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Lord Renton: My Lords, is it not important that even motorway development should blend with the local scenery and tradition instead of it becoming an incongruous contrast with it? The replanting of shrubs is much more suitable than merely growing masses of trees which may not produce blossoms and which are merely an unfortunate contrast with what has gone before.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I could not agree with my noble friend more. It is right and proper that, where possible, the road should blend in with the existing landscape. That is why this new major development essentially follows the same road corridor as the existing A.1. A number of mitigation measures have been taken. There is a combination of trees and shrubs; and more than that, they are of the same species as those already in the area.

Offensive Weapons Bill

3.7 p.m.

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Prisoners' Earnings Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Public Service: Select Committee

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the present condition and future development of the public service in Great Britain with particular regard to the effectiveness of recent and continuing changes and their impact on standards of conduct and service in the public interest;

That, for the purposes of the Select Committee, the public service shall be deemed to exclude local government, the National Health Service, schools and institutions of higher and further education, but to include all government departments, executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies and other organisations created by or working for the public service;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be named of the Select Committee:

L. Brabazon of Tara,

L. Croham,

L. Cuckney,

L. Gillmore of Thamesfield,

L. Harris of Greenwich,

L. Lane of Horsell,

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L. Merlyn-Rees,

B. O'Cathain,

L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank,

B. Serota,

L. Slynn of Hadley (Chairman),

L. Taylor of Gryfe.

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers; and

That the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee from time to time shall, if the Committee think fit, be printed and delivered out.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Non-Domestic Rating (Information) Bill

Lord Gray of Contin: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Lord Gray of Contin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Asylum and Immigration Bill

3.9 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Blatch.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Extension of special appeals procedures]:

[Amendment No. 14, as an amendment to Amendment No.1, not moved.]

The Chairman of Committees: In calling Amendment No. 15, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and if it is not too far out of order to do so, I am sure that we all wish the noble Lord many happy returns of the day.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No.15:

Line 25, leave out from ("persecution") to end of line 27.

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The noble Lord said: I thought that the Chairman was supposed to sit in a purely formal capacity. I am grateful to him for his good wishes. I cannot think of a worse way of spending a birthday afternoon than dealing with the Asylum and Immigration Bill.

For the benefit of those Members of the Committee who were not present last Tuesday, Amendment No. 1 is the Government's welcome redrafting of the complicated formulation of Clause 1, which appears in the Bill as printed. My amendment may seem perverse at first sight because it seeks to remove the specified reasons for a fear of persecution

    "by reason of the appellant's race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion"

from sub-paragraph (4)(a) of the new clause. There are good reasons for that and I hope to show the Committee that the amendment is well justified. The reasons for a fear of persecution given in the new clause are taken from the 1951 convention. We welcome, as we have always done, the continued commitment of the Government to the convention in their legislation, as under the 1993 Act and the immigration rules, and their commitment that those rules shall never be in conflict with the convention.

The United Kingdom has signed other relevant conventions. It is important that they should be taken into account because they properly extend the definition of persecution and, above all, the definition of refugee status. Therefore, on the very sound legal principle that if one includes one list of reasons, then, by implication, one excludes another--I shall not say it in Latin this time--it is necessary to remove the specified reasons in order to include the other reasons.

The UN Convention on Torture, which is surely entirely appropriate to refugee status and therefore to asylum-seeking, with which the clause is concerned, says that an asylum seeker should not be sent back to face torture, inhuman or degrading punishment. The Committee recognised the importance of that in agreeing the amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool last Tuesday. But that is not the only additional convention with which we shall be concerned. I remind the Committee of the European Convention on Human Rights which, in Article 3, extends the reasons not only to cover persecution by a government but also persecution for which governments are not responsible but which they have been unable to stop. An example was given in Committee in another place. Mr. Martinez Quijano, of Colombia, applied for refugee status, not for convention reasons but because he was threatened by the drug barons who control so much of life in that unfortunate country. It was not that the state of Colombia was supporting or in any way condoning the threats made by the drug barons but that it could not bring a halt to their activities. When the case came to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal it recommended that he should be given exceptional leave to remain. The Home Office refused but eventually he was allowed to stay having been granted exceptional leave to remain under judicial review.

30 Apr 1996 : Column 1478

In a number of cases adjudicators responsible for appeals have accepted that an applicant has suffered torture but not for reasons given in the 1951 convention. Under those circumstances, as the Minister reminded us when we were dealing with Amendment No. 3 last week, the only power that the adjudicator has is to recommend exceptional leave to remain rather than full refugee status.

By excluding the specific provisions from Clause 1 we seek not to deny the importance of the convention and its reasons but to confirm that we have other international obligations under further treaties and conventions which should be included as proper reasons for an asylum seeker and for refugee status. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Renton: Although I am a keen supporter of the Government and commend them for bringing forward the new clause to replace Clause 1, the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is worthy of consideration. However, it is more a drafting matter than the matter of substance the noble Lord tried to indicate that it raises. "Raises" is the operative word. If Members of the Committee look at line 28 on page 2 of the new clause they will see that whereas in line 28 the word "shows" is used, in line 29--

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I did not move Amendment No. 14 which was concerned with "show" and "raise". I moved, and I am speaking to, Amendment No. 15, which is not about those words.

Lord Renton: In that case I ask the noble Lord to accept my apologies and to say that I shall come back to the matter, if necessary, when I have understood it.

Lord Dean of Harptree: I express some doubt about the amendment. It may be that additional clarification will be of some assistance. The amendment, along with others to Clause 1, substantially weakens the fast-track procedure which I regard as essential to the Bill. It is really the heart of Clause 1. The procedure is important in order to deal with abuses of our hospitality and to ensure that claims which are unlikely to be successful are dealt with as speedily as possible, thus safeguarding the position of genuine claimants. It is essential that there should be adequate safeguards in a sensitive matter of this kind.

The fast-track procedure provides those safeguards. It provides for an adjudicator who is independent. He is appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and he will consider each case on its individual merits. The procedure also provides for appeals. Unless I am mistaken in my understanding, the amendment goes a considerable way to substantially weaken the heart of Clause 1 of the Bill.

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