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Baroness Blatch: In the spirit of unity and consensus, perhaps I may begin by agreeing with the proposition advanced by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of

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Haringey, have a very happy birthday. But now, to business--although I hope that nothing that I say will detract from that proposition.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, proposes to delete the last 15 words of sub-paragraph (4)(a), which is aimed at a claim which does not show a fear of persecution. Under the amendment, sub-paragraph(4)(a) would no longer specify that the persecution must be for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The existing text follows the wording of the 1951 convention. Moreover, asylum appeals under Section 8 of the 1993 Act are made on the grounds that the applicant's removal would be contrary to the United Kingdom's obligations under the 1951 convention. It is for those reasons that we consider that sub-paragraph (4)(a) should remain precisely aligned with the convention's criteria.

It is also right to say that nothing in this part of the Bill precludes all our obligations under other international law. If the Opposition really want to incorporate international instruments into our immigration law, they will need to make a far more radical revision of the 1793 Act. That Act provides that it is on 1951 convention grounds that an appeal is exercised under Section 8 against removal. Clause 1 relates specifically and solely to appeals on asylum grounds. It is for that reason that we believe it important to leave it as it is. The example of Colombia which the noble Lord gave a few moments ago confirms that discretion is exercised on the granting of exceptional leave for those applicants who fall outside the 1951 criteria. The question of giving legal effect to the adjudicator's recommendations is to be debated later, as the noble Lord knows, when we reach Amendment No. 48. I hope that Amendment No. 15 will not be pressed.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Perhaps I may deal with the last point first. The Minister is right to say that the example that I gave resulted in the person concerned being granted exceptional leave to remain. However, he was not granted that exceptional leave to remain thanks to the Government; he was granted it as a result of judicial review and in the face of that exceptional leave to remain being recommended by the adjudicator, but followed by a refusal from the Home Office. So I do not think that the Minister should use that example to claim credit for the Government's flexibility.

I suppose that the Minister is trying to make me happy by suggesting that I should be much more radical in my attacks on the Bill. However, I would have to be radical going back over a period of 23 years to the 1973 Act. I am not convinced that such a wholesale approach would meet with the approval of the Committee--and still less with the approval of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, if we were to use amendments to legislation now to extend the scope of the 1973 Act. I thought--I still think--I gladly give way to the Minister--

Baroness Blatch: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I think that we are both wrong. I think that

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I referred to the 1873 Act while the noble Lord referred to the 1973 Act, whereas we are talking about the 1993 Act.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Just to compound the confusion, the Minister actually referred to the 1793 Act. In fact, we are concerned with both the 1971 and the 1993 Acts. It was the 1971 Act which first gave statutory authority to the 1951 convention.

I am grateful for the Minister's confirmation that we take account of the United Nations Convention on Torture and of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Minister had better say that because that is what the Committee decided when it approved Amendment No. 3 last week. When it is printed, it will be part of the Bill that torture is to be treated as a proper reason for seeking asylum and for being granted refugee status.

I do not think that the Committee should be asked to express an opinion on this matter. I could indeed have been more radical in my attack on the Bill, but I think that the point was made by the decision taken by the Committee last week, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 15, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 16:

Line 27, at end insert ("or a risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment").

The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lord Dubs spoke to this amendment last week when it was grouped with Amendment No. 3 which was approved by the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: It is important that we debate this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, did not speak to Amendment No. 16 last week. I have with me the Hansard of that debate which I have read carefully. The noble Lord spoke specifically to the amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. The whole debate was about Amendment No. 3. Amendment No. 16 was not mentioned until I wound up and I mentioned it simply because it was grouped with Amendment No. 3. Amendment No. 16 is, however, a free-standing amendment. It is not consequential upon Amendment No. 3 and I believe that if the Committee wants to debate it, it should do so. I certainly wish to speak to the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I acknowledge that although Amendment No. 16 was debated last week, it was the Minister who referred to it specifically rather than my noble friend. The amendments were intended to be taken together. If my noble friend had referred to it more specifically, I should have insisted that the two be taken together. In view of the fact that other amendments on torture are to be considered in relation to later clauses, I shall not press the procedural matter now, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment No. 16, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 16A:

Line 27, at end insert--
("( ) it does not show a fear of persecution by reason of gender").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment has been tabled partly to learn more about the Government's intentions. I shall move it briefly because we may want to return to the matter in the broader debate on Clause 1 stand part.

Perhaps I may outline briefly why I have tabled the amendment. I refer first to the answer given by the Minister just now. If the Bill keeps closely to a set of criteria upon which the decision as to whether to allow in an asylum seeker is upheld, the issue of whether gender is such a base becomes more important. Perhaps I may say why I believe that this is of such very great importance. In 1951 the list which appears on the face of the Bill was drawn up by the European Convention. I am not trying in any way to amend that convention, but it did not include the issue of gender. That was reasonable at the time because gender would not have been seen as a ground for persecution. Would that that were still so.

I refer to one of the more recent cases to come before the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. It involved a woman in Iran, a financial adviser to a substantial company, who was threatened by a group of fundamentalist Moslems for refusing to wear a veil. She was told that if she refused to wear a veil, she would be treated as a prostitute. She was a Western-educated woman who believed that she was entitled to wear decent and respectable clothes of her own choosing. She was badly beaten in prison and told that if she continued not to wear a veil she would be subject to capital punishment on the ground that she was a prostitute. We were perhaps not aware of such cases in 1951, but alas they are now cropping up regularly, notably in Algeria.

The second reason why I advance the amendment relates to the strong recommendations that were laid down--and accepted by the Government--in the Warburton Report, which, as many Members of the Committee will know, dealt with the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war in Bosnia. Our Government joined other members of the European Community in saying:

    "member States are appalled by these crimes and the inhumanity which marks the present conflict".

The recommendations indicated that refugees who had suffered those extreme forms of assault were entitled to special and careful consideration if they applied for refugee status. That is in the Warburton Report, which is in the Library. At that time throughout the European Union a number of women were accepted as refugees because of the terrible circumstances that they had experienced.

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More recently, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the United Kingdom Government, among many governments, gave their name to the recommendations under the action programme, one of which read:

    "Apply international norms to ensure equal access and equal treatment of women and men in refugee determination procedures and the granting of asylum, including full respect and strict observation of the principle of non-refoulement".

That is in paragraph (h) in the section of the United Nations action programme which deals with refugees and women who have been subject to systematic violence. I had the honour and pleasure of seeing Her Majesty's Government strongly support the debates in Beijing, fully recognising the specific dangers to which women were subject very much in the context of their gender.

I fully appreciate that this amendment may not be properly drafted, but I hope that the Minister will not object to it simply on drafting grounds. It would be easy to withdraw it and bring it back under proper drafting procedures at Report stage. At this moment I am simply concerned to establish whether the noble Baroness perceives the special reference to social groups as pertaining to women who suffer on the grounds of their gender unspeakable torture and behaviour. She may be able to give us that response. I am sure she will understand that to describe half the human race as a social group is a little odd. I have tabled this amendment with the intention of finding out how Her Majesty's Government feel about it, with the possibility of bringing it back at a later stage in the passage of this Bill. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: I seek clarification on the amendment. With respect to the noble Baroness, does not the amendment extend the traditional definition under the convention of fear of persecution? If so, what practical purpose does it serve? If there is persecution, under the convention as presently defined it is immaterial whether it relates to a man or a woman. I fail to understand the position. There must be something missing from my appreciation. I cannot see what useful, practical purpose is served by the amendment. I say so with respect and in ignorance.

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