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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I have taken note of what the Minister said on this group of

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amendments. I also recognise that what he said about a number of amendments going back to the Select Committee on delegated legislation is most welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and to us on these Benches. Therefore, perhaps I may briefly address the one part of the gutted group that is of great importance.

I hope that I understood the noble and learned Lord correctly. I shall be addressing Amendment No. 189. I want to do so briefly and no doubt one of the right reverend Prelates will speak for the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. Perhaps I may underline the reasons why, without question, we would have divided the House on this matter had we not heard what the noble and learned Lord had to say about Amendment No. 191. I appreciate that we are all in difficulty because that is now “going off" to be further considered. I can only hope that when it comes back from further consideration the Government will bear in mind what I am saying as well as the recommendations of the Select Committee.

I have considerable respect for the ability and farsightedness of this Government. It was therefore with some surprise that I read the original Clause 113, which Amendment No. 189 seeks to alter, because I thought that it was, to put it bluntly, both mean and foolish. It is difficult to combine those two aspects.

I thought it was mean because it seemed astonishing to exclude from two of the crucial provisions of the National Health Service the provision for the care of elderly people and, secondly, the provision for preventive healthcare and assistance with mental health, when one might say directly that in these three areas there is every reason to show compassion and understanding for the situation of our fellow human beings. Furthermore, there is every reason to believe that asylum seekers more than most would be in need of such care because of the often terrible situations they have passed through. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and Members on our Benches were united in the feeling that this provision could not stand part of the Bill.

I shall mention one other point briefly raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. In particular, to exclude any group of people from preventive health and public health provisions is quite straightforwardly completely daft, not least because, quite apart from other diseases, refugees often suffer seriously from TB.

One characteristic of TB, especially of the new forms of TB which are highly resistant to conventional drugs, is that, unless people are persuaded to take the drugs they are offered, the TB comes back in a more virulent form. If it then escapes, it could in fact infect a great many British citizens, who would then find that the antibiotics normally used, such as BCG and so on, were no longer effective.

Therefore, it simply makes no sense at all to exclude refugees and asylum seekers from preventive health measures and from measures concerned with epidemic diseases. I cannot believe, with great respect, that Home Office civil servants really consulted with the Department of Health on that matter, or they would never have included this provision.

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It is therefore comforting to know that the Government have, I hope, gone some way in Amendment No. 191 to mitigating it.

I confess that I found the amendment very difficult to understand, despite the fact that I showed it to some of my colleagues with legal experience. They also found it very difficult to understand, but I trust the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General when he tells me that Amendment No. 191 means that normal asylum seekers would no longer be excluded from those services. However, we still feel great concern that, as we understand it, those who are destitute will be excluded from such services.

I may have misunderstood. I do not wish to press unreasonably, but surely the destitute are the most likely to suffer from such conditions as TB, which is common among destitute people. If the noble and learned Lord has seen, for example, any of the studies on destitution and homelessness in New York, he will know that one of the things which has recurred most seriously in the past few years has been this precise form of drug-resistant TB, which is now raging among the poor and destitute of New York, and which one would certainly not want to see in this country.

Without wishing to waste the time of the House, we are grateful for what we understand may be in Amendment No. 191 and hope that Ministers can assure us that the fact that it has now gone off for scrutiny will not preclude the concession from being made. If Ministers say so, we trust and believe them, but we would finally plead with them to look again at the situation of the destitute, particularly with regard to preventive health, because, I repeat--although I do not wish to keep saying it over and over again--that in the particular case of TB, there must be a regime which is completed. If that regime is not completed, the bug comes back in a far more dangerous and sometimes lethal form. I do not have medical knowledge but I am sure that there are other Members of the House who will bear out that what I am saying is absolutely true and that Ministers must take it extremely seriously.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord said that this is a substantial group of amendments. It certainly is; there are over 50 amendments in one group. To begin, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the amendments regarding Scotland which he tabled, which take account of the commitments made in Committee. We are extremely grateful on this side of the House for that.

