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Lord Hylton: I am grateful to the considerable number of Members of the Committee who have spoken in support of my amendment, Amendment No. 68. I draw to the Committee's attention the scientific study on a small sample of detainees of the impact of the detention on their mental health. It was carried out recently by a doctor whose name is, I believe, Pourgides and it has been published. She is based in Birmingham.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Sandwich for what he said about the training of people responsible for detainees. It is a most important point, but however

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good the training, it is liable to be defeated if, as has happened and continues to happen, detainees are moved around the system. They are transferred from detention centres to prisons and back again and that is where individuals are at risk of being lost in the system.

I am also grateful to the Minister for what he said about the escorting of detainees to specialised magistrates' courts, and for his reference to the nine-day limit and the second hearing 30 days after the first hearing. He also told us that detainees could make a new application for bail on their own account between the first and second hearings. No doubt the noble Lord also made an important point about how much extra work and hearings could be generated as a result of court cases.

I am inclined to think that we are likely to have to return to the subject on Report. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 68A:

Page 26, line 28, leave out ("Subsection (2)") and insert ("The duty under this section to arrange a reference").

The noble Lord said: In this group we find Amendments Nos. 68A, 68B and 68C. Amendments Nos. 68A and 68B are government amendments. Amendment No. 68A is a drafting detail to clarify beyond doubt that the duties imposed under the whole clause will not apply in the circumstances described in subsection (3).

Amendment No. 68B is to exclude from routine bail hearings those detainees who are subject to deportation as a result of the recommendation of a court following criminal conviction. It is consistent with the presumption in favour of detention in such cases created already by paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 to the 1971 Act, which states that a person who falls into the category therein described "shall" be detained pending the making of a deportation order. Such persons will still be able to apply for bail under the existing provisions of the 1971 Act, as extended by Clause 40 of this Bill.

Amendment No. 68C is in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and it may be convenient for me to deal with it now. It seeks to clarify that the detainee can, on a particular occasion, decide that he does not want a routine bail hearing. If a detainee decides that he does not want a routine bail hearing at about the seven-day stage, this would not deny him or her a routine bail hearing at about the 33 to 37-day stage. It has always been our intention that those who are still in detention after 33 days in the circumstances I mentioned would be given a routine bail hearing unless they did not want one at the second stage.

I hope that that explanation provides reassurance for the Members of the Committee who tabled the amendment. I beg to move Amendment No. 68A.

Viscount Bridgeman: I am grateful to the Minister for answering most of the points under Amendment No. 68C. We were concerned that on each and every

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occasion of a hearing the detainee must give notice that he does not wish to appear before the court. I believe that the Minister answered the point.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 68B:

Page 26, line 29, leave out ("mentioned in subsection (1);") and insert ("of the 1971 Act;
( ) is liable (under section 3(6) of that Act) to deportation as a result of the recommendation of a court;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 68C not moved.]

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 69:

Page 26, line 32, at end insert--
("but no person awaiting the determination of his case shall be detained for a period of more than six months").

The noble Lord said: This is a separate and, I hope, straightforward amendment bearing on a different point. It seeks to set a limit to the time during which innocent people may be detained before their cases have been determined. Six months is the target time set by the Government for giving initial decisions to all asylum seekers. If the Government would like to set a slightly longer limit for other complex immigration cases or other categories, I should be happy to listen. I trust that the amendment will be accepted because I believe that it would be a real spur to concentrate the official mind on particular cases. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 198 which is grouped with Amendment No. 69, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. My amendment concerns the setting of an absolute limit of six months to the period which someone can spend in a detention centre. We should not forget that people in a detention centre under this Bill will not be there for any criminal reasons but will have been detained as an administrative procedure.

Perhaps I may say a word about the astonishingly dedicated and committed work done by many of the visitors to detention centres to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others referred. Many of us in the Committee are most grateful to them for the time they give up in an often extremely depressing and sometimes troubling public task. My noble friend and I recently visited the Gatwick detention centre. We were pleased to see the friendly reception given to the Gatwick detainees' friends and to note the amount of work done by those who ran the centre. I believe that it is probably one of the best in the country.

