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Lord Hylton: Before the noble Baroness replies, perhaps I can say that at the end of a long and arduous day it seems to me that she has made a serious charge against the Opposition Front Bench. I hope she will agree that it is possible that she may have overlooked the distinction between a probing amendment and a substantive amendment. If that is the case, some of the problems may be solved.
Baroness Blatch: First, no one suggested that these are probing amendments. Secondly, I referred to what I read. I do not need a bank of officials to tell me that the amendment to remove lines 31 to 33 and lines 34 to 36 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Dubs, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, removes two new offences which were added to the Bill to deal
Those are important provisions in the Bill. Up until this moment those offences have been supported almost universally, even by the Opposition's colleagues in another place. But it is not banks of officials who placed that interpretation on this; I simply read the words on the page that those two new offences are to be removed from the Bill.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, expresses a genuine concern. However, if he wants to advise and help somebody who may fall under the United Nations Convention 1951, he has absolutely nothing to fear if he is not exploiting those people: if he is advising them and helping; if he is not doing it for gain and he is not deceiving the authorities. At the point of entry the noble Earl would want, in their interests, to make sure that asylum was sought properly under the rules. I hope the noble Earl is not suggesting that he believes it is a bona fide activity to help somebody, by deception, to remain in this country without making that known to the authorities.
Lord Dubs: I did not intend to say anything at all. But, in all fairness, it is only proper to respond to what the Minister said. I appreciate that the Minister has spent around nine-and-a-half hours on the Front Bench. That is a long time--far too long--and I have enormous sympathy for her because it is an unreasonably long period of time to do what the noble Baroness has been doing.
Having said that, I must go on the record. Years ago when I was in the other place, I was so angry about racketeers that I went to see the immigration Minister to protest that there were not enough measures to deal with racketeers. I have been involved in such issues for a long time. Anybody in the other place who represented an inner city constituency will know exactly what racketeers do; how they undermine our constituents in the other place and how they obtain sums of money. It seems wrong in principle that those people should continue to act as they do.
I regret that the Minister suggested that some of us had different motives. Frankly, we are seeking to withdraw the remaining amendments because of the lateness of the hour. That must be a worthy motive at this time of the evening. Some of those amendments are probing amendments. We have not had a chance to say so and the Minister is attacking us for tabling them. It is a normal convention in this Chamber, as it is in the other place, that amendments at Committee stage are tabled to test in detail the Government's thinking-- no more and no less than that. We have had the Minister saying, on the one hand, that we have not taken enough amendments to a vote, implying that we were not committed enough to them, and, on the other hand, that there was something wrong with our motives because we put down amendments which were there simply to
Baroness Blatch: It was certainly not my intention to lower the tone of the debate. As for the taunt about not pressing amendments, it was entirely in response to noble Lords opposite who have been rather offensive to my noble friend, who was not pressing the only amendment that she had on the Marshalled List today. I was saying that there were many amendments on the Marshalled List today which had not been pressed to a Division. I do not make that criticism other than to make the point that the noble Lord was being unfair to my noble friend, when it is not unknown for her to go through the Lobbies against the Government on occasions when she feels it is appropriate to do so.
It is not lowering the tone to say that the new provisions, which the Government want and with which the Opposition now say they do not agree, deal with unscrupulous racketeers who organise the illegal entry into the United Kingdom of people not entitled to come here by providing them with fictitious asylum claims, organised marriage rackets and bogus educational establishments whose sole purpose is to deceive the immigration authorities. These racketeers ruthlessly exploit their victims. These two amendments were aimed at that. Noble Lords have made it quite clear that they do not agree with that and they also have amendments on the Marshalled List to remove these new offences from the Bill.
I simply draw the conclusion that noble Lords have spoken against the amendment and they have put down amendments to remove the two new offences from the Bill. I draw only the most appropriate conclusion from that.
Lord Clinton-Davis: The Minister is afflicted by the Howard syndrome. That is the problem. The trouble is that they cannot recognise an important point when it is raised by a professional organisation of great repute and by organisations such as the Refugee Council and many others which are concerned about the welfare of people. The noble Baroness cannot see that. She is completely blind to argument tonight. We do not blame her because it is late. Her reason has succumbed to the lateness of the hour.
The other factor is that in the other place the Minister agreed to consider Clause 5(1) so that it would be better targeted on racketeers. Why did she not say that tonight? Why did she not agree that there was room for improvement? That is all we are asking for. We are certainly not on the side of the racketeers--and she knows it. What she is trying to gain is some obscure political point. She really has not done herself credit tonight. In all the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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