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Lord Balfour of Inchrye: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for asking those questions. I have an interest in that my wife is an insulin-dependent diabetic. Bearing in mind the expected rise in Type I and Type II diabetes, can the Minister indicate whether plans are in hand not just to increase the number of diabetic
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, it is because we want to improve the care for patients who suffer from diabetes that the National Service Framework is being drawn up. In 1997 we issued guidance on key features of a good diabetes service. We want to build on that. The work we have been doing on the National Service Frameworks for coronary heart disease and mental health shows how we can use these as vehicles both for improving the quality of care overall and for improving the access to high-quality care in different parts of the country. The National Service Framework for diabetes will be a step forward in that respect.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, in view of the massive, threefold increase expected in diabetes over the next 10 years, can the Minister say whether the Government will commit to a national screening programme for diabetes? What is the state of current consideration by the National Screening Committee?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, certainly we must look carefully to see whether there is potential for screening programmes both for Type II diabetes and for diabetic retinopathy. The National Screening Committee, chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, is currently considering both those cases. I believe that preliminary advice may well be available at the turn of the year. However, many possible different approaches are being considered. Consideration of Type II diabetes screening is still at an early stage, but we hope to have some progress from the screening committee towards the end of the year.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I should stress that no contract has been awarded to Railtrack. My Statement of 15th June signalled the commencement of discussions with Railtrack. The Government's view is that, given the characteristics of the PPP contract and the special position of Railtrack, the negotiations with Railtrack now under way are consistent with the requirements of the EC Utilities Directive.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, clearly the EU competition rules have to be taken into account in relation to any such contracts. However, our understanding is that, because the principal aspects of this contract would come under Part B of the EC Utilities Directive, the full EU competition rules would not apply. If further clarification during negotiations with Railtrack leads us to a different conclusion, we shall have to take different action, but that is our current understanding.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, would it not be more sensible to leave the outcome of these negotiations to London Transport and Railtrack and not involve the European Commission, which, after all, has recently been shown to be one of the most corrupt bureaucracies on the face of the planet?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's views on these matters. However, we are bound by treaty to observe the competition rules. The Question raised by the noble Baroness is whether the full tendering procedure would apply in this particular case. Our view is that it would not. If the negotiations were to show that we fell under those rules, I fear we would have to obey them.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, this is some way from London Underground. Nevertheless, our information is that the rules are observed at least so far as one can view the tendering procedures. All contracts which fall under those rules are advertised across the European Union. We believe that is the case in all member states. As regards how the contracts are awarded, I would need to return to that, but the rules and procedures are certainly observed.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, as far as the two other groups of lines are concerned, we intend to submit them for open tender. As concerns Railtrack and the sub-surface lines, we believe that there is considerable potential benefit in terms of services into London to be gained through integrating those lines with the overground lines which Railtrack owns. We are exploring those potential benefits. If they prove to be there, we will negotiate a contract with Railtrack. If they are not, clearly we will deal with this group of lines in the same way as the others.
Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, can the Minister explain why, over the past two years, his department has continually run down Railtrack as a company and then offers it an exclusive contract for London Underground?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not believe that the performance of Railtrack requires the Government to run it down. There have been some severe failures in terms of the operation of the infrastructure of what was British Rail. We believe that a number of improvements are now entering into Railtrack's operations. We consider that tighter rules are required in that respect. We shall shortly introduce legislation to achieve that end. Nevertheless, Railtrack is the source of an enormous amount of expertise in this area. There are great potential benefits in integrating the sub-surface lines with other lines which come into London and are currently controlled by Railtrack. It is therefore in the interests of Londoners that we explore such possibilities to the full with Railtrack.
Immigration and asylum are among the most sensitive and difficult issues. Decisions in individual cases can mean the difference between life and death. They raise human rights questions and impact directly on the lives of applicants and their families.
