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Lord Avebury: My Lords, how great is the United Kingdom's contribution to the global fund for AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis? To what extent have we encouraged the European Union to make an equivalent contribution, proportionate to its ability to pay?

Will the experience of the Brazilians—particularly with the manufacture of generic drugs under the Agreement on Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which allows patents to be broken in cases of national emergency—be read across to southern Africa? Does the Minister think that the global fund will be instrumental in helping that to happen?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the UK's contribution to the global fund is 140 million over five years. It is being made from previously unallocated funds. The UK's bilateral spending on HIV/AIDS-related work in 2001-02 is over 200 million. I am sure that, following the Comprehensive Spending Review, the House will welcome the increase in resources to assist programmes tackling AIDS in Africa.

I will write to the noble Lord about the situation in Brazil.

IVF Clinics: Regulation

3 p.m.

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we are, of course, very concerned about these reports. I can assure noble Lords that we have arranged for a thorough independent investigation to be carried out. Perhaps I could add that at last week's court hearing the judge directed that the Government should not announce that they had set up an investigation. That was because she was anxious to keep discussion of this case to a minimum to protect the families and children concerned. I have mentioned the investigation today because the noble Earl asked me a specific question about it and I could not mislead the House. But it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the nature of the investigation.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Perhaps I may begin by making clear that this Question is in no way intended as a means of eliciting the identities of any of the individuals involved in the particular case reported in the press. However, that very disturbing story gives rise to some serious concerns about the role of the HFEA as the regulator of IVF clinics. What confidence can people have that the procedures followed in IVF clinics are proof

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against error? Is the Minister confident that the monitoring systems employed by the HFEA are satisfactory in all respects?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I understand the concerns of members of the general public. The HFEA has stated it is confident that the incident reported is an extremely rare event and it has no reason to believe there are other cases. As regards the performance of the HFEA, it undertakes an inspection of each clinic every year looking at specific aspects, and an in-depth inspection of each clinic every three years. Where there is concern about standards or compliance with good practice the authority can and does apply stringent conditions under which the licence can operate. That can and has resulted in clinics being prevented from treating patients.

However, I assure the noble Earl that as part of our own monitoring process we ensure that there are regular discussions between ourselves and the authority, identifying any problems and requiring the authority to put them right.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the Government, in their response to the report of the Select Committee of this House on stem cell research, stated that they agreed with the committee that they should keep the funding of the HFEA under review and ensure that its resources were commensurate with its increased responsibilities. In the light of recent events, are the Government satisfied that the HFEA has sufficient resources to carry out its current regulatory responsibilities?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Government accept that the HFEA has increased its activities over recent years and that funding has not kept pace with it. Much of the resource that the HFEA spends comes from licensing fees and the HFEA is currently undertaking a consultation on the level of those fees. However, the Government have invited the HFEA to assess what additional resources it needs and, when put forward as a proper business case, that matter will be very carefully considered by my department.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, can the Minister explain why publication of the HFEA's annual report for 2002 was delayed for more than six months and why the same applied to the patients' guide the previous year?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there were some problems with the authority's IT infrastructure which delayed the availability of the recent performance data. My understanding is that the authority hoped to receive the data and delayed publication of the report. The data were still not available so the report was published late. The actual data information will shortly be available on the HFEA's website. Clearly, the authority needs to improve its data collection and analysis procedures. The matter is under discussion between my department and the authority.

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Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, how can we be sure that it is a rare event?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I referred in my original Answer to the investigation that we have launched. I do not believe that I can comment further.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, is the Minister concerned that reports of serious faults in IVF are now increasingly frequent. Is it the case, as has been reported, that in some 80 per cent of women the treatment fails? Does he see anything wrong in Britain spending millions of pounds aborting natural babies and millions more procuring babies by scientific procedure?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there are clearly mixed views. I believe that ultimately it is a matter of personal conscience. Of course, the provision of infertility services takes place under the law passed by Parliament more than 10 years ago, regulated by the HFEA. I believe that Parliament has made its views clear. As regards the success rate, the figures I have estimate that a woman aged under 35 has a 30 per cent chance of a successful pregnancy.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the Government intend to do anything to validate other births through IVF from the same NHS clinic or from any other clinics practising IVF?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there are clearly lessons to be learnt which will have to be considered very carefully.

