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Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful for any removal of order-making powers from the Bill and the substitution of words that give substantive meaning to terms that are used in it. In a limited way, I welcome the definitions that are now found in Clauses 68 and 69. I am not sure whether that takes the position a great deal further than it was when we determined the order-making power in the first instance.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. First, I assume that who is dependent on whom will be ascertained through the processes used in induction centres. Initially, it may not be absolutely clear who is the dependant and who is the primary asylum seeker. Will the Minister give an assurance that it will not be automatically assumed that a spouse or child will not have a right of application for asylum in his or her own right and that they are the dependant of some other person? I ask that because the definition will be extremely important. The behaviour of an asylum seeker or dependant in respect of conditions or restrictions may result in the withdrawal of all support or detention. Will the Minister, on behalf of the Secretary of State, give an assurance that, where a person appears to be making a claim as a dependant, but is subsequently found not to be, any breach of

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restrictions by that person will not impact on the asylum seeker and his or her actual dependants, and vice versa?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I believe that I can give an assurance on both of those points. They appear to be entirely reasonable and fair.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 57:

    Page 35, line 12, leave out "that paragraph" and insert "either of those paragraphs"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth moved Amendment No. 58:

    Page 35, line 22, at end insert—

"(3A) Nothing in this section, or in Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 (c. 77) shall permit—
(a) the detention of a person under the age of 18 for more than 7 days, or, in exceptional circumstances, 10 days, or
(b) the detention of a person if the result of that detention would be the detention of a person under the age of eighteen for a period of more than 7 days, or, in exceptional circumstances, 10 days."

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, the amendment would introduce a statutory limit on the time that children under 18 may be detained with their families. On 10th October, an attempt was made on Report to amend the Bill so as to prohibit altogether the detention of children, but it failed.

The amendment refers to seven to 10 days as the time limit because that is the limit that is already set by the Government for detaining families in Oakington. That time limit is not intended to assert that detention is acceptable for that length of time; it is included because the Government insist on their right to detain, so the Oakington limit should apply to all cases involving the detention of children.

It is a matter of great concern that there is no time limit on the duration of detention for all those detained, whether children or adults. The report made to the UK following the 1998 visit of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recommended that detention should be,

    "for the shortest possible time",

with, crucially,

    "an absolute maximum duration specified in law".

The uncertainty and frustration that is caused to children and their families simply by not knowing how long they will be detained is a major cause of psychological distress. A report from an unannounced short inspection to Campsfield House in 1995, which I have with me—it is coloured a rather bilious and High Church shade of yellow—concluded for adult detainees that,

    "detention without time limit no matter how reasonable the conditions, is extremely stressful. When combined with an uncertain future, language difficulties, a perceived or real lack of information and the fact that some detainees appeared terrified at the prospect of being deported, the stress increases".

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For children, that uncertainty is likely to have an even more severe effect.

A time limit on detention would not need to inhibit the ability of the Government to remove a family where the process had been completed. It has been reported to Bail for Immigration Detainees by detained families with whom they are in contact that removal directions are often not issued until very close to the attempted removal—two days or less, often covering a weekend—even if those concerned have been detained for several weeks or months. Seven to 10 days provides plenty of time for the purposes for which the Government state that the detention of children is necessary. I beg to move.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. I do not wish to add much to what the right reverend Prelate said because the matter was canvassed fairly thoroughly at previous stages of the Bill. However, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that there has been a material change of policy—a matter of which the Minister said he was not aware when we discussed it on Report.

Initially, in Chapter 12 of the White Paper, Fairer, Faster and Firmer, we were told that:

    "The detention of families and children is particularly regrettable, but is also sometimes necessary to effect the removal of those who have no authority to remain in the UK, and who refuse to leave voluntarily. Such detention should be planned to be effected as close to removal as possible so as to ensure that families are not . . . detained for more than a few days".