We want to uphold this country's long-standing tradition of giving shelter to those who flee persecution. However, there is no doubt that the asylum system is being used by those seeking to evade immigration control. The number of asylum applications has increased 10-fold over the past 10 years. In 1998, nearly 70 per cent of asylum applicants given refugee status or exceptional leave to remain came from just four countries. By contrast, within the next top 30 asylum producing countries, there was a group of 16 countries which accounted for no more than 156 acceptances, or just under 2 per cent of the total acceptances. Together those countries accounted for 13,865 applications in 1998. In other words, there were a number of countries from which very few, if any, applicants could establish their claims.
We have to face those facts and improve the system to protect genuine refugees and to sustain public confidence in our procedures. We have to strike a series of balances. We must speed up the system, but ensure that all applicants have a fair hearing. We must make the system fairer, but minimise the scope for abuse. We must balance a firm immigration control with our strong commitment to human rights and to race equality. The Bill tries to strike those balances. It represents the most radical reform of immigration and asylum law for decades.
Part I of the Bill contains provisions essential to modernise and make flexible the operation of immigration controls. For example, the Bill enables a visa to confer leave to enter which will accelerate procedures at ports. The Home Secretary, as well as immigration officers, will be able to grant or refuse leave to enter. This is aimed at improving the handling of certain types of casework. The provisions will not change the fundamental basis on which our immigration control operates--all arriving passengers will continue to be seen at the port of entry, and will be refused entry if they do not qualify.
It is a fact of life that there will always be some people in the United Kingdom who are not entitled to be here. That may be because they entered illegally or, although they entered legally, their circumstances have changed and they no longer qualify to remain. Part I therefore makes provision for the removal of certain persons from the country. In future, overstayers--those who have overstayed their leave and are here unlawfully--will be liable to administrative removal, not deportation as now. Clause 9 will enable the Dublin convention--which governs the return of asylum seekers to the European Union member state responsible for considering their asylum claim--to operate more effectively. Clause 11--and other provisions in Part VII of the Bill--extend the power to fingerprint certain persons to assist identification and removal: the power to fingerprint asylum seekers was introduced in 1993.
This Government are as keenly committed to stamping out racial discrimination as they are to ensuring firm immigration control. Clause 18 therefore re-emphasises to employers their duty to avoid racial discrimination in their recruitment practices when seeking to establish the statutory defence under Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996. It places on the Home Secretary a statutory duty to issue a code of practice aimed at ensuring that employers do not breach the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1968.
Your Lordships will be well aware of the recent phenomenon of clandestine entrants emerging from the backs of lorries and other vehicles, sometimes on the hard-shoulder of motorways miles from a port. More than 9,000 clandestine entrants were detected in 1998 compared with under 500 in 1992. Illegal immigration on that scale represents a serious threat to the integrity of control and we are determined to tackle it.
Part II therefore provides for a new civil penalty to apply for each clandestine entrant brought to the United Kingdom concealed in any vehicle, ship or aircraft. The Bill provides for defences, for example, when the responsible person was acting under duress, or for those who can demonstrate that they have an effective system in place for preventing the carriage of illegal immigrants and that it has been properly applied. The Home Secretary must issue a code of practice setting out the procedures that should be followed by road hauliers and others who operate a system to prevent clandestine entrants from using their vehicles, which will be taken into account in determining whether such a system is effective for the purposes of the statutory defence. Part II also replaces, and extends to buses and coaches, the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act 1987 and introduces provisions enabling the detention of transporters as security for payment.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill which deal with the arrangements for immigration detainees. Part III introduces important new safeguards for immigration detainees. It introduces a more extensive judicial element into the detention process by means of a system of routine bail hearings, but the Government have decided that we should go further. The Government intend to bring forward amendments during the proceedings in this House to provide for a statutory presumption of bail, with exceptions to ensure effective immigration control and enforcement.
Part VIII of the Bill provides a proper statutory framework for all aspects of the management and administration of detention centres and for the escort of detainees. Taken together, the provisions regarding bail and detention centres will provide significant additional safeguards for immigration detainees.
