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Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 265:

Page 103, line 32, after (“or") insert (“certified").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 266:

Before Clause 159, insert the following new clause--


(“ . It is unlawful to do any act which constitutes racial discrimination when exercising any powers under this Act or any other of the Immigration Acts.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall be brief. First, perhaps I may say how grateful I was to have the opportunity to meet the Minister and his advisers and to be able to talk about the contents of this amendment and Amendment No. 293, to which I shall also speak.

The purpose of my amendment is to follow up the suggestion made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Jack Straw, who, when responding to questions about his response to the recommendations made in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, agreed to amend the Race Relations Act to make it applicable to immigration officers.

Our main concern has been a cautious government response to the proposals that have been forwarded to the Home Office by the Commission for Racial Equality. Therefore, it was right and proper that we should try to incorporate some of the amendments in the existing legislation.

There are a number of governmental functions that are outside the scope of race relations legislation in this country. For example, if I am discriminated against in the field of employment, I can go to the tribunal. If I am discriminated against in the provision of housing, I can go to the county court to seek remedy. But if I am discriminated against by an immigration officer in the provision of services, I have no recourse whatsoever. It was therefore essential to try to bring immigration officers within the scope of the race relations legislation.

That is where a difficulty arises. Immigration law, by its very nature, incorporates some of the areas that are considered discriminatory within the scope of the definition of discrimination, both direct and indirect. I have in mind matters of ethnicity and national origin, which are some of the issues that complicate the amendment that we propose.

Therefore, on the basis of my discussion with the Minister, I believe it is much better to suggest that he may wish to examine the amendment and consider the best way to proceed to incorporate our suggestion in

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some form of government legislation at some stage in the future. I do not even ask for a government response by Third Reading. However, I hope that there will be a holistic approach to this proposal in terms of the race relations legislation which the Government have taken on board. I should be grateful for the Minister's response. Then we shall see where we go from here.

Earl Russell: My Lords, some provision along the lines of this amendment is necessary. I spoke recently to a colleague who is a member of the Committee of the Regions, who recently returned to Waterloo on Eurostar and observed who was detained by immigration on arrival. Every single one of those people happened by coincidence to be black. That kind of story causes no surprise. I wish that it did.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I merely want to add one other example to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Russell. I make it a habit on my rather frequent trips in and out of Heathrow to watch and see who is detained as we go through the process. It is correct that the number of people who are detained who appear to come from African or Asian countries seems very much higher than the number of those who come from other non-EU countries. That is just an observation. I am a very frequent traveller and it disturbs me somewhat. It is important to ascertain for certain that when people are detained it is not on racial grounds, but simply on the genuine grounds that there are reasons for being suspicious of a particular person. That is reasonable. The Government have an excellent record in race relations and I hope they will consider my noble friend's proposal.

1 a.m.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, although I accept the principle behind the amendment, it gives us concern. It seems to me that by its very nature, immigration into this country at airports will be of people from those countries where one could say that detention was racial discrimination when it was not. It is a fact of geography. We do not want that being used in any way to fetter the good and fair job done by immigration officers. We shall be interested in the Minister's reply, but would be concerned if anything happened that caused any immigration officers to think twice before carrying out part of their proper duties.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Lester, for bringing the issue to the House for us to consider. It is an important and interesting area.

The effect of Amendments Nos. 266 and 293 would be to apply the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976 to acts carried out under the Immigration Act 1971 as amended, including by the current Bill.

As I explained to the noble Lords when we met in the House last night to discuss the issues, the Government are sympathetic to the principle of extending race relations provisions to cover the immigration system

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and those who operate it. We are sympathetic to the principle and understand the point of the arguments made.

On 24th February this year, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced in a Statement in another place on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report that the Government will,

    “extend the Race Relations Act 1976 not just to cover the police, as the report recommends, but to cover all the public services. That means in the civil service, the immigration service and the national health service, for example, the law will back those who have been the subject of discrimination".--[Official Report, Commons, 24/2/99; col. 392.]

Any individual members of the Immigration Service must act in accordance with those requirements in handling individual cases and applications. The Government are committed to that and we have made it clear that we shall introduce suitable legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.

However, I am afraid that the noble Lords' amendments, while representing an important recognition of our commitment, are flawed, regrettable though that is, and would pre-empt our own detailed consideration of how the provisions of the Race Relations Act should be extended to cover the uniquely sensitive and difficult area of immigration. For example, the amendments might, if adopted, prevent the Home Office from carrying out special exercises aimed at providing protection to particular ethnic groups seeking shelter in the United Kingdom, such as the many Kosovans who were granted exceptional leave to remain during the recent crisis in the Balkans. They would also impact on the ability of the department to differentiate between different nationalities and different ethnic groups when dealing with asylum applications. That is the point made earlier by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor.

The ability of the Immigration Service to carry out special exercises would be affected when we are confronted by immediate operational pressures of the kind we have seen recently at Dover. Those operations could be seriously impaired. That is just a flavour of the difficulties which would arise from too great haste in approaching those complex and difficult issues.

I hope that noble Lords will agree to withdraw their amendments in the light of that. We shall, of course, continue to develop policy in this area so that we give suitable effect to my right honourable friend's commitment. However, we do that while recognising that the operation of the immigration, asylum and nationality arrangements necessarily and legitimately entails some discrimination on grounds of ethnic or national origins. We simply seek to introduce legislation that is coherent, all-embracing and covers the various service areas that it needs to cover. I hope that in those circumstances the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, will feel able to withdraw his amendment, which all noble Lords accept is tabled with integrity and in the spirit in which government policy is directed.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. We have always believed

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that certain exceptions will be necessary. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, quite rightly pointed out some of the difficulties in legislation of this nature. But I believe that this gives the Home Office the opportunity at the appropriate time to introduce legislation that provides the appropriate exceptions. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 267:

After Clause 159, insert the following new clause--


(“ . In the 1971 Act, after section 31, insert--
“Procedural requirement as to applications.
31A.--(1) If a form is prescribed for a particular kind of application under this Act, any application of that kind must be made in the prescribed form.
(2) If procedural or other steps are prescribed in relation to a particular kind of application under this Act, those steps must be taken in respect of any application of that kind.
(3) “Prescribed" means prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(4) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.
(5) Any such statutory instrument shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 267 is a straightforward amendment which has the effect of making it compulsory that applications on a particular basis, to be defined by way of regulations, must be made on a prescribed form. In addition, the amendment provides that the Secretary of State can prescribe any particular procedure or other steps that must be followed. The provision of a photograph is perhaps one such example.

Since November 1996, all applications, with the exception of those from asylum seekers, work permit holders and EEA nationals, for a variation of leave have to be made on an application form. Applications made in any other way, or on incomplete application forms, are rejected as invalid. This amendment simply puts the status of application forms and the conditions attached to their completion on a statutory footing in primary legislation. I beg to move Amendment No. 267 and commend it to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 160 [Regulations and orders]:

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