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Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I had always understood that such amendments did follow. However, I, too, am in the hands of your Lordships. This subject was not in fact raised in Committee. If this amendment had been discussed entirely on its own, it was never my intention to press it to a Division. I shall withdraw it this evening, but I advise the Government that I feel perfectly free to return to the subject on Third Reading, depending on what the noble and learned Lord tables in the way of amendments to help disabled asylum seekers. They do need help; indeed, very considerable help. In the light of what has been said, I shall withdraw the amendment tonight but may well return with a similar amendment on Third Reading.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am most grateful for the graceful way in which the noble Lord responded to my suggestion. I am saying specifically that I entirely accept his entitlement to raise this matter in an amendment on Third Reading, so that in no way is his point being shut out.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 184 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 185 and 186:


Page 71, line 34, leave out (“subject to immigration control") and insert (“to whom this section applies").
Page 71, line 37, at end insert--
(“(3A) Regulations under subsection (3) may provide for a person to be treated for prescribed purposes only as not being a person to whom this section applies.

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(3B) In relation to the benefits mentioned in subsection (1)(f) or (g), “prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made by the Treasury.
(3C) In relation to the matters mentioned in subsection (2) (except so far as it relates to the benefits mentioned in subsection (1)(f) or (g)), “prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made by the Department.
(3D) Section 175(3) to (5) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (supplemental powers in relation to regulations) applies to regulations made by the Secretary of State or the Treasury under subsection (3) as it applies to regulations made under that Act.
(3E) Sections 133(2), 171(2) and 172(4) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 apply to regulations made by the Department under subsection (3) as they apply to regulations made by the Department under that Act.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 112 [Amendment of section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948]:

[Amendments Nos. 187 and 188 not moved.]

Clause 113 [Other restrictions on assistance: England and Wales]:

[Amendment No. 189 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 190:


Page 72, line 25, leave out (“made in respect of persons") and insert (“given effect to in relation to a person").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 191 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 192 and 193:


Page 72, line 29, after (“illness") insert (“and for care and after-care").
Page 72, line 31, leave out (“made in respect of persons") and insert (“given effect to in relation to a person").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 194 not moved.]

Clause 116 [Other restrictions on assistance: Scotland]:

[Amendments Nos. 195 and 196 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 197:


Page 74, line 27, leave out from beginning to (“person") in line 28 and insert (““(4) No arrangements under subsection (1) above may be given effect to in relation to a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 198 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 199:


Page 74, line 32, leave out from beginning to (“person") in line 33 and insert (““(3) No arrangements under subsection (1) above may be given effect to in relation to a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 200 and 200A not moved.]

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1235

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 201:


Page 74, line 37, leave out from beginning to (“person") in line 38 and insert (““(3) No arrangements under paragraph (a) or (c) of subsection (1) above may be given effect to in relation to a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 202 and 203 not moved.]

Clause 117 [Other restrictions on assistance: Northern Ireland]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 204:


Page 75, line 6, leave out from beginning to (“person") in line 7 and insert (““(3) No arrangements made under paragraph (1) may be given effect in relation to a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 205 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 206:


Page 75, line 17, leave out (“and (5)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 207 and 208 not moved.]

Clause 118 [Support for children]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 209 to 212:


Page 75, line 40, leave out from (“under") to (“in") in line 43 and insert (“any of the child welfare provisions").
Page 76, line 8, at end insert--
(“( ) “The child welfare provisions" means--
(a) section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (local authority support for children and their families);
(b) section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (equivalent provision for Scotland); and
(c) Article 18 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (equivalent provision for Northern Ireland).").
Page 76, line 11, leave out from (“under") to (“in") in line 12 and insert (“any of the child welfare provisions").
Page 76, line 14, after (“means") insert (“--
(a) in relation to Northern Ireland, the authority within whose area the withdrawn accommodation was provided;
(b) in any other case,").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 212A not moved.]

Clause 119 [Back-dating of benefits where person recorded as refugee]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 213 to 217:


Page 76, line 23, leave out from beginning to (“provide") and insert (“Regulations may").
Page 77, line 8, after (“regulations") insert (“made by the Secretary of State").
Page 77, line 11, after (“regulations") insert (“made by the Department").
Page 77, line 14, after (“regulations") insert (“made by the Secretary of State").
Page 77, line 17, after (“regulations") insert (“made by the Department").

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1236

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 218:


After Clause 123, insert the following new clause--

(“PART VIA
IMMIGRATION SERVICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY
IMMIGRATION SERVICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY

.--(1) There shall be an authority to be known as the “Immigration Service Complaints Authority", hereinafter referred to as the “Authority".
(2) The Authority shall be comprised of members appointed by the Lord Chancellor's Department, from a panel comprised of individuals with proven experience in the community, local government or academia of monitoring and investigating the use or abuse (or both) of coercive powers.
(3) The Authority shall appoint officers, who will monitor and investigate complaints about the use of powers contained in this Act or the Immigration Act 1971.
(4) The authority shall devise and issue a handbook outlining the procedures to be followed when making a complaint and the steps which will be taken to investigate such a complaint, after consultation with all relevant organisations and individuals.
(5) The authority shall recommend disciplinary or criminal action against immigration officers against whom complaints are upheld, where appropriate.
(6) The Authority shall publish an annual report on its activities.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that I raised this issue during the Committee stage. I am fortunate that on this amendment I have the backing of other noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley. He was present tonight for some considerable time but he has an important engagement and has asked me to say that he would like the House to know that he supports the principle of this amendment. Most of your Lordships will know that the noble Lord was at one time Home Secretary. I am also very fortunate to have the backing of the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, who was at one time the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.