As your Lordships will be aware, in the latest White Paper that position has changed significantly in that families are detained not only in order to effect removal but also where it is justifiable at other times or for longer than only a few days. The Home Office wrote to BID and other organisations on 25th October 2001 drawing attention to the change in policy as regards the detention of families.

Therefore, more children and more families are now being detained than has ever been the case in the past. As the right reverend Prelate said, that causes significant stress to families and also to pregnant women, who were dealt with in the recent report by BID. I hope that that report has come to the notice of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin.

At the weekend, I spoke to a detainee in Harmondsworth. I shall not give her name on the Floor of the House but I shall give the reference number in the event that the Minister wants to find out more about the case. The detainee's number is K1083062. She arrived at Waterloo on 2nd February 2001 and, after entry, applied for asylum through the advice of lawyers. She was originally detained in Harmondsworth on 20th June 2001 and she has been there ever since. That was after a period in Dungavel.

This lady was pregnant when she was detained. She subsequently miscarried owing to the stress that she suffered. She also has a small child, who was born on 18th April 2001. The child has suffered a series of illnesses during the period of detention and is presently not at all healthy. The detainee told me that she has experienced great difficulty in obtaining medical

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attention, first, at the time of the miscarriage and, more recently, for the child. Apparently in Harmondsworth it is not possible to see a doctor within a few days. Someone else—normally the nurse—treats people with minor illnesses but sometimes that is not altogether successful.

Therefore, from that single example, one can see that the detention of mothers with children is extremely harmful and stressful to the individual and is not undertaken simply at the end of the process in order to effect removal. As a matter of fact, the lady's lawyers have applied for judicial review of the decision by the adjudicator, and that is awaiting a hearing. I may be wrong but I was under the impression that, when a judicial review is pending, normally the authorities give bail. In this case, the detainee could be released to the father of the child, who lives in London; yet she is still detained in Harmondsworth.

I know that BID could multiply that example many times over. I object most strongly to the policy of detaining so many families with small children. Therefore, I support wholeheartedly the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I hope that, when the Minister comes to reply to the amendment, he will be able to say some very persuasive things to the House. It is not really a question of whether or not, by existing conventions, we are legally bound to a particular position; it is a question of every Member of this House knowing damned well that no innocent child should be locked up if that can possibly be avoided. It is obviously a damaging experience, and it is not acceptable to see innocent youngsters being affected in that way. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will address himself seriously to the issues raised, even at the 11th hour in this amendment, and that he will give us a convincing response.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I understand the Government's position on detaining children with their families when absolutely necessary—for example, overnight, when there is no alternative. Those of us who are persisting with the amendment seek simply to clarify the Government's position on detention for longer periods. That remains obscure, despite the assurances given to us on the previous occasion.

On 10th October, for example, the Minister spoke of his desire to minimise the time that children are detained with their families. But how could that be done without a statutory limit or, at least, guidance? The Government's failure to provide written reasons for detention and to set time limits on the detention of children is an area of immigration law which desperately requires reform.

In the view of the Children's Consortium, BID and others, the present Bill represents a clear shift in policy towards longer periods of detention. That is borne out by the increase in family accommodation. The Prison Reform Trust reports that as many as 10,000 people were detained in 2000 and that the estate is to be, again,

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more than doubled in size to 4,000 places. Inevitably, more children will be detained for longer periods. This is no time to describe that, but we can imagine the effect that such detention is already having and the effect that it will have on those other children. We heard from case studies presented in Committee that some families remain in detention for several weeks before being released, pending further decisions. Surely their release in itself demonstrates that the period of detention is entirely unnecessary.

Next week we shall again discuss education, but it is worth pointing out that detained children are among the most vulnerable in society. They are separated even more from their peers in mainstream schools than are other children seeking asylum. Detention or so- called "removal" will never provide an appropriate environment for children and they violate their basic human rights. Detention and removal can never be in the children's best interests and will only exacerbate their existing problems. Therefore, will the Government reconsider, even at this stage, this critical aspect of the length of a child's detention?

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