Part IV of the Bill deals with immigration and asylum appeals. Reform of the appeals system is an essential element of our long-term strategy. Appeals have an important part to play in securing a fair system, but the current process is complex, and the existing multiple rights of appeal delay the final resolution of cases. That, uniquely among appeals systems, works to the advantage, not the detriment, of some appellants by
Part IV therefore introduces a one-stop comprehensive appeal which aims to cover in one stage all aspects of a case that carry a right of appeal. When an application is refused, or in certain cases as soon as it is made, the applicant will be invited to set out all the grounds on which he or she wishes to remain in the United Kingdom, including asylum or ECHR grounds. The subsequent appeal will then consider all the factors in the case on which an appeal may be brought. Unless a ground for staying in the United Kingdom has been set out at this stage, it cannot form the basis for an appeal by the applicant unless he had a reasonable excuse for not mentioning it when invited to do so, or, in the case of an asylum claim, provided he is not making the claim solely to delay his removal.
Under Part IV, as a general rule, only persons who are lawfully present at the time they apply for permission to remain longer and where a refusal would require their departure may appeal while remaining in the United Kingdom. Those who are here unlawfully, such as overstayers, will have no right of appeal while they remain in this country. except where they are claiming asylum or ECHR rights. They will be removed under administrative arrangements in accordance with Clause 8.
Part IV also fulfils a manifesto commitment to reinstate a right of appeal to those who are refused a visa for the purpose of a family visit. The previous Government removed that right by the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993. We think that that was wrong. The measure in the 1993 Act caused great resentment in ethnic minority communities who had relatives living abroad who wished to visit their family here, and Part IV puts that right.
Part V of the Bill fulfils a further commitment in the manifesto; that is, to regulate immigration advisers. There is no place in this country for unscrupulous advisers who prey on the vulnerable for their own profit. Part 5 therefore creates a statutory scheme to regulate both unqualified and, to a degree, legally qualified advisers. It will be a criminal offence, punishable on indictment by up to two years' imprisonment or a fine or both, to provide advice in breach of the scheme. The scheme will not be brought into force in respect of legally qualified advisers unless the Home Secretary and, as appropriate, the Lord Chancellor or Scottish Ministers, consider that the relevant designated professional body has failed effectively to regulate its members who provide immigration advice and services.
The regulation of immigration advisers will be administered by an immigration services commissioner who will have powers to investigate complaints against advisers and to withdraw registration or, in the case of registered and some other advisers, to lay a disciplinary charge. In the interests of fairness there will be an immigration services tribunal to hear any disciplinary charges laid by the commissioner, to which an aggrieved person may appeal against a decision of the commissioner.
This Government are simply not prepared to see asylum seekers destitute in our country. We are determined to provide support to those in genuine need, but to do so in a way which minimises the incentive to economic migrants who undermine public support for genuine refugees.
Under Part VI, support will be provided completely separately from the main benefits system. The only exception to this will be unaccompanied children, for whom existing arrangements under the Children Act will continue. The new scheme will be administered by the Home Office. Accommodation will be offered to asylum seekers on a no-choice basis. This is no different from what can happen in respect of UK residents who present themselves as homeless, usually because accommodation is more readily available in places outside London and the south-east. None of this is to mean that asylum seekers will be placed in accommodation isolated from other support systems. Accommodation is likely to be in clusters, taking account as far as possible of the support available from existing communities.
Other non-accommodation support will be given partly in vouchers and partly in cash. The Government have decided that the cash element of the non- accommodation support should be £10 per person per week. So a family of two adults and two children, for non-accommodation support, will each week receive £40 cash and just over £50 in vouchers.