I was delighted with the reply that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, sent to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, of which I have a copy. Under paragraphs 29 to 36, the letter dealt with the issue of complaints made against immigration and entry clearance officers. However, the noble Lord's reply does not address the perceived need for independent scrutiny of complaints made against immigration officers, who are being provided by the Bill with the kind of coercive powers usually reserved for police officers.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, is proposing to continue the present system, instituted to deal with complaints about officers with largely administrative powers, whereby complaints about immigration officers are sent to a complaints office within the Immigration and Nationality Department. These complaints are then investigated by officers who are also within the Immigration and Nationality Department. The results of their investigations are

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1237

then monitored by a two- or three-person complaints audit committee appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is responsible for the Immigration and Nationality Department. The committee then reports back--not to the wider public or to Parliament but to the Secretary of State.

This may well be an example of good management practice and be designed to ensure that the Secretary of State monitors the performance of his immigration officers, but it does not provide the public scrutiny necessary when immigration officers have been provided with powers to enter and search individuals' homes, deprive them of their liberty and subject them to body or strip searches. Such powers are contained in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, appears to believe that publicising the present system and giving the complaints audit committee a more proactive but unspecified role will provide the necessary safeguards to ensure that immigration officers do not misuse their new powers. However, these measures do not address the basic shortcomings of the present system. First, the system contains no element of direct public accountability and will not necessarily be perceived to be fair and unbiased; nor will it be trusted by the diverse communities which will be subject to these new powers. Secondly, it is not transparent; the whole process is internal to the Home Office.

Furthermore, if there is a perception that there will be no effective redress should the new powers not be exercised lawfully, the immigration officers charged with exercising these powers will be deprived of the community support which could assist them to fulfil their duties in the most effective manner.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has failed to address the fact that the investigation of an allegation of unlawful detention or illegal entry of property demands different skills and training from the investigation of incidents of rudeness or inefficiency. If the complaints investigation unit and the complaints audit committee were to take on this new role, they would have to be radically restructured and new staff brought in. That would involve financial implications and yet it would not necessarily command the necessary public confidence because it will still be identified as part of the department employing the very officers about whom the complaints are being made. It would seem better value for money for the Government to provide funding for an independent immigration service complaints authority.

We believe that when a group of civil servants and others are given such wide-ranging powers as those contained in the Bill--which threaten to breach basic rights to privacy and liberty and the right to a fair hearing of any immigration or asylum appeal--it is imperative to ensure the widest possible public scrutiny of the exercise of those powers. We believe that that is achievable only if an independent complaints authority is established. The authority should be appointed by the Lord Chancellor and not by the Secretary of State for the Home Office; it should

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1238

be empowered to carry out its investigations using only its own staff; and it should report directly to Parliament.

We also believe that the present system whereby a complaints audit committee of two or three people appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Office monitors the effectiveness of internal immigration service complaints procedures and reports back to him on an annual basis is at best an example of departmental self-appraisal.

I make no criticism of individuals involved in immigration audit. In fact, they perform a very useful task. However, I shall explain why that particular procedure is not appropriate. It lacks the capability and objectivity to investigate sensitive complaints against immigration service staff and to institute swift action to eradicate malpractice before it takes root. Moreover it is not of sufficient weight to counterbalance the inroads into civil liberties being introduced by Part VII of the Bill.

I believe that the existing Complaints Audit Committee is limited in its scope for investigating complaints arising out of powers contained in Part VII of the Bill. When the independent audit committee was established, Mr Charles Wardle, the Under-Secretary of State at that time, said in another place,


    “The Committee's remit will be to satisfy itself of the effectiveness of the procedures for investigating complaints".

That is what he is talking about here--looking at the effectiveness of the procedures. I repeat, it is not about the procedures for investigating complaints, nor the investigation itself, but,


    “to draw ... management's attention to any weaknesses".

That was the basic purpose underlying the establishment of that particular body. The total number of complaints must be a matter of concern in view of the millions of passengers who are now dealt with at airports, including those who claim asylum status.

It may be interesting to examine the similarity with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act regarding provision for complaints against police officers. Let us remember that in many cases in the Bill before us we have given immigration officers powers similar to those of police officers. The present Home Secretary, when dealing with the matter of police complaints, spoke clearly of the need to introduce an independent element into the police complaints machinery.

The Macpherson Report on the investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence refers to the need for some independent element in the complaints procedure. It is right and proper that there should be an independent complaints committee which can examine complaints against immigration officers.

I believe that at this stage we have a golden opportunity to set up an authority of this kind. The success of our immigration policy depends on the confidence the public will have in the way we operate the system. Transparency is vital and the Government

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1239

must provide it. I hope that they will accept the amendment and take the necessary action to establish such an authority. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, what a relief to speak to one amendment in one group! I have to say to the Minister that we are delighted to support the Government in grouping as much as we can, but they should realise that occasionally that requires verbal and physical dexterity to deal with all the issues. We are extremely grateful to both noble Lords.

I can be very brief. We support the principle of the amendment, but we view it with an entirely open mind. We look forward to the Minister's reply.


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