Lord Elton: My Lords, does the scale of the damage done to two or four individual people by this clinical slip cause the Government to assess how much more stringent the control of procedures should become now that genetic engineering procedures are available to us?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is clear that we need robust regulatory machinery in place which works effectively, It is the Government's intention to ensure that that happens.

Business

3.8 p.m.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton will repeat a Statement which is being made in another place entitled Justice For All.

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Rix: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to sexual relations with persons lacking capacity to consent to sexual relations, and

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with vulnerable adults to whom a duty of care is owed; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Rix.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Borough Freedom (Family Succession) Bill [HL]

Lord Hooson: My Lords, on behalf of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mustill, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.—(Lord Hooson.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

3.10 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Filkin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 56 [Detention centres: change of name]:

The Lord Bishop of Derby moved Amendment No. 170A:


    Page 30, line 40, after "persons" insert "over the age of eighteen"

The right reverend Prelate said: On behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, I rise to speak in support of the amendment. It arises on grounds of principle as well as being informed by the casework undertaken by the staff and volunteers of the Churches Commission for Racial Justice. The commission acts on behalf of all the mainstream Christian denominations through Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. The CCRJ shares a coalition of concern with other children's charities, including the Save the Children Fund.

The amendment aims to ensure that children and their families are not housed in detention or removal centres by redefining the centres to exclude children. It assumes that, as the Government would always seek to keep families together, no families with children would be detained.

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Based on experience, there is a strong belief among children's charities and refugee organisations that detention centres can never provide the most appropriate and supportive environment for vulnerable children. In earlier debates it has been pointed out that the well-being and development of the child should be a primary and not a secondary consideration. In other words, if we believe that living in certain institutional settings may damage children, then it is indefensible to place them in such settings.

The Home Office considers that prison is not the best environment for young children and therefore babies are taken from their mothers by the age of six months. If prison is not the best environment for these young children, to the extent that the Government think it preferable to separate them from their mothers, then why does the same government department believe that detention centres are an acceptable environment for children seeking asylum?

We know that such children are particularly vulnerable. At best, they will have suffered upheaval and loss. At worst, they will have been involved in unimaginable horrors in situations of war and persecution. Our compassion for their circumstances, rather than the fraught politics of asylum policy, should shape the way we seek to care for them. Indeed, placing children in institutionalised settings that are not focused on meeting their needs is likely to contribute to and intensify their existing problems.

The policy of detaining families with children represents a recent shift in government policy. Until last year, the Government were apologetic about the detention of children, saying that as a rule it was undesirable and necessary only in exceptional circumstances. But they have now greatly widened the criteria for detaining families. The White Paper preceding this Bill endorsed the policy of detaining children in asylum-seeking families prior to removal. It also made a vague, open-ended statement about detention in other circumstances "where necessary".

But there has been no explanation from the Government as to why this change of policy is necessary. Indeed, the Home Office has conceded that there is no statistical evidence to show that families with children are more likely to abscond or less likely to make a successful claim for asylum. I invite the Minister to explain why the Government now believe that it is necessary to increase the detention of families with children. Furthermore, in the light of the new policy, what legal safeguards will be in place to prevent immigration officers from acting in an arbitrary manner when making decisions on whether to detain families?

The proposals to focus on the use of detention-for-removal will mean that even more children and their families are detained. That is in the context of the UK detaining more people seeking asylum than does any other country in Europe. The Government do not appear to be responding to the cautionary lessons emerging from Yarlswood. There, vulnerable children were incarcerated with distressed and desperate adults. In such situations, would the Government still argue that the needs of the child had been put first?

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Detention also gives rise to a range of child protection concerns. There are many risks to child safety in institutional care, given the power and control that staff have in such settings. Furthermore, children and families who try to avoid living in such centres will become part of a hidden population whose whereabouts can be difficult to track. In turn, that makes it even more difficult to promote and protect the rights and needs of the child.