A good deal was said elsewhere about the impact of these arrangements on families with children. Those concerns have been responded to. Clause 113 imposes a new duty on the Home Secretary to meet the accommodation and essential living needs of destitute asylum-seeker families with minor children. The assistance they will receive in this way will be comparable to what would otherwise be available in respect of accommodation and essential living needs under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. All other safeguards for children contained in the Children Act will continue to apply. We will ensure that there is 24-hour cover so families will always have somewhere to turn in an emergency. Nevertheless, the Government are aware of continuing concern about the level of provision for children and I will therefore be giving this further consideration.
As part of our strategy for speeding up the asylum system we have set a target of delivering, by April 2001, most initial asylum decisions within two months and most appeals within a further four months. We have decided that from April 2000 initial asylum decisions on new asylum applications from families with children
Part VII concerns immigration officers' powers to arrest and search and extends the power to fingerprint. Effective enforcement is an essential part of a fair and firm immigration control. Under current legislation, immigration officers too often have to rely on a police presence to perform basic low-key enforcement tasks. This is not the best use of police time or immigration service resources. Part VII therefore extends the existing powers of arrest of immigration officers and provides them with powers of search, entry and seizure in respect of immigration offences equivalent to those the police already have. These powers will be subject to safeguards similar to those which cover the police under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
Finally, Part IX of the Bill with Clause 20 provides marriage registrars with new powers aimed at tackling abuse of marriage for immigration purposes. The Government are making these provisions to deal with the growing problem of sham marriages being used as a means to circumvent immigration law and immigration rules. Your Lordships will have seen reports in the press about rackets where women settled in the United Kingdom go through marriage ceremonies with a number of different men solely to enable them to remain in the United Kingdom. We believe that these reported cases are probably only the tip of an iceberg.
Clause 20 therefore imposes a new statutory duty on marriage registrars throughout the United Kingdom to report suspected sham marriages for immigration purposes to the Home Office. This builds on the existing informal arrangements. If this new duty is to be effective, registrars need greater powers to establish the identity of parties to a marriage. Part 9 therefore provides power to request evidence of name, age, marital status and nationality. In addition, couples will normally have to give 15 days' notice of marriage and to attend personally to give that notice. The registrar cannot refuse to marry on immigration grounds; he can refuse to marry only where he is not satisfied that the parties are legally free so to marry. There will be a right of appeal in such circumstances to the Registrar General.
These changes in the marriage law are aimed at curbing the abuse of civil marriage for immigration purposes. They do not and cannot in any way affect those who marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales after ecclesiastical preliminaries; those preliminaries are different and there is no evidence of their abuse. Because they affect all civil preliminaries,
By any standards this is a comprehensive reform of immigration and asylum law. It is essential to deliver the fairer, faster, firmer system to which we are committed. It is a large and complex Bill. It is important to get it right. It therefore comes to this House following a wide-ranging process of consultation and scrutiny by a special standing committee in another place.
We have already made a number of amendments to the Bill to reflect points made in that process. For instance, as I said earlier, we will be introducing amendments to provide a statutory presumption of bail. We intend to introduce safeguards on Police and Criminal Evidence Act lines in relation to the powers for immigration officers. We shall be introducing other amendments in relation to provision of additional immigration services, provision of escorts for removals and in relation to Home Office travel documents.
Perhaps I may say, as I have on earlier occasions, that any amendment put forward that is consistent with the purpose of the Bill and sympathetic to its underlying approach will be given open-minded consideration. As I have said in introducing earlier Bills, if any of your Lordships, with or without advisers, wish to see me, with or without officials, the door is open. I repeat, any amendments consistent with the purpose of the Bill and consonant with its underlying spirit will be given fair scrutiny.
