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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Baroness has summed up the position rather well. The problem is very difficult because the settlements are growing. There have been 69 new outposts established between 1996 and now, and we have seen 34 new settlements in the past 12 months That fuels Palestinian anger and tends to confirm their fears that Israel is not genuinely interested in ending the occupation. We admire a great deal of what the Israeli nation has done. It is battling against terrible odds. I cannot imagine what it would be like to put a child on a school bus in the morning and for that child to be killed during the course of the day. It is an unimaginable horror that many Israeli citizens have to face. The tragedy is that these horrors are visited on civilians of both sides. Until both sides can accept that there is no way forward through violence but only through discussion, there will not be real progress.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said what I was going to say. It is absolutely correct that, although the suicide bombers are atrocious, for the Israeli's to extend their settlements now must be both self-defeating and idiotic. Can we not, with the Americans, express a much stronger view that Israel should call a halt to the expansion of settlements?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will be pleased to know that we hope that the road map for progress will be published at the quartet principles meeting on 20th December. I hope that at that point we shall have a clearer view as to the way forward.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, under the Immigration Act 1971, immigration officers are able to refer persons seeking leave to enter the United Kingdom to medical inspectors at ports of entry. The Immigration Rules state that immigration officers should refer anyone who mentions health or medical treatment as a reason for coming to the United Kingdom or who appears not to be in good physical or mental health. In addition, those seeking leave to enter the United Kingdom for a period of more than six months should normally be referred. This action during the immigration process is complemented by work done by the National Health Service at local level. It is our intention that asylum applicants who go into an induction centre on arrival will undergo a basic health screening.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, I express the appropriate gratitude for that rather un-illuminating reply. Is it not vital that one should have the earliest possible diagnosis of anyone entering this country who is HIV positive? The Minister is no doubt aware that I asked a Question about the near epidemic that is now occurring as a result of the increase in the number of immigrants who are HIV positive. Why is not medical examination made mandatory?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, this is a delicate and sensitive matter. That much is plain. The Government understand the importance of the issue raised by the noble and learned Lord. Medical tests have not been mandatory in the past. Understanding the concerns, the Government take the matter very seriously. The Department of Health, the Foreign Office and the Home Office are presently examining the situation because of its sensitivity and its importance. We take great care in these matters. Important questions are asked at ports of entry. We need to be aware that some two-thirds of those who seek asylum in the United Kingdom do so in-country rather than at the point of entry.
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, how many people entering this country last year as asylum seekers were HIV positive or had AIDS? What will be the cost to the National Health Service for those people each year?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am not in a position to provide the noble Lord with data and information in that form, partly for the reasons that I have explained. But it is right that people who are here, whether or not they are asylum seekers, should receive treatment. The actions taken by staff at ports of entry when it is revealed that someone has an illness of that nature are to ensure that the person is given a full medical inspection and that he or she is appropriately referred on to receive treatment.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I appreciate the human rights problems to which this question gives rise, but is it not the case that not only do many immigrants to this country carry the HIV/AIDS infection but that there has been a worrying increase in the number of individuals carrying drug resistant tuberculosis? Many other countries impose strict medical conditions on entry. Fifty years ago, when I went as a young researcher to the United States, I had to take with me an X-ray to show that I was not suffering from tuberculosis. Why do we not have mandatory health checks on all potential immigrants?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as I made plain at the outset, we take this matter very seriously and are continuing to review the situation. The noble Lord has drawn attention to the fact that there are practices abroad that are different from our own. But it is worth saying that those countries that have different practices are those that have had long periods of inward migration such as the United States, Canada and Australia. This is an important area for debate. It needs to be kept continually under review. I should not want to leave noble Lords with the impression that initial checks are not undertaken at ports of entrywhere appropriate, they are.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes an important point. Of course we ensure that that is the case. People must have equal access to treatmentnot only for their own benefit but for the wider benefit of society. If that were not to be the case, we should not be providing proper protective and anticipative healthcare.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will be aware of a report published recently by the BMA entitled Asylum Seekers: Meeting their Healthcare Needs, which covers a wide range of issues, including those at ports of entry. Do the Government intend to respond to this important and interesting report; and, if so, when and how?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we keep matters carefully under review and are well aware of the report. We need to take it on board in considering the health needs and concerns of immigrant populations and asylum seekers. I cannot give a date as regards a response, but, if the noble Lord wishes, I shall happily write to him on the matter.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, I should like to make a brief statement about business on the last day on which the House is sitting before the Christmas Recess; namely, Thursday, 19th December. The usual channels have agreed that the House should sit at 11 a.m. on that day, with Starred Questions as first business and with no lunch break.
As your Lordships will be aware, this is the normal pattern of a Sitting on the last day before a Recess and has been indicated in the Forthcoming Business since last Thursday. I should advise the House that the new Standing Order 41(1), which provides for the new-style Thursday Sittings, allows us this flexibility.
Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Lord Dholakia set down for today shall be limited to two-and-a-half hours and that in the name of the Lord Roper to one-and-a-half hours.(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)