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Lord Hylton: It seems to me that the amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has moved and spoken to are better, more comprehensive and more far-reaching than my amendments to which we shall come shortly. For those reasons, I support them.
Baroness Blatch: I should perhaps start with a technical point. I am sure that Amendment No. 134 seeks to alter paragraph 16(1) of Schedule 2 of the 1971 Act. Although the amendment actually refers to paragraph 16(1) of "Schedule 1" of the 1971 Act, that must be a drafting error because Schedule 1 did not contain 16 paragraphs and was, in any case, repealed by the British Nationality Act 1981. The amendment makes sense only if "Schedule 1" is read as "Schedule 2" to the 1971 Act, as was pointed out by the Deputy Chairman of Committees.
I turn now to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, about his visit to Campsfield House. I can only say that the noble Lord cannot have availed himself of the stream of information that is given out there routinely on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. There is nobody there who does not know what they are doing there, why they are there and what they can expect to happen next. I can tell the noble Lord that great efforts are systematically made to keep the people there well informed, including in their own language. They are seen regularly by senior members of the Immigration Service as well as routinely on a daily basis by other officials. I believe that it does the officials and the service a discredit simply to say that there are people there who from week to week do not know what is happening to them.
The intention behind this pair of amendments is fundamentally to alter the existing arrangements for the release from detention of passengers who seek to enter the United Kingdom. Currently a passenger who may be required to submit to examination by an immigration officer may be detained on the authority of the immigration officer pending examination or a decision on whether to grant or refuse him leave to enter. Once seven days have elapsed from the date of his arrival in the United Kingdom, it is open to the detained passenger to apply to an adjudicator for release on bail. If accepted, these amendments would turn the current arrangements on their head. Instead of the detained applicant seeking bail from an adjudicator, the immigration officer, after the passage of seven days, would have to seek an adjudicator's authority to maintain detention.
Decisions to detain are not taken lightly and are subject to regular review by the Immigration Service. Requiring an immigration officer to seek the authority of an adjudicator to maintain detention would undermine the integrity of the on-entry control and would create a bureaucratic and inefficient system. Such a system would place extra burdens on the Immigration Service and the already hard-pressed appellate authority without producing any obvious benefits.
The bail system currently in operation for those detained under powers in the 1971 Act clearly sets out the arrangements for seeking and granting bail and the responsibilities of the various parties to the system such as the adjudicator and immigration officer. The change proposed by Amendment No. 137A removes this clarity and replaces it with a void--absolutely nothing. Are we to understand that once an immigration officer has successfully argued in front of an adjudicator that detention should be maintained that is the end of the matter? The detainee's right to seek bail would have been removed, and in a long running on-entry case it is possible to imagine a passenger remaining in detention for a very long time without access to any kind of independent review if this change is accepted.
It seems very strange that a change of this type is being proposed when measures have been included in this Bill to ensure that in future everyone detained under powers in the 1971 Act will have the right to apply for bail. We were conscious that small sub-sets of people had previously been denied the right to apply for bail because of the circumstances or position of their cases. But we have now taken the opportunity in this Bill to ensure that in future anyone detained under powers in the 1971 Act will be able to seek bail. For those reasons--not simply because the amendments are flawed--I hope that the Committee will not accept them.
Lord Dubs: I regret that there is a technical flaw in the amendments, for which I apologise to the Committee. But, having said that, I am sorry that the Minister has taken the attitude that she has. I did not seek to criticise the staff at Campsfield House. I am aware of the trouble to which they have gone to try to inform the people detained there. I went there some time ago. Despite all the trouble to which the staff went to inform those detained there--after all, it is a prison surrounded by barbed wire 12 or 16 feet high--the people were bewildered.
I refer the Minister to the recent report by Judge Tumin, Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons. He specifically criticised the lack of information at Campsfield regarding individual cases and the legal position in general. I did not make that precise criticism. I said that in Campsfield House and the other place where people were detained there were bewildered individuals. The Minister appears to be sceptical. Perhaps she would care to go there, if she has not been recently, to find out for herself.
However, the key point is the liberty of individuals. The Minister has said that these amendments would drive a coach and horses through the procedures. I cannot understand that attitude. One is talking of denying liberty to people against whom there are no criminal charges. As a country are we to continue to do that? Over the past two or three years people to whom I have spoken in various European countries are appalled by this policy. People are appalled that this country, which is supposed to be the bastion of liberty, should say, "Never mind, some official can keep you locked up, and that's it".
The Bill may improve somewhat the scope for bail, but I repeat, if the limit is set at £2,000--it often is--that is meaningless to people who do not have that sort of money. Bail does not mean anything if the amount of money that has to be raised to achieve one's liberty is so large that it is beyond reach. It is meaningless. No matter that there are procedures, and that this is important, the liberty of the individual has surely to count for something. I had a meeting about this matter some years ago with the Immigration Minister when I was at the Refugee Council. I tried to persuade him that the system in Scotland, where the amounts required as a condition for bail are normally set at a low level, could be applied to England and Wales. I was told that that was not possible for some reason.
Let me now run the risk of repeating myself. We are talking about the liberty of individuals who have not committed any offence. All the Minister's arguments against that proposition are secondary. If this country does not believe in the liberty of individuals, what in heaven's name do we believe in?
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: I wonder whether I may ask the Minister to explain something. She said at one point that the amendment would create a bureaucratic system. I think I listened carefully to what she said. My understanding was that the present proposals of the Bill are that the decisions are all taken by officials. Is not that a bureaucratic system? I understood that the amendment was seeking that there should be recourse to a court if someone's liberty is taken away and--the point has properly been made--no criminal charge is brought.
Baroness Blatch: We are saying that it can be dealt with simply. We have given the right of appeal to all people detained under the Act, which is something that we had hoped might have been welcomed by the right reverend Prelate and others in the Chamber. Secondly, the matter can be dealt with by a senior immigration official. Under the amendment, there would have to be an application to the adjudicator, the case would have to be made, there would have to be consideration of that case, and it would be bureaucratic and cause delay.
Baroness Blatch: I am certainly saying that. I am saying that it is simpler, it is fair, and it is not bureaucratic. To accept the amendment would add considerably to the bureaucratic procedures, given that an adjudicator rather than a senior immigration official would have to take the decision.
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