What we are looking to, and what we must deliver, is a modern, flexible and streamlined system capable of dealing with the pressures which are constantly growing and the demands that are increasing. It should, if we get it right, serve the interests of all our people; it should, if we get it right, better serve the interests of those entitled to visit or to settle here and the interests of genuine refugees. It will give immigration staff, who are hard pressed, the tools that they need to operate a modern, decent and efficient immigration control system.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the background to this Bill is, of course, the problems and, in some respects, the chaos in the immigration and asylum system of this country. As the Minister said, the problems have escalated over the past decade. The previous government were opposed in almost all their efforts to tackle those problems by the then Opposition. But since the general election, it seems to me that the problems have been made worse by the present Government. Their arrival in government sent, by itself, a signal that controls would be relaxed and that the situation would be made easier as far as concerns people in these circumstances. Their early actions and statements reinforced that idea. Flowing from that, the backlog of cases of asylum seekers has increased and the number of applications is at an all-time high. Simultaneously, and for various reasons that we
However, the result has been that the Government have now--rightly, in my view--changed to a tougher approach; indeed, it is tougher in some important respects than the approach of the previous government. That is why there is a need for action and a need for this Bill. We support the aims of the Government in bringing in this legislation; but I emphasis the word "aims". In company with a wide range of organisations whose members have to deal with the situation day by day, we still have great reservations about many of the provisions.
The first aim of the Bill is to speed up the decision-making system. That is certainly a most desirable aim in itself, but it also seems to me to be absolutely crucial to the whole Bill. If the effect of these measures is not to speed up the processes and reduce the tremendous backlog, then other provisions in the Bill will become increasingly draconian. References have been made to a report by Stoy Hayward on the feasibility of meeting these targets. That report was prepared for the Government and was, I believe, due to be delivered to the Home Office about 10 days ago. I am sure that it would be helpful to your Lordships to know what were the conclusions of Stoy Hayward as a result of that study as to whether or not the Government's targets in speeding up the process are likely to be met. As things stand, I think that there is grave doubt about the possibility of achieving those targets.
As the Minister made clear, the Bill sets out to streamline the appeal process with one-stop appeals, and so on. But there are also new opportunities for appeals under the European Convention on Human Rights. These will provide new opportunities for delay for those who have sought in the past, and who still seek, to spin-out the process in their own interests. Partly, I suppose, for these reasons, the Bill also sets out to remove the incentive for delaying an application by cutting down the support that is given to asylum seekers and eliminating it altogether for those who, having failed on appeal, go to judicial review. Incidentally, there seems to be some doubt about how that provision about no support for those going to judicial review stands with the ECHR. But for those who do get support, it will be some 70 per cent of basic income support levels.
The new system of vouchers and accommodation provision is to be organised by a new section of the Home Office within the Immigration and Nationality directorate. I see from the Explanatory Notes to the Bill that the staff proposed for this new organisation will number 300. They will inevitably have to dispense accommodation, vouchers and some cash to tens of thousands of people--indeed, it was about 52,000 at the last count, but obviously the Government hope that that number will be reduced--to the value, initially, of some £350 million a year, which it is hoped will be reduced as the backlog comes down. However, that is an average of more than £1 million of vouchers and
The 300 staff of this new agency will necessarily be distributed all round the United Kingdom. That will be particularly so because of the dispersal policy which is to be followed under the Bill and which I believe is a sensible policy. They will need to provide a 24-hour service, not least to deal with children who turn up needing care, just as local authorities have to do at present. The Minister said--and I welcome this--that the aim would be to provide 24-hour cover; but I do not really see how 300 staff can provide that in every necessary area throughout the country, unless they all sit in relatively few places and use the telephone instead of actually seeing the people concerned and thereby understanding the problems for themselves. So there are real difficulties with such proposals.
It seems to some that this new support system should, therefore, not come into force until the numbers involved have deceased. That is a fair enough point on the surface, but the problem is that these tough new measures are, as I said earlier, a major part of the efforts to bring the numbers down in the first place. So if the tough measures which are supposed to bring down the numbers are not to be implemented until the numbers are down, it is difficult to see how we will ever reach that point.
We shall, of course, want to probe these matters in the later, more detailed debates on the Bill in this House, especially as they relate to children. All refugees are vulnerable, but the children are the most vulnerable. When children come here in these circumstances, it is rarely, if ever, their choice. It may be the parents' choice, but it is not the children's. But the Bill removes from those children the protection of the Children Act 1989, the basic, all-embracing measure for the protection and support of all the children in this country.