Among the myriad amendments to which he spoke initially, the noble and learned Lord referred to my Amendment No. 200A, but did not at that stage offer any arguments about it. Perhaps it would be helpful if I said something about the amendment now.

As I understand from reading the Bill, as currently drafted it removes the obligation on local authorities to provide residential accommodation and aftercare services for those subject to immigration control who have been suffering from a mental disorder. The effect of such a proposal has consequences more far-reaching than those immediately apparent for the

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individual concerned. To leave an immigrant suffering from a mental disorder without access to residential accommodation and aftercare services will have profound public policy implications. The adoption of such a policy must raise concerns for the safety of the community as a whole.

I am advised by my colleagues in Scotland that mental health has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and is currently being reviewed by the Scottish executive. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that. I wonder how those changes sit with the fact that it is devolved; that there is a review; and how the changes implied by the Bill sit within that process.

11 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, my noble and learned friend has been extremely helpful, as usual, in responding to a number of these matters. However, in general terms, I wish to advert to some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams.

Notwithstanding the assertions made by my noble and learned friend, I believe that anomalies may well persist. I am not sure about that but I have a feeling that they will. Consequently, I look to my noble and learned friend at least to assert this evening that he will look very carefully at those points. It would not be helpful to have those anomalies, which may be practical in their implications, on the face of the Bill as it emerges. Notwithstanding the fact that my noble and learned friend will have ameliorated the position by virtue of the amendments which he proposes to bring forward, it would be unhelpful from a practical point of view if those serious matters were still to apply. Therefore, I look to my noble and learned friend to give an assurance to the House this evening that, in the light of what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, he will examine those matters extremely carefully.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his extremely helpful remarks in relation to Amendment No. 212A on Clause 218. In the circumstances, I do not wish to press that amendment.

I discussed with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, the possibility of taking Amendment No. 238 with Amendment No. 212A in order to deal together with the inspection amendments. Is it possible to do that?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is most generous and I am sure that the House would find that convenient.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I add one line of thanks to the Minister for his reply on Amendment No. 212A.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, in that case, I shall deal now with Amendment No. 238, which is to Clause 136. Neither in that clause nor in Part VIII is there any mention of children. If the noble and learned Lord were to give an assurance that children would not under any

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circumstances be detained in detention centres, I need not bother the House further with my peroration on the subject. Is that the case or will children be involved?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I must not simply have a private conversation with the noble Lord. In deference to the House, I shall deal briefly with Amendment No. 238. It is to insert the words,

    “where a child is detained in a detention centre under Part VIII of this Act, the Secretary of State shall arrange for the detention centre to be inspected by the Social Services Inspectorate as often as he deems to be necessary and in any case not less than once in each period of 24 months".

I understand the concerns in that regard. Detention centre rules to be made under Clause 149 will set out detailed provisions about accommodation of and facilities to be provided for detained families and children. Separate living accommodation will be required. Staff coming into contact with children will need to have received basic childcare training. All staff must be checked against the paedophile registers. One of the key functions of visiting committees, which must be appointed by the Secretary of State for every detention centre in Clause 148, will be to monitor and report on the proper implementation of the rules.

Clause 148 also makes provision for the inspection of all detention centres by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. His office will have a statutory duty to report on the treatment of all detainees, including families, together with the conditions of detention at detention centres. It is open to him to call on expert help from outside his department whenever he feels it necessary. From my own experience of working closely with Sir David over the past year, I know that he has never been reluctant to bring in outside expert assistance. I am sure that the chief inspector will ask for the assistance of the social services directorate when inspecting a centre that holds families with children when he deems it necessary to do so.

I believe that these measures will provide for the independent scrutiny of detention centres and a proper level of statutory regulation where children or families are detained. At the moment there is only one discrete facility for the detention of families. It was designed and developed in consultation with a local child protection officer. I believe that this shows our earnest intention and good will. I can undertake that the Secretary of State will continue to have regard to the views of the local authority child protection officers in respect of any future provision of family accommodation. I have deliberately answered as fully as I can to meet the concerns raised by the noble Lord.

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