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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the powers introduced by Part VII will not be used by entry clearance officers who work abroad. I am not sure whether that completely answers my noble friend; if not, I shall return to it later or provide a written response. We shall continue to keep the procedures under review. If they require further strengthening, we shall do that.

During Report stage in this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, stated that the powers of immigration officers were not the same as those of police officers. She suggested that there should be a separate complaints authority staffed in a different way from the PCA by people with some understanding of different countries and their cultures. She rightly said that none of that was met by a proposal simply to extend the scope of the Police Complaints Authority. Only the powers to be given to immigration officers under Part VII of this Bill are similar to police powers. They are also similar to powers held by others in the enforcement field, notably HM Customs.

However, immigration officers are not police officers, and there is no intention that they should become so. Their modus operandi is, and will continue to be, different. Although the coercive elements of the powers are there, it is anticipated that they will be rarely used. I agree with the noble Baroness that a separate complaints system for the Immigration Service is right for the very reasons she expressed, but I believe that it is already in place and is operating well.

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It is in everyone's interest, not least that of immigration officers themselves, that these powers are underpinned with proper levels of accountability and control. The codes of practice, together with the safeguards written into the legislation, the enhanced complaints procedures and the comprehensive training programme that the officers who exercise the new powers will be required to undertake, provide a level of accountability that is both workable and proportionate. It protects those whom the new powers must be used against while providing the Immigration Service with a clear and explicit framework within which to operate. I suggest that the new clause set out in Amendment No. 58 is seriously misleading, damaging and counter-productive. It is not required to ensure its objective, and we believe that to introduce it would be a profound mistake. Therefore, I cannot invite noble Lords to support the amendment or the consequential amendment to the Police Act 1996 provided by Amendment No. 85.

I understand and sympathise with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, about the need to eliminate and tackle racism within any of our services. We all acknowledge and understand that point. The Macpherson Report has pointed us powerfully in that direction. In the Home Office, we fully understand and appreciate it. We will not, and cannot, tolerate racism in any of our services. We do not believe that the objective underlying the amendment will best serve those upon whom it is designed to have an impact. I respectfully suggest that the noble Lord withdraws the amendment.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he reply to the point I made?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have an answer for the noble Lord relating to entry clearance officers abroad. I have an example. If the noble Lord will bear with me, I am more than happy to cite an example of how the Immigration Service works quickly and effectively.

An Indian family sought to embark at Delhi. They were resident in the United Kingdom. At Delhi airport, the airline official refused to allow them to board as the stamp in the person's passport was unclear. The family was required to stay an extra night at Delhi airport until approval from the UK for their readmission was given. The head of the family understandably complained. The Immigration Service upheld his complaint and paid him £300 for the additional expense and inconvenience incurred.

Approval for the payment was given by the head of the complaints unit under delegated powers. It was all sorted out within four weeks of the complaint. Under the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, the Police Complaints Authority would have to investigate such a complaint. I wonder how long that would take.

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I trust that that example gives some feel for how the system currently works and how it might work in the future if the amendment were to be approved by this House today.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he say a few words about the acceptance or otherwise by the Home Office of designation under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland legislation of 1998? I asked the noble Lord that question on Report. He said that no decision had yet been made. However, bearing in mind that the section comes into operation on 1st January 2000, time is getting very short for assessment by the Home Office of its compliance with the equality provisions under that section of the Northern Ireland Act.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord returns to a familiar theme. We are giving active consideration to the case for formal designation of Home Office functions and hope to make a statement shortly. It may be that formal designation is not the best way forward, but we are looking at the issue. We would want to establish effective arrangements to promote full equality in Northern Ireland in the spirit of that legislation. I trust that that answers the noble Lord's point.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the explanation he has given. He and I come from the same stable in Brighton. However, I want to tell him that I was a councillor well before his time. He was simply a student and I hope that he will bow to my experience on matters about which I know much more than he does.

This is the point I seek to make. I have a British passport. I am sure a number of my colleagues will vouch for this. Every time I come through the Immigration Service in this country my wife, who is Scottish, walks in front of me but my passport is taken out of my hand and occasionally held up to the light to make sure the photograph resembles me. I feel so undignified. I feel as though I am being picked on for no other reason than that the colour of my skin is different. The same applies to hundreds of Jamaican people. They wish to come to this country for a holiday or for Christmas but are locked up for about three or four days at Gatwick airport.

The example that the noble Lord has given is not about an individual immigration officer in Delhi but about the Immigration Service which failed to provide proper care for that family. There is much weakness in the Minister's argument. Perhaps I may give an example. I cited 20,000 cases. I worked at the Police Complaints Authority so I know what it is all about. The Minister referred to 30 per cent of the complaints, but he did not give the numbers. The number which the immigration audit body investigated was fewer than 300. Millions of passengers pass through this country and there are only 300 complaints as against 20,000 complaints against police officers. That gives one an

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idea that in terms of numbers the argument cannot be justified.

I have worked at the Police Complaints Authority and therefore I hope that the Minister will bow to my experience. That authority does not necessarily investigate, but it supervises. Not only does it supervise investigations; in serious cases it can direct what should happen in an investigation and then recommend the appropriate action. I am not disputing why the Immigration Service should not examine cases, but I am saying that there ought to be an external body which has experience because the same powers are being given to police and immigration officers.

Is the immigration audit body experienced in trying to examine the police-type power within the Immigration Service? It is not, yet the Government are relying so much on that. I do not want to say more. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he has not shut the door. And he will not shut the door because I shall be shouting and harassing him at every opportunity until such time as we have statutory legislation which is more accountable and open and which cares about people's dignity and respect. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 59:

After Clause 139, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) The Secretary of State shall publish guidance as to the maximum period for which a person detained in accordance with Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 to the 1971 Act may be held in a place of detention as specified in paragraph 18 of Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act.
(2) For the purposes of calculating whether the maximum period of detention has been reached, each and every period for which a detained person has been held in a detention centre or prison, whether or not the detention has been continuous, shall be taken into account.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when we discussed the amendment earlier tonight, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General was kind enough to say that the Government shared its aims. However, he went on to say that if approved it would be unworkable because the Secretary of State could not lay down maximum periods.

However, will the administrative instructions given to immigration officers be continuously reviewed with a view to tightening them up as regards detention? Furthermore, will instructions be given to the visiting committees at detention centres in order to minimise the length of detention? In the hope of receiving a favourable response on those limited points, I beg to move.

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