One of the other aspects we shall want to probe particularly, both in this context and also wider and covering other provisions, is that of the many provisions throughout the Bill for power to be taken to do things by statutory instrument. We shall obviously want to look carefully at the report of the Delegated Powers Committee when it becomes available. Without information, and indeed undertakings, on the use of the powers and what is intended, it is very difficult to be sure about the effects of the Bill. Everything we say about it must be taken with that caveat.
Clause 1 starts as the Bill means to go on, by giving the Secretary of State power to lay down any conditions for the giving or refusal of entry into the United Kingdom. This has to be done by order, subject to the
The noble Lord the Minister ran necessarily rather briefly--I do not complain about it--over all the clauses in the Bill in general terms. As he said, it is a very long and complex Bill. I do not want to refer to all the clauses at this stage; that would delay your Lordships unnecessarily. But the provisions regarding marriage registration; exchange of confidential personal information between agencies; the proposed but still very vague bond scheme; the powers of arrest, search and fingerprinting, to which the Minister referred; the proposals regarding employers: these are all significant matters about which your Lordships will be concerned, and all have attracted adverse comment from relevant bodies.
The detention provisions, too, will need special attention. The detention of children is envisaged as possible; indeed, necessary in some circumstances. But it is not clear whether the normal secure accommodation regulations will be applied to detention centres. It is not clear also to what extent it is proposed to contract out detention. Given the contrasts that were drawn yesterday by the Chief Inspector of Prisons between Wormwood Scrubs and privately run prisons, I can see a great advantage in contracting out in some circumstances, but we do not know at the moment what is intended.
I could not see in the Bill, although from what the Minister said it seems I may have missed something, provision for the proper judicial overview of the decision to detain. In Scotland, at least, it has been suggested that those detained while seeking asylum are to be treated worse than those accused of crimes.
Part V provides for the regulation of immigration advisers. I can support the principle behind this power, but some very pertinent questions have been asked about how it will work and the costs involved to the relevant organisations. We shall need to look at that. I am not clear also whether a Member of another place will in future be forbidden to give any advice to constituents on immigration matters. I presume not, but I am not sure how he or she will be able to do that under the Bill. The same applies to organisations like the citizens advice bureaux. Not all their staff, presumably, will be able to give advice under the Bill.
There is also great concern, as the noble Lord the Minister acknowledged, about the liability provisions for carriers in Part II, and in particular the consequences for lorry drivers. Most lorry drivers are law-abiding people who want to do their job properly and conscientiously, but the Bill seems to start from the opposite assumption. Again there is some vagueness,
The main problem is one of blame. Is the lorry driver really to blame if there are clandestine immigrants in a container owned by one company, on a trailer owned by another, when he is in the tractor owned by a third company, presumably his own employer, and he then collects the trailer and container, and incidentally the clandestine immigrants within, from a depot or park in France? If he later discovers, on the journey, on arrival or whatever, that, say, a family of four is on board, what is he to do? He can either say, "I have discovered these people", in which case there is an automatic fine of £8,000 on him plus, I think, £8,000 on his employer, and the possible confiscation of the lorry, which will not make him popular. That does not seem a sensible arrangement to put in the Bill.
No one can object to the principles of fairer, faster and firmer, which are the aims of this legislation, as set out originally in the White Paper and subsequently, but there is great concern about how the Bill will work. We all want the same thing. It is a very difficult and complex area of policy, as the noble Lord the Minister said in almost his first words. But we all want to admit genuine asylum seekers and legitimate immigrants with the maximum toleration and humanity. We all want to refuse those who try to enter illegally, or overstay, as promptly as possible, consistent with fairness. But there is room for grave doubt whether the Bill will achieve those aims.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, immigration and asylum issues are fairly emotive matters. Let me make it clear that no one, least of all we on this side of the House, advocates an open door policy. Despite the nature and effects of various immigration and asylum legislation, the circumstances surrounding it remain contentious. Every country has a right to determine its immigration and asylum policy. That cannot be disputed. Those policies will command more respect if control procedures are manifestly seen to be fair.
