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Lord Carter: My Lords, I declare an interest as someone who was brought up in Brighton—or Hove, actually.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Carter: My Lords, will the Minister explain why Brighton needs two piers when it has managed perfectly well with one for years?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this is a heterodox point of view. Many people think that piers are good things in themselves. Brighton West Pier is grade 1 listed; it has been closed since 1975. I should have thought that having two piers is a real distinction for Brighton and that they would boost each other's commercial viability.

Mental Health Services

2.48 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, work to develop mental health services that will allow access for users 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is progressing in accordance with our national service framework and NHS plan.

Lord Astor of Hever: But, my Lords, despite pledges given in the NHS plan, according to the mental health mapping project, which was commissioned by the Department of Health, less than half the crisis resolution teams have met the requirement that all people in contact with mental health services would have access at any time. Can the Minister now assure the House that every team will offer a 24-hour service by the end of the this year?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the introduction of crisis resolution teams is very important. My understanding is that 62 teams were in place on 31st October 2002. It is a challenging target and we are working hard to endeavour to ensure that the target is met but I do not want to underestimate either the challenge or the work that has already been undertaken by the NHS in this area.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, there is concern about whether the money allocated for implementing

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the national service framework for mental health services is reaching the areas it should reach. When there was concern about cancer services, the Government sensibly undertook to arrange for an audit by the Department of Health. Will they do the same as regards mental health services?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I understand the point the noble Lord raises and I understand the concern as regards whether earmarked resources are reaching the new services development. We shall monitor the position. We are also discussing the matter with strategic health authorities.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, can the Minister comment specifically on the progress towards better access to mental health services for children and adolescents? Will he permit me, on behalf of the charity Young Minds, to thank him and his department for their recent verbal assurance that they will fund Young Minds' parent information service for an amount of, I believe, 140,000 for the forthcoming year? Is he aware that that service provides timely information of good quality to parents who are concerned about their children's mental health?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his remarks. I agree that child and adolescent mental health services are very important. I am glad that the noble Earl acknowledges the progress that we have made.

Asylum Seekers

2.51 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to withdraw from parts of the European Convention on Human Rights in view of the number of asylum seekers arriving in the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My Lords, we expect that our current measures to tackle asylum will be effective. We are also working with UNHCR and others to make the international protection system work more effectively. Should the measures we are taking not work as expected we would not shrink from reviewing our relevant international obligations but we have no current plans to renegotiate our ECHR obligations.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. Are the Government still in a position to offer and provide accommodation and facilities, as expected by the provisions of the convention, to all the refugees now arriving in this country?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, the short answer is yes. We are meeting our current obligations under the Geneva Convention. We have the encouragement of a

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vigorous legal system were we in any doubt of that. We are also optimistic that we may be moving towards some progress in this respect.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his Answer gives great satisfaction to these Benches? Does he agree that to do what the Official Opposition have suggested from time to time—that is, denounce the European Convention on Human Rights and then attempt some kind of reservation to Article 3 of the convention—would not only stain the reputation of this country but would also be counter-productive as it could not work, the reservation being incompatible with the object and purpose of the convention? Would it not show that this country—one of the great protagonists of the convention—had flouted international law?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I am well aware of the position of the Liberal Democrat Benches on this issue. I am also aware that Article 3 is non-derogable. We had a good discussion on these issues last week when debating the renewal of measures under the anti-terrorism Act. It was pointed out that the ECHR was not as inflexible as is sometimes assumed.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is not so much a matter of withdrawing, or considering withdrawing, from the European Convention on Human Rights but withdrawing the need for people wishing to claim asylum in this country to have to put themselves into the expensive, poisonous hands of people smugglers to be trafficked half-way across the globe? Can my noble friend say what specific progress has been made in discussions with the UNHCR to provide facilities for people wishing to seek asylum in the United Kingdom to do so in areas near to the countries from which they come?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, my noble friend, as so often, puts his finger on the point. I have sigalled in the House before that the issue concerns not so much the letter of the legislation but how it is operated in practice. I have signalled that our concern about the 1951 convention is not in any sense related to its aims but rather to how it works in practice as those who probably most need refugee protection do not get it while many who clearly are using it as a route for economic migration clog up the system. Currently we are having positive discussions with UNHCR on these matters. I hope to be able to say more about that before long.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister recall stating to me recently in a Written Answer that it was not possible to make any estimate of the number of additional asylum seekers who might come here as a result of the forthcoming hostilities in Iraq? Since then, has he noted the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which estimates that as

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many as 1.9 million people might be displaced by the war in Iraq? How many of those does he now estimate will arrive in the United Kingdom?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I wish I could answer yes to the first question but it is such a privilege writing so many letters to the noble Lord that I do not recollect the content of all of them post facto. Having said that, I am well aware of the UNHCR's position on this matter. We are positive about the situation while keeping up our guard, first, because of our positive measures in terms of relationships with the border control in northern France and, secondly, and more fundamentally, because the UNHCR has already had positive discussions with Iraq's neighbouring countries in the event that it is unavoidably necessary to go to war as the only means of getting a solution. In particular, Turkey, Iran and Syria have made clear that they would give support as regards the matter we are discussing in the short term.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I return to the Minister's comment to the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, that the European Convention on Human Rights is not as inflexible as some on the Liberal Democrat Benches believe. In the tense times that the country faces with regard to national security at the moment, are the Government reconsidering their refusal to derogate from some part of Article 3 so that we could if necessary remove from these shores people who pose a national threat and who masquerade as asylum seekers? It is asylum seekers who need help, not those who are masquerading as asylum seekers.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I believe that I quoted the Liberal Democrats themselves who signalled that the ECHR was not quite as inflexible as one has sometimes been led to believe. The position as regards Article 3 as a matter of law is clear. It is non-derogable and therefore one cannot sidestep it.


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