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As I said, we paid careful attention to the recommendations of the Select Committee. We wondered whether we could go further by including a reference to "reasonably necessary", along the lines set out in Amendment No. 82. However, we thought that that would not, in practice, limit the power any further; indeed, that is already achieved by the limitations on secondary legislation. I repeat: these regulations would have to be convention compliant.
I shall conclude by dealing with a number of particular questions which were raised. Most of the pressure recently--certainly in the past months of this year--has been in the South East. Oakington is reasonably convenient in South East terms. If there had been other suitable premises available, we should of course have considered them.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, and other noble Lords, asked about safeguards. I believe that part of the safeguards lie in the affirmative resolution procedure and the certifying procedure, which I hope I did not refer to at too great a length.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I need to reaffirm the difference conceptually, as I see it, between imprisonment detention and the much lighter regime that we are now discussing. As I said earlier, breach of conditions will be an offence; indeed, that was a proposition put forward by one of your Lordships. There will be no security in Section 4 accommodation: there will be no guards or any power to use force to keep people there. I say again--I think, reasonably--that that is not detention in the sense that many of your Lordships have criticised in the past. I have in mind, for example, the conditions at Campsfield House.
As regards location, I can simply say that Oakington is the best option that has been identified. We have not consulted outside organisations about the choice of location. We have had general discussions about the setting up of such a facility. The RLC and the Refugee Council were involved in those discussions. So, in response to the particular question from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I can tell him that that is the nature of the consultation which took place. The answer is yes about the idea, but, as I understand it, not specifically about Oakington.
I hope that I have been able to satisfy your Lordships. I recognise that I have take a little time to do so, but this is too important a topic and group of thoughts and amendments to skate over. I trust that I have been able to satisfy my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, in particular as regards his concerns about convention compliance.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, is the Minister aware that he has given a most coherent explanation of the purposes of, and the need for, these powers? I hope that the Home Office will be able to stick to the procedures that he has outlined in the use of those powers. Is the noble and learned Lord also aware that I am grateful to him for accepting the affirmative powers, as suggested earlier, and for outlining the human rights points? I am not quite sure that the name he gave to this facility of "Section 4 accommodation" has a very happy ring about, but no doubt it will do to be going on with.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his extremely generous approach. I can only repeat that I think we were wise to take note of the feeling of the House that some aspects might not have been sufficiently thought through and to decide that it was better to reserve our thoughts and considerations for Third Reading.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Minister kindly deal with Amendment No. 83, which proposes to substitute the word "must" for "may"? I believe I am right in saying that that was the one amendment which the noble and learned Lord did not address directly in his response.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, one is back to the usual answer that I know the noble Lord has found unsatisfactory on previous occasions. We believe that this formulation is a better one, rather than using the softer phraseology suggested by the word "may". We have had this debate on a number of previous occasions. I cannot give an answer that will be more satisfactory to the noble Lord than those I have given in the past.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, perhaps I may just put a question to the Minister. I am sorry that it comes towards the end of the debate. I believe that the noble and learned Lord accepts that there has been a considerable amount of confusion as regards the word "detention". However, now that he has explained
Lord Carter: My Lords, we are at the Third Reading stage of the Bill. The only noble Lord who should speak after the Minister is the mover of the amendment, unless short and factual questions arise. I would ask noble Lords not to make speeches.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the same rights as presently exist in the 1971 Immigration Act. But I stress that we are talking about two different situations. One of them concerns short-term accommodation for seven days or so. I do not think that it is illiberal to say that we want to provide a regime which is speedy, efficient and fair. To deliver our promise--which is a moral obligation to quite a large number of people: to those who are not genuine asylum seekers as well as to those who are and to people who live in this country and fund all of these systems--I say with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that it is not unreasonable to say that for a short period of time there will be some limitation on people's freedom of movement while we assess their claims. He and I may disagree fundamentally on that, but I doubt it.