During the debate on the Queen's Speech I said that we would scrutinise the proposed legislation carefully. We want to ensure that fairness has not been sacrificed in favour of a firmer and faster policy. I have some sympathy for the Government. They inherited a situation which was in a shambles. The heavy emphasis on excluding the ineligible, rather than giving prompt attention to the rights of those who are eligible, led to administrative practices which result in an adverse effect on asylum seekers in this country. The result was for all to see. The current system is in disarray and in a mess. There are thousands of applications awaiting determination and a similar number awaiting appeals.
"incentive not to hire black staff or people with foreign sounding names". The Labour Party pledged to repeal this provision. The retention by the Government of Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 is the most disappointing indication of their commitment to racial equality. There is no evidence that Section 8 has provided an effective deterrent to illegal working or racketeering. What it has done is to increase the cost to employers and to add to the barriers which genuine applicants face. The opinion
The Bill gives immigration officers powers to arrest a person for a list of immigration offences. It also gives them wide powers to enter and search, including premises of family and employers, to look for evidence of any of these offences. New powers include personal search on arrest, and strip search if the person is detained at a police station. Immigration officers, police constables, prison officers, officers authorised by the Home Secretary and staff of private contractors who manage detention centres are all authorised to take fingerprints of immigrants or asylum seekers in a range of circumstances, most of which do not involve illegality. Reasonable force can be used by anyone authorised (Clauses 132 and 133) in the taking of fingerprints.
Immigration officers will not have had the same training or experience in the use of arrest and search powers or the appropriate use of force. Unlike the police, the Immigration Service is not directly accountable to a public authority. While the Government have announced a strengthening of the Immigration Service complaints procedure, currently it is little used and not equipped to respond to the types of complaints likely to arise when immigration officers take on new coercive powers. Private contractors have no public accountability and are unlikely to give their staff race equality training or to operate a complaints procedure. Concern has already been expressed about this and the Government have agreed to make sure that the provisions of the relevant part of the PACE codes of practice will apply. But much more than that is needed; namely, appropriate training such as police officers now receive in the implementation of PACE.
"such circumstances as may be specified", and so on. In many areas the details are missing, as was rightly pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. The Immigration Law Practitioners Association has identified over 70 areas where there is no such detail. None of us can be confident that we will have more efficient and effective machinery. The situation--and I avoid mentioning the Passport Agency--in Croydon has been a scandal for most of this year. There are complaints about inaccessible files, unopened post and massive delays. The immigration and asylum appeals system is chaotic. The Bill does little to improve it. It fails to rectify the injustice whereby many people have no right of appeal before expulsion, and indeed removes such a right from people who have it now. With certification it retains the complex two-tier system of asylum appeals. There is, however, a right of appeal for some visitors refused visas. Practitioners need to be convinced that the appeals system will become more efficient and effective. On the basis of their briefing material this is unlikely.
We welcomed the provision in the Bill about unscrupulous advisers and the Government's intention to regulate previously unregulated advisers. What we want now is some remedy to address the problem of an inadequate supply of good quality immigration advice. Bodies such as the Immigration Advisory Service, the Refugee Council, the Refugee Legal Centre and many others are working under severe pressure. It is in the Government's interest to ensure that assistance to such bodies will assist in improving the system. We ask that the Immigration Services Commissioner should be properly accountable. Simply preparing a report himself on his own effectiveness is not good enough.
There are obviously certain issues which are not addressed in the Bill. There is likely to be a devastating impact on women and children fleeing rape and other violence. It is estimated that a substantial number of women seeking asylum have been raped, and yet rape is not recognised as persecution and therefore grounds for asylum. There is a need to be compassionate.
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