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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am sympathetic to that proposal. The way the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, puts it is more acceptable than the way it is expressed in the amendment, and more feasible. All these things are acceptable, but his proposal is more feasible than the way expressed in the amendment.
However, I am sympathetic with Amendment No. 28 tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in relation to written reasons. I shall not go into details because several other noble Lords have already done so. For what it is worth, I also agree with the Government in their Amendment No. 29.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that this was a disparate group of amendments. But they have a common underpinning. When we discussed this matter on Report the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised the question in relation to likely length of detention. We said that we would look on that as favourably as we could and reflect on it. One of the problems was that identified by the noble Lord, Lord Renton; that is, that it is not a question capable of being answered. In any event, legitimate expectations would be raised. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, recognised that and sought to address it in the second part of Amendment No. 17. He said also that his amendment provided alternatives for the Government to consider.
Perhaps I can deal with one or two specific questions first. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, dealt with the implementation programme. The testing of the system by IND staff began in October. It is being carried out on dummy cases for the time being. It will continue at least until the end of the year when there will be piloting on real cases and a progressive roll-out during
I can go on to the question of giving information. A number of noble Lords raised this point and I recognise the anxieties. The current system is that we inform detainees monthly of the progress of their case. That is a proper first strand of the approach because, by means of the Bill--this should not be overlooked--the second strand is the supplementation by a statutory presumption in favour of bail and the system of routine bail hearings. I do not overlook the problems raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, my noble friends Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Sheppard, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on these matters.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was pressing on the sort of information to be given. Would it be oral or in writing? Would it be informative? I have taken on board his points. The best thing I can do is to obtain a sample of actual notifications, where necessary blanking out private material such as names or particulars, and send some of them to noble Lords and provide the same sample to the Library. If there are then further troublesome questions, at least we shall know what sort of information is given out. It may be that it will be satisfactory to the House; it may be that we could do better. The best course is to be as open and candid as possible.
Amendment No. 26 would not work. Other parts of Clause 41 would require modification; in particular the duty in subsection (5) to make a second reference on a specified timetable. The second reference point is one that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, developed. One could have examples; for instance, first routine bail hearing held, say, on 13th day following detention; proper adjournment for 21 days for medical reports in the interests of those who have proper complaints that they have been tortured, either mentally or physically; the hearing would then resume on the 35th day. That is still one day within the limit. In those circumstances there seems little purpose in having a second reference and we simply want the flexibility not to have a second reference where it does not serve any useful purpose.
I want to spend a little time on Amendment No. 28. This was dealt with by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer saying that when a person's age was in dispute there would be close contact between the immigration officer and the detainee as to the evidence available to substantiate the correct age. Information about physical or mental health or torture would be provided by the detainee or the representative of the detainee. Where concerns in relation to a person's
Many of the points raised by the noble Lords I identified by name are properly raised. It is a great pity that the need to give this information was not included in the instructions to immigration officers requiring that written reasons for detention be given in each case. In response in particular to my noble friend Lord Sheppard, officials are due to review both the instructions and the written reasons for detention form early in the new year, and I hope that if possible the form will be amended to include any information known which supports a history of torture. On behalf of my noble friend Lord Bassam and myself, the thrust of what was said found immediate favour with us. We cannot bind ourselves to the content of the form, but the points seemed to both of us to be well made and we have the opportunity of reviewing the instructions and written reasons. I have to say that the immediate feeling of both of us is that the more information that can sensibly and helpfully be given, the better. I do not think that I can make our position plainer than that and I trust that it accords with your Lordships' views.
I turn now to the question about Scotland, with which I shall deal quickly. This will be the first time in your Lordships' House that a question relating to Scotland has ever been dealt with quickly. Therefore, I hope that there are no Scottish Peers present in the Chamber. Amendment No. 29 requires the Lord Chancellor to obtain the consent of Scottish Ministers before he gives his approval to any regulations which would extend to the Sheriff Court or the Court of Session jurisdiction to hear applications for bail under Clause 50. That is a necessary consequence of the devolution machinery.
Amendment No. 59 sets out the alternative which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and others have put forward. I believe that we all share the same aim in this respect. We certainly want to have minimal use of detention. In some circumstances, there will be requirements for detention for a longer period than we would wish. I do not think that we can issue guidance on the maximum period for detention. I reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said; namely, that it is the maximum that is set down, not the probable. I do not believe that this provision would be workable. We would still be back to legitimate expectation and people would try and make this justiciable. I am not sure that one can come to a sensible conclusion in every case.
Amendment No. 60 would put a maximum of 72 hours on the time that a person could be detained before being moved into a detention centre. This simply is not practicable. On occasions, we have to use prisons and other short-term holding facilities. We do not want to use prison, but sometimes we shall simply have to do so. That could be for reasons of geography. There are some cases--quite few in number, but we must take them into account--where, for reasons of security or control, we must detain persons in prison. If those persons are violent, the public are entitled to look for protection. Similarly, if there have been
Amendment No. 61 is consequential on Amendment No. 60. Detention in the circumstances anticipated in the amendment is normally for a few days, although it may have to be slightly longer. I do not believe that we ought to accept these amendments. I hope that I have satisfied your Lordships that we have not been unsympathetic as regards the deeper thrust of the amendments and that we have not been unresponsive.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister say something about the position of persons who may be liable to be sectioned under the mental health Acts? If someone who is in detention exhibits violent tendencies and is found to be mentally ill, which turns out to be the reason for his behaviour, would he not in any case be transferred to a psychiatric hospital? Therefore, in such a case, the person would not need to be detained in the manner that the Bill describes.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is not always the case. There are, rightly, quite strict civil liberty circumscriptions around sectioning. Not everyone who has to be detained needs to be detained in the circumstances of incarceration in a psychiatric institution. Indeed, doctors do not care for it without plain evidence, and I think that they are right. What the noble Lord has said is a part, but not the whole, answer to the problem that I have identified.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken to my amendment and to the others in this group. I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for what he said about information being given after three months' detention. I look forward to hearing from the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General further details about the kind of information that will, I hope, be supplied monthly to detainees regarding the progress of their cases and any likely length of continuing detention. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.