However, those involved in the voluntary organisations have made it plain to us and to other Members of the Committee that there is a limit to how long they can sustain the morale of those in detention. In the most complicated cases--not necessarily those involving the greatest doubts as to validity of the case of the asylum seeker--as month follows month, gradually the morale of the asylum seeker leaks away.

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Finally, towards the end of a long period of detention, people sink into something close to apathy or sometimes despair.

One characteristic of a tyrannical or dictatorial regime is that it detains innocent people without any indication as to how long they will be detained. A few months ago, I had the obligation of visiting the last standing prison under the gulag archipelago system, Perm 65 in the Soviet Union as it then was, now Russia. I discovered that the most dreadful agony faced by people who had been at that detention centre was not knowing if or when they would ever get out. There was no clear procedure.

An obligation rests upon those of us who are more privileged in a democratic society to limit that sense of being almost totally lost within the system--not knowing when, if ever, the procedures will be concluded. The main purpose of the new clause is to limit that period to a maximum of six months.

I have served at the Home Office and know that when the law says that there will be a limit to the amount of time that somebody can be kept in detention, the Home Office will find ways of making sure that he will not be kept beyond that time. If the Minister believes that a slightly longer period would be better, we would accept that--albeit reluctantly. I hope that he will recognise that the badge of a society such as ours is to give certainty to people who find themselves in that dreadful situation--and recognise that they need to maintain their morale, to make their case in the proper time and way. I hope that the Minister will look sympathetically on Amendment No. 69, accepting that the drafting may be less than perfect. Above all, we need to recognise that there must be a limit to how long any human being not charged with a criminal offence should be kept in a state of imprisonment against his wishes and estranged from all who care for him.

6.30 p.m.

Earl Russell: I first encountered the phrase

    "detained during the King's pleasure"

when I was seven. I supposed that one was let out as soon as the king became unhappy. Alas, I have learnt better. Detention without clear judicial control tends to prolong itself simply for reasons of inertia.

In paragraph 1.24 of Sir David Ramsbotham's report on Campsfield, he draws attention to a case where someone was detained for more than two years. Mention of Campsfield immediately brings me to the thanks that we owe the Minister for the progress that has been made with the Bill, an extremely helpful series of replies and a great deal of hard work. If I did not mention that on Second Reading, it was because my speech lasted 22 minutes and I did not want to prolong the debate.

Lord Clinton-Davis: He would not have minded.

Earl Russell: The Minister might not have minded but certain others might have done. One has an obligation to the whole House.

Although things are better, the noble Lord will forgive my saying that no Minister is omnipotent within his own department. A great deal still needs to be done.

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I draw the Minister's attention to two cases--Amuur v. France in 1996 and A. v. Australia in the UN Human Rights Committee in 1997. I have the opinion, which we had before us in the Campsfield case, from Mr. Nicholas Blake, QC. He pointed out that one of the key points in the Amuur case was that to satisfy the proviso that detention should be according to law within the UN convention, it is not enough that it should be according to the law of the country concerned. It was resolved that the act of seeking asylum is not an attempt to gain unauthorised or unlawful entry. It would only become so if an asylum claim was being made with a view to evading immigration control and remaining illegally.

That point is of some importance. At paragraph 50 of the Amuur judgment the UN Court of Human Rights held that the ground of detention must be sufficiently accessible and precise to avoid all risks of arbitrariness. The court further held, at paragraph 53, which relates specifically to the amendment, that detention in the Amuur case was incompatible with Article 5.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights--because at the material time, none of the tests or administrative circulars allowed the ordinary courts to review the conditions under which aliens were held or, if necessary, to impose a limit on administrative authority regarding the length of time for which aliens were held. Those are important words because they indicate that acceptance of Amendment No. 69 could prove crucial for convention compliance.

As part of the judicial oversight to which the Minister has made such a distinguished contribution, it is likely to be necessary to include the power to fix a time limit. I take my noble friend's point about the need to discuss what that should be. As the Home Office has been talking of disposing of all cases in six months, that seems an appropriate point from which to start the discussion. I look forward to the Minister's response.

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