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Lord Filkin: My Lords, I am open to correction, but I am not aware that there is such a distinction. I shall take that question away to consider most carefully and write to the noble Baroness shortly. If the distinction that she advances exists, there is clearly an issue to which we must respond.

Earl Russell: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, may I ask how he intends to discharge the Government's obligation under Article 22 on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? It states:

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    "States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status",

shall be considered a refugee in accordance with applicable international or domestic law and procedure and shall,

    "receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights".

How are the Government discharging that obligation?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, by the methods that I have just stated in my response to the debate.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in support of my amendment. In response to the interesting point rightly advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that some accommodation centres may not contain children, the problem is that the Government have decided to choose this "one size" policy for all accommodation centres and are not at present able to tell us exactly how many children there will be or where—or, indeed, whether there will be further accommodation centres and whether children will be in them. So we must adopt the same method as have the Government in approaching a "one size" policy.

Perhaps I may start with the good news for the Minister, which is that I am grateful to him for his comments on what are in fact my later amendments, commencing with those grouped with Amendment No. 28, when he referred to child protection policy within the centres. I hope that we shall soon reach Amendment No. 28; I am most grateful to him for his response, because that will enable me to be extremely brief indeed on those matters.

I must say that I am most disappointed with the Minister's response to Amendment No. 24. Perhaps there is still a straightforward difference of opinion between us. I respect his view, but I feel strongly and I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, before the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, sits down, perhaps I may respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, with further detail. Accommodation centres will mirror the protection available in the community. Teachers in accommodation centres will be subject to checks in exactly the same way as they would in a village school outside.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I was referring to all adults working with children.

11.5 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 24) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 56.

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Division No. 4


Alderdice, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Attlee, E.
Barker, B.
Bhatia, L.
Blatch, B.
Bridgeman, V. [Teller]
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Burnham, L.
Byford, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craig of Radley, L.
Dholakia, L.
Greaves, L.
Joffe, L.
Kingsland, L.
Northbrook, L.
Portsmouth, Bp.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Acton, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Jones, L.
Judd, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Mitchell, L.
Pendry, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Simon, V.
Tomlinson, L.
Turnberg, L.
Whitty, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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11.15 p.m.

Clause 27 [Facilities]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 25A:

    Page 14, line 29, at end insert "and must provide a resident of an accommodation centre with access to legal advice from suitably qualified advisors"

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I thank the Minister for a remark that he made almost entirely without thinking and from which I drew considerable encouragement. He said that he wanted decision-making to be speeded up as fast as it properly may. I found the addition of the adverb extremely welcome. The quality of the first decision-making is crucial to the speeding up of the process, and legal advice is crucial to the speeding up of first decision-making.

I should explain that the wording of the amendment has been slightly altered in deference to a point made in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, whose advice on matters of drafting is practically always worth taking and always worth taking seriously.

The wording in the amendment tabled previously was "competent legal advice". I meant "competent" in the old-fashioned sense of competence in the field

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involved. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, took it in the more modern sense of ability, and said that it could be very difficult to decide whether legal advice was competent. I have therefore changed the words of the amendment to,

    "legal advice from suitably qualified advisors",

which I believe will make no practical difference to the Minister's reply. I am grateful to his officials for their courtesy in relation to this matter yesterday.

Legal advice enables the courts or the adjudicator to address their mind properly to the questions under discussion and it may enable them to avoid some of the grosser errors which creep into the early stages of the process, leading to appeals, judicial review, re-hearings and letters to the Minister which I think the Minister will agree it is better to keep to a minimum if possible.

When, on 24th September, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, repeated the Prime Minister's Statement on Iraq, he asked us to read with great care the section of the report that dealt with human rights in Iraq. I have done so. It made my blood run cold. But the Home Office is still returning Kurds to northern Iraq on the grounds that it is safe. Any competent lawyer or legal adviser should be able to prevent that sort of thing from happening. It will save the Home Office as well as the applicant a great deal of trouble if it does. The poor quality of first decision-making is the first thing that must be addressed if the process is to be speeded up.

Perhaps I may quote from another adjudication, in June 2001, in the case of an applicant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is quoted in the current newsletter of the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, of which I have the honour to be a patron. The adjudicator said:

    "You allege that you were beaten, left naked, and left in a cell soaked in urine. Your claim that this constitutes torture is so incredible as to cast doubt on the credibility of all the rest of your testimony".

I do not believe that any competent legal adviser would have let that go by without a good deal of comment. It is precisely the kind of thing that we need to prevent if we want the process not to be dragged out, which is the express wish of the Home Office. To use the Minister's adverb, if it can be done properly, we are entirely in agreement with it.

The provision in the Bill as drafted is not bad, but it is very limited. It says:

    "The Secretary of State may arrange for the provision of facilities in an accommodation centre for the use of a person in providing legal advice to a resident of the centre".

Those words in themselves contain nothing objectionable. The amendment insists not that legal advice should necessarily be provided in the centre but that it be made available. It would be of great assistance to the doing of justice and the speeding up of the process, while saving much unnecessary trouble and a great deal of the time of this House, the Minister and Members of Parliament.

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One of my friends in another place told me recently that he observed my honourable friend Mr Hughes come into the Library carrying a pile of correspondence so big he could hardly lift it. When my friend asked Mr Hughes whether he was carrying his entire week's correspondence, he replied that it was half his weekly correspondence on asylum. That is the sort of situation that results for Members of all parties from there not being proper legal advice before the first decision. If we get the first decision right, we can get on with it and we will all be saved much trouble. I beg to move.

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