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Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 195D:

Page 91, line 30, leave out ("the 1971 Act or") and insert ("Part VII of").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 195E. They both concern the use of force, which is dealt with in Clause 136. I begin by outlining where force will apply. At the present time it appears to cover both the 1971 Act and the whole of this Bill. In the light of the agreement to Amendment No. 195F, the use of force now also covers regulations concerning the collecting of data on external physical characteristics. It also covers fingerprinting and attendance for fingerprinting. Therefore, we are looking at a fairly wide range of issues where the use of reasonable force is authorised under Clause 136.

That clause is very short but sweeping. It states:

the whole of both Acts--

    "may, if necessary, use reasonable force".

It continues,

    "Any person exercising a power conferred by section 132 or 133 [fingerprinting] may, if necessary, use reasonable force".

We are extremely troubled by this clause, unamended, not least because of the Minister's response to our earlier attempts to suggest that there should be an independent immigration complaints board. Obviously, the issue of force will represent one of those areas where the relationship between immigration officers and the community of asylum seekers and refugees is at its most intense.

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The Minister's understanding of the legal powers is clearly greater than mine. I may misinterpret the Act. However, so far as I can tell, it is not even a requirement that the person on whom reasonable force is used is reasonably suspected of having committed an immigration offence. It is not a case of having committed such an offence, but of being reasonably suspected of having committed one. That is the way in which Section 117 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act operates. Police who investigate crimes using reasonable force must be suspected of being responsible for the crime being investigated. We welcome such a limiting amendment to Clause 136 but it is not there. So far as we can tell, what is defined as a reasonable use of force could be applied in each part of the Bill.

I refer to some examples. The power could be used in Clause 7 to deal with people seeking to enter the country who had been refused entry. It could be used in Clause 8 and in Clause 9--a clause already under some pressure because of the recent decisions of the courts with regard to the return of people to so-called friendly countries within the European Union. It is a wide-ranging power.

The Minister stated--I understand why he did so--that under Amendment No. 195F such powers can be used "only when absolutely necessary". The difficulty is that, again, this is a request for us to accept that the genuine intentions of Ministers and their words will do instead of a clear limitation within the law itself. The use of reasonable force is an area which is likely to feed into media stories of strains on race relations--some of the exact issues raised in the Macpherson report on the Lawrence Inquiry. It pointed out that, despite the PACE codes, bad practice and racism within the police service still existed. It would be difficult to believe that no such charges could be made, ever, in any case against any members of the Immigration Service. Are we not dicing with a potentially dangerous situation?

I hope that the Minister will consider carefully whether our attempt to limit the use of reasonable force in Part VII, which deals with search and seizure, is appropriate. The Minister may say that Clauses 7 and 8 relate to the administrative return of someone from this country as distinct from deportation. An administrative return is not so very different from deportation. I ask him to consider drafting Clause 136 to limit its scope; or--as we would prefer--to state specifically that there must be reasonable belief that an offence has been committed under the immigration legislation.

I plead with the Minister. I believe that in this instance the Home Office could get into deep waters which could involve major strains in relations between the Immigration Service and those communities. I ask the Minister to consider carefully whether such sweeping uses of the power to use reasonable force are justified, or whether the provision could be limited in a more constraining way. Those of us who understand that reasonable force must be used on occasions, could then say that it was used only on occasions where it is absolutely necessary.

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In this case, I believe that the Minister's words are not sufficient. They should be translated on to the face of the Bill or, at the very least, into codes which would control the practice by immigration officers of their responsibilities. I beg to move.

Lord Dholakia: I support the amendment proposed by my noble friend. My concern is based on specific cases in this country.

What is the justification for giving immigration officers such draconian powers to deal with those who are simply applying to enter or remain in the United Kingdom according to our law? The police do not have similar powers except in investigating crimes and questioning those who are reasonably suspected. What training will immigration officers receive in the use of force? From the day of joining, police are trained in arresting suspects and the use of force when taking information. Will immigration officers be trained in the same way as we train police officers, or are we going to employ police officers as immigration officers? We are talking about people who have been persecuted, who have fled their countries and who are frightened of people in uniform because of what has happened to them. We shall then be sending to them people in uniform, some without, who have draconian powers of arrest.

Will the Minister cast his mind back to a woman called Joy Gardner? I do not believe any one of us can escape what happened to her. The police officers, in the presence of an immigration officer, went into her house for the purpose of arresting and deporting her. They taped her mouth and her limbs. The end result was that she died, but, even worse, it did great damage to community relations. Every one of us knows what happened. The relationship between the police and black people has yet to be repaired.

That is the kind of situation we are discussing. If someone refuses to give his fingerprints, it is reasonable for those responsible to draw appropriate conclusions. However, one does not have to give such force to people who are not trained and who can do a great deal of damage. That causes me a considerable concern. A single false move by any immigration officer or police office will put back race relations in this country for another 50 years.

Earl Russell: In centuries past, the people who were arrested on suspicion used to be Roman Catholics. Some authorities faced with a challenge on that and told that they should not arrest such people on suspicion argued that they could arrest them if they were vehemently suspected.

We all know that authorities more readily suspect some portions of the community than others. The Minister is doubtless familiar with the Metropolitan Police stop and search figures, which indicate that suspicion focuses more quickly on some people than on others. I see no reason to suppose that immigration officers are immune from those weakness which affect other public servants in similar positions. They have not had training. The Explanatory Notes indicate that immigration officers will need training in the use of the

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new power proposed in the provisions. The cost of additional training equipment and external advice is estimated to be about £200,000 for each for the first five years.

That indicates that the Government are conferring a power on those who are not yet able to use it. I do not know what the timescale will be--whether those powers will be used before the training is complete--or whether this is the most effective use of public money. It is vital that those who have these powers should be required to show reasonable grounds for their suspicion. It is not a particularly far-reaching requirement, but it is an essential one.

The other dimension is the relations between the authorities and those which whom they deal. Authorities are often suspected, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. I remember hearing at a briefing on the 1996 Asylum and Immigration Bill about someone who, finding an immigration search taking place in Brixton, believed that she was the person being searched for, climbed on to a roof, fell and was killed. She was someone in whom the officer had no interest at all.

We know perfectly well that in certain parts of the country relations between the authorities and the local communities are extremely volatile. It is important that authorities with powers of this kind should not merely be above suspicion, but should be seen to be above suspicion. I think that restricting the powers in this way will be a very necessary protection for the immigration officers themselves.

We know perfectly well--we need only look at Northern Ireland--what happens when police and legal authorities lose the confidence of one-quarter of the community. That is something from which it takes a long time to recover. We are near to that point in certain parts of London. I ask the Minister to help us not to go over the waterfall.

9.45 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply to these points. They seem to me to be of great importance. It is a matter of the climate created in such situations: what is to be expected; what is to be allowed? A vivid picture comes to mind of four boys aged 14 or 15 who were stopped outside our house. The plainclothes policeman with them hung them on our railings. I went out to ask what was happening. The policeman told me that they had been accused of stealing some fruit from the market-place. The point I wish to make is that four enemies had been made and that it was all to do with the climate. It was to do with what was thought to be the normal way of dealing with young people. I believe that the noble Baroness has put her finger on a very important point in the Bill.

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