|Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill
Ms Winterton: Let me deal first with amendment No. 236. We believe that the amendment is redundant because the only force that may lawfully be used is that which is reasonable. That is explicit in both the clause and paragraph 17(2) of schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971. We are mirroring the provisions of that Act, and although we have considered alternatives, we believe that it is acceptable to use the same wording. Quite simply, if the force is unreasonable, it is likely to be unlawful.
Mr. Malins: I think that the Minister said that, if the force is unreasonable, it is lawful—
Ms Winterton: Unlawful.
Mr. Malins: The Minister may have meant to say that if the force is unreasonable it is unlawful. What consequences would flow from that?
Ms Winterton: I shall come to complaints in due course, but obviously if the action were unlawful, the person would have broken the law and would be liable for his action in the same way that anyone else would be in those circumstances.
Mr. Allan: I want to encourage the Minister to look more favourably on the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Woking. She has just spoken about mirroring the 1971 Act; I wonder whether she will offer a commitment to look at what happened in the 1999 Act? At the time, the Government said that the word ''reasonable'' was redundant, but to reassure the Opposition Members they included it in the Bill. The same argument may apply now. For the sake of public reassurance, it would be better if the Bill stated ''reasonable force'' rather than simply ''force''.
Ms Winterton: I was about to say that although we remain satisfied that there is adequate protection, we will certainly consider instances such as the one to
Column Number: 241which the hon. Gentleman referred. At present, we are extremely satisfied that it is not necessary to add ''reasonable''. We would have to look at any repercussions that there might be for Acts when the word ''unreasonable'' is not inserted. I hope that that reassures him.
Amendment No. 262 would make the clause inconsistent with paragraph 17(2) of schedule 2 to the 1971 Act, to which it is directly linked. The clause gives detainee custody officers a limited power of entry to private premises to search detained persons before escorting them to a place of detention. As we said, our problem is that there are currently unnecessary delays, as police officers have a larger burden. The experience can needlessly distress detainees, as they must be taken to the nearest police station so that the escort can search them.
A detainee escort's power of entry is limited. It would be exercised only when escorts accompanied police or immigration officers to premises for which a justice of the peace has issued a warrant. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam asked how escorts will be held accountable for their actions. As I said, escorts are as accountable in law for their actions as anyone else. That would remain the case, even given the limited power of entry. They are responsible for escorting detained persons safely and securely to and from places of detention. They are detainee custody officers, who are certified under section 154 of the 1999 Act to perform escort and custodial functions.
The hon. Gentleman asked about qualifications. The Secretary of State issues a certificate of authorisation only when he is satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to perform the authorised functions of a certified DCO and has received training to an approved standard. The training covers the skills and competences necessary to perform escort functions, including safe use of control and restraint techniques, first aid, race awareness, suicide awareness, child care and child protection. The escorts are employed by Wackenhut UK Ltd, which is the immigration and nationality directorate's contracted service provider of in-country escorting of detained persons.
Complaints about an escort's actions are directed to the immigration service's escort contract monitor. Under schedule 13(1) of the 1999 Act, the escort contract monitor is required to investigate and report to the Secretary of State any allegation made against an escorting officer about any act done or failure to act while escorting a detained person. The DCO certificate may be suspended during such an investigation and subsequently revoked in appropriate cases. I emphasise that in addition to that robust complaints procedure, any escort is answerable in law for his or her actions.
On restrictions on searching detainees, rule 7 of the detention centre rules 2001 applies to detained persons when they are taken into custody. That includes searches by escorts as well as those conducted on reception at removal centres. The rule requires that a detained person shall be searched in as seemly a manner as is consistent with discovering anything concealed. I understand the points made by the hon.
Column Number: 242Gentlemen, but I hope that they will be reassured by the fact that the clause merely enables escorts to conduct searches on premises, as opposed to a detainee or person who will be detained having to be taken to a police station to be searched. Escorts will always be accompanied by a police constable and immigration officer who will carry a warrant that will enable the escort to do the searching there.
With those reassurances, I hope that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam will withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Allan: I am grateful for the Minister's considered response, in particular her offer to re-examine the use of the word ''reasonable'' as used in the amendment of the hon. Member for Woking. It will be better if we return to the subject after that reconsideration has taken place, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 46, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 14 May 2002|