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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am most grateful for that explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 73 to 76 not moved.]

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 5, line 27, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Baroness said: With this amendment we come to the heart of the clause and to a subsection of the clause which most troubles me and, I believe, other Members of the Committee. I begin by saying that I wish to put this amendment in a slightly wider context. I believe that it is the responsibility of a democratic country which cares very deeply about civil liberties to strike a balance between the very powerful arguments of law and order and the equally powerful arguments of the liberty of its citizens.

In my view, subsection (3), by raising a whole range of immigration offences to the level of serious criminal offences--the same level as crimes like murder, treason, rape and other significant offences with which any country has to deal--is treating those offences disproportionately in ways which could undermine the balance between law and order and liberty in our country.

I say very clearly, because I do not wish for one moment to be misunderstood on this matter, that in saying this I am not attempting to support the argument that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in this country. I wish to say in advance that I shall have every reason to feel extremely offended if that argument is used against this amendment.

I have been in the Home Office and have held the same position as the Minister. I am well aware that there are illegal immigrants and that there are rackets in

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illegal immigration. I am well aware also that there are genuine cases of people who seek asylum; that there are men and women all over the world who have stood up for democracy in the most difficult situations in their own countries and who, not only through no fault of their own but because their principles are outstanding, find themselves obliged to flee for the lives of their families and themselves.

It is in striking the balance between dealing with illegal immigrants on the one side and recognising the genuine nature of asylum seekers on the other that the wisdom of this Chamber is to be found. In my view, subsection (3) pushes the scales too far against the genuine asylum seeker.

It has been pointed out in this Chamber time and again from the Cross Benches, from the Benches opposite and from all sides of the Chamber that that is so. It has been pointed out that in some cases the situation of asylum seekers is so desperate that the only way in which they can leave their country is by using false papers. I must repeat that in some cases deception is due to force majeure. It is far beyond the capacity of those people fleeing not to use false papers. Nigeria is not in the habit of issuing true papers for people who try to leave the country because their lives are at risk as opponents of a terrible, tyrannical government. We now see such action being treated as a criminal offence on the same scale as murder. I consider that to be disproportionate.

I take the argument one stage further. In a long life in politics, I have learned to respect Home Secretaries on both sides of the House. I have learned also to have grave doubts about some Home Secretaries on both sides of the House. The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, the noble Lord, Lord Carr, and many years ago, Mr. Herbert Morrison, when Home Secretary, understood the balance between law and order and liberty in a way which I believe was greatly to the credit of this country and enhanced the actions of Her Majesty's Government. I am afraid that I must say that in supporting subsection (3) the present Home Secretary has failed to understand the profound necessity of protecting individual liberties as well as protecting law and order. I repeat that it is that balance which lies at the very heart of individual freedom and democracy.

By raising these offences to the level that it does, subsection (3) carries with it penalties on a scale which in my view are, not in every case but in the broad group of cases, disproportionate. For example, there is no qualification to the use of the phrase "by force". It is not a question of hypothesis because we have seen, sadly, one or two cases where the force has been such that it has led to the death of the person involved. The case of Joy Gardner springs to mind. We have seen cases where, no doubt under the kind of pressure to which the right reverend Prelate referred, police officers have been pushed or gone beyond what should be their own levels of self restraint.

What frightens me about the clause is that even the qualifications made in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act a few years ago that force should be reasonable and, more than that, that attempts to search places should be

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made at reasonable hours unless there are strong reasons why they should not be, have been dropped as safeguards in this subsection.

In some cases, the people of whom we are talking have the most profound reason to fear a knock at the door at 3 a.m. I worked in central Europe--in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania--among people who know what it is to suddenly find their houses searched without warrant, not by our police, no, but by police in other countries. Some of those people are today refugees in this country. They live in an atmosphere of extreme fear. This subsection feeds that atmosphere in ways that are not justified.

I repeat that I see no argument at all for not retaining all the safeguards in the 1971 Immigration Act. They are set out clearly. They are fairly draconian. They include the right to arrest and to search and, in some cases, to arrest without warrant. They give power to search on the written statement of the justice of the peace. But they do not attempt to raise such matters as illegal over-staying to the level of murder and treason.

