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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the last issue is a matter for the Business managers and I would not dream of trespassing into that dangerous territory. The experience of the noble Lord in dealing with drug addicts and people suffering from the effects of drugs is well known in this House. We all respect the work he has done. No one ever suggested that a drugs strategy would be easy to deliver.
Lord Prior: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord defended himself on the grounds that the MORI poll carried out at the end of last year gave him evidence to support his case. Is that the latest information he has? Is there not further evidence to suggest that that information is miles out of date?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there has been much reporting and anecdotal evidence in relation to what is happening in Lambeth. The poll to which I referred is the most recent polling evidence with which I have been provided. If there is a later poll, I should be interested to hear about it.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord awareI am sure he is notthat a friend of mine telephoned me the other day because, on visiting a friend, he walked through Brixton and was stopped on many occasions and offered drugs. He was simply horrified. He is a strong young man of six foot two inches, in his early thirties, and he felt vulnerable and concerned.
Does the noble and learned Lord think that Brixton is out of control as regards drugs and drug pushing? If so, many people will shy away from Brixton and it will become a no-go area. If that is the result of the experiment, it is not very good.
Following the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, can the Minister tell the House about the effect of cannabis on mentally ill people who take legal drugs. What happens when the two are mixed? Can he also comment on terminally ill people who have campaigned for years to use cannabis legally as part of their treatment? They say that cannabis helps them. Why not include them in an experiment? They are willing people, who say that cannabis helps them. As they are terminally ill, perhaps the damaging effects of the drug are not so important. They want to use it, and we should do all we can to help people in their last stages of life.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, obviously I was not aware of the conversation referred to by the noble Baroness. However, the point being made is whether drug dealing is increasing dramatically in Lambeth or Brixton. That is the essence of the first part of the question. There is no statistical evidence that there have been more dealers in Lambeth since the cannabis scheme started in July 2001. However, as I said, there has been anecdotal evidence. The evidence given by the noble Baroness is obviously anecdotal to that extent.
Dealer arrest figures, which have just been provided by the Metropolitan Police, show that there have been 224 arrests for supplying class A drugs from July 2001 to May 2002 compared with 204 arrests between July 2000 and June 2001. That is an increase of 10 per cent in 11 months, not 12 months. The Metropolitan Police acknowledge that certain areas have been a centre for crack supply for some years. The policing of crack and heroin has not been relaxed in any way as a result of the cannabis scheme. The police are taking tough action against dealers. As can be seen from the figures I have given, they have had some success. Obviously, one does not know the precise nature of the drugs offered to the friend of the noble Baroness. However, that is the view of the Metropolitan Police about what is happening in Lambeth. That should be set against all the other available evidence.
I turn to the effect of cannabis on the mental health of people taking legal drugs. It would be unwise to try to answer that question from the Dispatch Box. However, perhaps I may deal with that point when I write to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. We have indicated that we should welcome further tests to discover the effect of cannabis as a palliative. That is not in relation to the terminally ill. However, in order to give the correct answer, I would need notice of the question. Perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness.
The noble Earl said: During the course of the debate on the Bill I shall talk a good deal about rights. Rights include those of noble Lords to an occasional night's sleep. Therefore, with the leave of the Committee, I propose to group together six of the amendments I have tabled in the hope that one slightly longer speech may take rather less time than six short speeches, and in the hope that it may clarify the issues I want to debate.
The amendments I want to group together are Amendment No. 108, which gives the power to make regulations in which applications for support may not be considered; Amendment No. 110, which would delete a regulation-making power not to consider a person to be destitute; Clause 21 stand part, which involves the requirement to reside in an accommodation centre; Clause 23 stand part, which concerns the right of the Home Secretary to withdraw support; Amendment No. 122, which imposes the power of curfew, and Amendment No. 139A, which allows a restriction of support to those who are in accommodation specified. That does not succeed in covering all the amendments which deal either with the
My principal concern is that which was expressed most of the way through yesterday's proceedings by my noble friend Lord Greaves. He was concerned that the power to require people to reside in accommodation centres, combined with the power to withdraw support may have the effect of making the accommodation centres creep inch by inch into the area of detention centres.
There is a grey area between imprisonment and liberty. House arrest is a classic example. It was a clear issue of parliamentary proceedings in 1628. It is difficult to resolve the boundary between imprisonment and unlawful detention. My concern about the amendment is that the two powers taken together shall not be so used as to become unlawful detention. If they do, that would involve not only the misgivings of these Benches and of the Chamber, but it would engage the courts in powers of arbitrary imprisonment, the Human Rights Act and Strasbourg. That might lead the Government into rather deeper waters than those in which they wish to walk.
The Oakington judgment caused a good deal of thought in the Home Office. It created an unresolved dialogue. Clause 22, which we on these Benches welcome, provides a right to give support outside accommodation centres. That is good. But Clause 23 provides the right to withdraw such support. Clearly, a dialogue is still in progress about which of those powers the Government intend to implement. In fact, they have kept their options open.
I shall not be greedy. I shall not try to insist that the Minister accepts all these amendments. But he has a choice to make if he wants to put himself legally in the clear. He must retreat either on the power to make residing in the accommodation centre compulsory or on the power to withhold support. It will be his decision as to which of those he does.
I am not at all sure what he will do about this matter, but he is running himself into some fairly deep legal water. If he goes into a question which might get him into detention, he will have to engage with Article 5.1(f) of the European Convention on Human Rights. I think that he will probably be in the clear where he is dealing with people whose removal has already been decided on. Article 5.1(f) authorises,
However, we have talked for most of today about the need to detain people who are making an application and still hoping for success. I doubt whether that is covered in the first words of Article 5.1(f), which authorise,
The Government will also, on the withdrawal of support, have to take account of the argument of the Joint Committee on Human Rightswhich I read with a great deal of interestthat the withdrawal of support constitutes inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the convention. I do not know whether there is any case law on that subject. But it is a high-powered committee which would not make such suggestions lightly.
If I were the Government, I would be reluctant to put that particular point to the issue in the courts. For one thing, it would not look particularly good while the debate was in progress. Nor would I be entirely confident of success. I would not be entirely certain of failure. But it is a matter on which one does not particularly want to become a lawyer's "interesting case".
I am also interested in Article 24 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which provides that refugees shall be accorded the same treatment as is accorded to nationals in matters of social security.
I know that the Government will say that that does not apply. They will rely on the judgment in 1996 of Lord Justice Simon Brown in ex parte B. He accepted the Treasury's contention that the word "refugee" applies only to those whose claims to asylum have already been accepted.
I believe that it could be argued that, in a judgment which was otherwise extremely critical of the Government, that remark by Lord Justice Simon Brown was obiter. It was a matter which had not been argued before him. It was not material to the resolution of the case and was not supported by any body of argument. It also contradicts the wording of the UNHCR handbook.
In matters of interpreting the UN Convention on refugees, the proper guide to the intention of the legislature is the UNHCR handbook. It is its convention. It also seems to be contrary to the plain words of Article 1, which state that a refugee is any person who is outside the territory of his country with a well-founded fear of persecution and therefore unable or unwilling to avail himself of its protection. There is nothing there whatever about the need to have had one's application accepted.
In this context, the power of curfew makes it look even more like a detention, and the power, which I have taken up in Amendment No. 139A, to refuse support to those who do not reside in the accommodation centre looks suspiciously like a penalty. This at least is near cousin to detention. I think that the Governmentunless they have more confidence in the courts than the Home Secretary usually appears to showwould be unwise to let these matters be resolved in the courts. I beg to move.
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