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, when the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General said that there would be no force exercisable to prevent someone leaving one of the intermediate institutions, is that because if such an attempt were made by someone, the powers of detention could then be invoked to keep them there?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as I said earlier--I am sorry to displease the noble Lord, Lord Cope, by using this awful shorthand again--Clause 4 accommodation does not comprise detention. It is a requirement to reside, subject to restrictions of the kind that I mentioned. However, if there is a breach of conditions, an offence is committed. I think that is a better way of dealing with the situation than having security or guards or making use of force to keep people there.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am afraid that I can give only qualified thanks to the noble and learned Lord for what he said in reply to this group of amendments. First, I thank him for the assurances that he has given on the incorporation of a compatibility statement in secondary legislation, which I think is an important statement of government policy not just for this Bill but for all future legislation. However, it does not help us with these amendments. With respect, I believe that first the noble and learned Lord tried to pull the wool
Everyone recognises that there is a problem in certain places in the south-east. We all know that the London boroughs have suffered a tremendous burden on their resources in trying to cope with large numbers of asylum applicants. However, I was under the impression--there have been several newspaper reports on this recently--that as regards the voluntary arrangements which have been made by the London boroughs and those which have been principally concerned with dealing with large numbers of asylum applicants, there has already been a dispersal to other areas of the country which is working successfully. However, nothing has been said about that. The Minister did not volunteer any information about the extent to which the London boroughs, for instance, have been able, through voluntary arrangements made through the LGA, to persuade other local authorities to take on a fair share of the burden. I believe that that is already well under way and that perhaps the powers in Clause 4 would not have been needed if we had gone down that voluntary route.
However, that is an entirely separate issue from the question of whether or not you force people to reside in a place such as Oakington, and whether in doing so you label them--as I believe we are--as people whose claims are manifestly ill founded. The Minister did not quite go so far as to say that anyone who is put in Oakington is a bogus asylum seeker, but that is how they will be seen. If they are directed to that centre and their claims are disposed of within a week, obviously the implication is that they had to go there because there was no particular merit in their claim which could have justified their being allowed access to proper legal advice in a centre such as London.
With respect, I did not think that the Minister gave a satisfactory answer to my questions about how such people were to be able to access legal advice. If I am correct--the Minister can correct me if I am wrong--the arrangements at Oakington will come into effect on 1st January 2000. The consultations with the RLC and, for all I know, other organisations, are still only at the first stages. As I said, the RLC has told me that the task of providing the resources for legal advice in Oakington will be formidable. I mentioned that it has sent me a map which shows that there are only two qualified centres of legal excellence within the Cambridgeshire area which could give the residents of Oakington proper advice. I do not believe that that system can come into operation by 1st January 2000 and that the people who will be sent to Oakington will therefore have proper access to legal advice in the first phase of the scheme.
Whatever the Minister may say, the European human rights convention states that people who are detained--I know that he said that what we are discussing is not detention--must have both scrutiny and review of their cases. I am not sure whether the European Court would take the view that the Minister has expounded; namely, that this is not detention. At
In spite of the Minister's assurances that people will be free to come and go during the day--which is a repetition of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said on a previous occasion--the fact is that the powers that we are granting to the Secretary of State go way beyond that. They would allow the Secretary of State to provide that no one can stir hand or foot outside Oakington except if they have a special grant of permission from the Secretary of State to visit the doctor or to seek legal advice in Cambridge. We are giving a blank cheque to require that someone stay in this place which is miles from anywhere. I do not even know what the public transport provision is like and I am sure that the Minister could not tell us that. I have not the faintest idea how anyone gets from Oakington into Cambridge if it is necessary to do so for any purpose, whether legal, medical or so on.
As my noble friend Lady Williams said, this is not compatible with what has been said about dispersal on previous occasions; namely, that asylum seekers who are sent away from London will be put in places where they can access services and where proper support facilities exist for people in their ethnic or linguistic groups. I know that we shall not win this argument at this stage. Between now and when Amendments Nos. 80 and 83 are put to your Lordships I shall consider whether to press them to a Division. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 1.