I believe that the Home Secretary will have reason to rue this subsection. I believe that he is creating criminals where there are no criminal intentions. That is an extremely unwise measure for a democratic government to take. I beg all Members of the Committee on all sides to consider very carefully indeed whether we should not do grave damage to our constitutional traditions and inheritance if we allowed this subsection to stand in Clause 7. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon: I should like to express my support for the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. Indeed, the noble Baroness spoke in most powerful terms of the effect of the clause. I should like to read an extract from a report of the Glidewell Panel of inquiry to which reference has already been made several times in this Chamber. It is an independent panel chaired by a recently retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Iain Glidewell. It considered all the clauses in the Bill and, in relation to Clause 7, it said, among other things:

    "We are seriously concerned about the draconian nature of the powers given to police and immigration officers under clause 7. We consider these quite inappropriate for the type of offences indicated".

I should like to press the Minister on the matter of serious arrestable offences. I fail to understand why offences under this legislation should be placed in the same category as those offences to which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, made reference; for example, murder, rape, kidnapping, treason, offences which result in death or very serious injury, and so on. The offences about which we are talking are, of course, real offences. Like the noble Baroness, I hold no brief for illegal immigrants. I believe that they should not be in this country. Indeed, I believe that so strongly that, as the Minister knows, I have been in touch with a member of her staff about a particular illegal immigrant who I felt should not be here.

However, that does not mean to say that I regard such offences as being in anything like the same category as those which are at present regarded as serious arrestable

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offences. I believe that I am right in saying that the offences under the Bill are triable only in a magistrates' court, and that there are maximum sentences which are at present six months' imprisonment or a suitable fine. Therefore, they are of an entirely different order from the offences that I have already mentioned. It seems to me to be quite illogical that the offences under the Bill should be placed in the same category.

Under subsection (3) the police are able to obtain a search warrant and then search premises in order to seize and retain anything for which the search is authorised. Once they are on the premises, they can seize anything related to the offence or, indeed, anything which is evidence of any other offence. I suppose that they could be searching for wage slips which might indicate the name of a particular person who is employed in some way; they might be searching for lists of people present at a youth club or at some sort of meeting; or they might be searching for membership lists or personal correspondence.

In pursuance of their search for such material, the police could be entering a wide variety of premises. I have in mind not just premises occupied by someone who may be under suspicion but also premises occupied by someone who is not under suspicion. For example, such premises could include the homes of relatives or friends, social clubs, places of work, schools or colleges, community centres and places of worship.

Under Amendment No. 79, which is tabled in my name, I have set out an exclusion which would mean that a particular group of buildings, including hospitals, schools and places of worship, would be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. Indeed, I shall speak to that amendment in due course. However, in relation to the general issue now before the Committee, all sorts of premises could be entered.

I believe that we must return to the matter of race. Although I hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, says, people who are likely to be regarded as committing immigration offences are often from Africa or the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, the kind of places to which I referred--that is, places where social gatherings take place--are more likely to be targeted if it is believed that there are people present there from Africa or India who may conceivably have offended under the Bill. It is quite possible that such places are likely to experience the arrival of the police at anti-social hours, brandishing their warrants. That will be perceived as having something to do with the fact that people from Africa or India are present in such places. Inevitably a sense of targeting will be felt. That, in turn, is bound to have some effect on race relations.

Effective policing depends upon trust and confidence between the police and members of the community. The implication of this particular subsection is that members of communities, where there are likely to be those who have offended under the legislation, cannot be trusted to assist the police in their inquiries and that, therefore, it is necessary to adopt such exceptional powers which at present are only reserved for the very gravest offences. As I said, there is an implication of distrust. The

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adoption of those greater powers must surely undermine to some extent relationships between the police and communities, not least ethnic minority communities.

In my view, the Government have not demonstrated that that exceptional power is necessary for the Bill. In the past, Parliament has been very reluctant to grant such powers to the police. For such regulatory crimes--that is, crimes which involve no victim and which are of a much lower level than the very serious ones which at present fall within the scope of serious arrestable offences--I believe that the Government should do much more to indicate why such a power is necessary.

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