Recognising that the concerns of the Churches Commission for Racial Justice are widely shared across the voluntary sector, it should not be suggested that these are the arguments of unrealistic idealists. They are concerns arising from practitioners. They resonate with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. That convention helps to provide a framework of principles for our treatment of children. The Government have signed up to that convention, which states that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in all policies affecting children. I should be interested to know whether, in the face of opposition from all the major children's charities, the Government believe the detention of children and young people to be in their best interests.

Detention also gives rise to serious concerns in respect of violations of other articles of the UNCRC, in particular the duty on the state not to discriminate, the duty to ensure to the maximum extent possible the development of the child, the duty to enable freedom of association and the duty not to interfere with privacy and family. Can the Minister tell the Committee what is the legal advice on compliance with the convention in respect of children in detention centres?

In conclusion, I reiterate the view that detention facilities cannot afford children the care and protection they need. On the contrary, they may have a serious negative impact on the child's physical and emotional health and well-being. I would urge the Government to revisit and revise their policy of sanctioning and expanding the detention of families with children. The evidence to date suggests that it is a step neither necessary nor proportionate. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Avebury: Before turning to the amendment itself, perhaps I may ask the Minister who is to respond initially whether he has seen a report from Geoff Meade, the European editor of PA News, about remarks said to have been made by the Secretary of State in connection with his meeting with his French opposite number, Nicholas Sarkozy, concerning the issue of the closure of the Sangatte centre in Calais. According to the report, Mr Blunkett said that he had,


    "already made provision for [this] Bill to be speeded up, short-cutting the usual procedures, so that it could be in place by mid-October".

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Later the right honourable gentleman is said to have remarked that,


    "if Britain could send 'early signals' to France about the Bill's progress and possible completion in July, London and Paris may be in a position at the September meeting in Frethun to set an early deadline for closure before the end of this year, rather than in the first quarter of next year".

I can hardly believe that the Secretary of State will have made those remarks, but it is important that noble Lords should be given an early repudiation of what PA News has said so that we do not have to cross swords with the Secretary of State over interference with proceedings in your Lordships' House, which of course would be highly improper. I can only think that there must have been a misunderstanding between the Secretary of State and the journalist who reported him in these words. The matter should be cleared up at the earliest possible stage.

I turn now to the amendment. The right reverend Prelate was correct to mention the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Can the Minister confirm whether the Government have any intention of continuing with the reservation on Article 22 which allows them to take these steps, or whether we should become full signatories to the convention, as are most other states that have signed it. The reservation is harmful to our image abroad and to our position as leaders in championing human rights around the world.

As the right reverend Prelate has already commented, the children put into these detention centres have not broken any laws. Their only so-called "crime" will be that their mother or father has claimed asylum or otherwise sought to remain in the United Kingdom. Yet it is now the intention of the Secretary of State to detain these children, along with their parents, for what may be an indefinite period of time. We all know of instances where people have been detained for several months on end.

As far as I am aware, the only other children in the United Kingdom whose liberty is restricted in a similar way are children who have been brought before a criminal court, or who are subject to an order under the Mental Health Act 1983, or those who have had a secure accommodation order made by a family court.

I refer the Minister to the official guidance given in the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 1 Court Orders in relation to the making of secure accommodation orders for children. That guidance states:


    "Restricting the liberty of children is a serious step which must be taken only when there is no genuine alternative which would be appropriate. It must be a 'last resort' in the sense that all else must first have been comprehensively considered and rejected".

Furthermore, under those provisions children can only be placed in secure accommodation for a maximum of 72 hours in any 28-day period unless a court order is obtained. So the Government have to justify detaining children as a first as opposed to a last resort, as they plan to do under the Bill.

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There is also the question of the incompatibility of these provisions with the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 5(1)(d) of that convention only permits,


    "the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority".

In Re K (Secure Accommodation Order: Right to liberty) [2001] 1 FLR 526, the learned judge, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, stated:


    "In each case where a secure accommodation order is applied for, the English court, at any level, must have the requirements of Article 5(1)(d) in mind when considering the relevant criteria, and thereby the compatability of the section with the Convention right".

So the Government have an obligation to explain to the Committee how the detention of children in these centres is compatible with their duties under the Human Rights Act and how they came to make a statement on the face of the Bill that there was nothing in it that was not compatible with our obligations under the convention.


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