but also promote their development, incorporating the essential aspects that form part of that development, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. Given government assurances that children will receive support that is comparable to local authority provision under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, we should like clarification as to how social services will be able to assess the needs of children, if not those of their families, within detention centres.

Other statutory services which provide residential accommodation for children and young people for whatever purpose, would ensure that staff have the skills and knowledge, acquired through induction and in-service training, to implement the service.

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