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Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I support this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, was right when she referred to the period of detention that would affect mental or physical health. I have been aware of a substantial number of cases—the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture has a record of them—that clearly explain the effect of detention on children. To my mind, children should not be in detention, full stop. It is important to recognise that there are cases which can give us a direction on this particular matter. It is right and proper that the attention of the Government is drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, to these particular practices.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the one thing that I have never thought the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, as being is picky. Far from it; indeed, I think that the noble Baroness captured a really important issue, which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, will reflect upon: the difficulty for medical practitioners of trying to prove a negative. I doubt that we would have many offers of support from the medical world. In my experience as chair of a health authority, I have dealt with some amazing and fantastic doctors, who felt very strongly about what their role was and how best to fulfil it. It is incredibly difficult, not only in the time available, but in any event, to prove that point, so I have some difficulties with it.

I rise to the challenge of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, which is to set out what the Government will do. I hope that the noble Lord will feel that we recognise what I think is of the essence in this amendment, which is to make sure that people have proper access, at the appropriate moment, to medical support, and that we are fully aware of the condition that those people are in and of the appropriateness of what we are proposing.

The noble Lord himself referred to those who are considered unsuitable for detention. That is covered within the operational instructions, where there is clear guidance to immigration service staff about who would normally be considered unsuitable for detention: pregnant women; victims of torture; those
 
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with serious medical conditions; the mentally ill; the seriously disabled; and the elderly. I think that is quite a substantial group of people to be normally considered inappropriate for detention. They would not be ruled out completely, because there might just be circumstances—and I think that noble Lords on both sides would understand why we do not rule out detention in all circumstances for all people—where it was appropriate.

The officers who deal with these cases have to weigh up the different factors for and against detention and make an individual judgment as to whether it would be appropriate, within the guidelines that I have indicated. When a detainee arrives at a removal centre they receive a medical examination and have access to good-quality healthcare throughout their detention, including secondary care at a hospital, should they need it. Any concerns that a person's physical or mental health may be affected adversely by detention must be reported on arrival or at any point during the course of detention. Any such reports have to be considered very carefully in deciding whether to maintain that detention.

We believe that to be the best and most appropriate way of dealing with this. The logistics, aside from what I have already said about the medical profession, of where one would try to put the amendment into action would be very difficult. Who would fund the medical practitioners? Where would they be? How many of them would we need? Where would they conduct their examinations—at every port, enforcement office, screening unit and police station across the country? What if somebody said that they did not want to be examined? What should we do then? As I have already indicated, there is the difficulty for the medical practitioner of trying to prove what is essentially a negative.

We think that once we have decided—within the guidelines that I have described—to detain someone, giving them a medical examination on arrival, ensuring that they have good access to healthcare and addressing all concerns both on arrival and in the course of their detention is the right way of involving the medical services that we wish to involve and of providing proper and appropriate care for those individuals who are being detained, I hope for as short a time as possible. I agree completely with the spirit of what the noble Lord is seeking to do; I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who said that the noble Lord always brings us back to the humanitarian aspect. I think that we have resolved it in—dare I say it—a more practical way: involving the medical services appropriately and supporting vulnerable people. On that basis, perhaps the noble Lord can withdraw his amendment.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I accept that I should, very likely, have framed the amendment the other way around. I will reflect carefully on everything that has been said. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
 
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Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 70:


"DETENTION CENTRES: REVIEW
After section 153 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (detention centre rules) insert—
"153A CHALLENGING DETENTION
The manager of every removal centre shall make provision for duty legal representatives on the Legal Services Commission's rota scheme to see every detained person in his removal centre once in every month for the purposes of—
(a) establishing whether they have legal representatives able to advise them on bail and represent them at a bail hearing;
(b) where they do not—
(i) advising them as to the prospect of success of challenging whether the original decision to detain was reasonable;
(ii) advising them as to the prospect of success of challenging whether, in all the circumstances, continued detention is reasonable;
(iii) ensuring they are aware of the procedures for applying for bail;
(iv) making arrangements to represent them at bail hearings before immigration judges where such hearings take place within the detention centre;
(v) facilitating their representation or attendance or both at bail hearings where sub-paragraph (iv) does not apply.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is tabled by way of a further probe to obtain firmer assurances than we were given in Grand Committee and in the Minister's letter to me of 31 January. It adds a further section to the 1999 Act. We want to know beyond all doubt that no one is detained unnecessarily or unreasonably. Apart from issues of personal liberty and innocence, it costs more than £800 to detain a person for one week. We want to be certain that every detainee knows of the possibility of bail and gets bail if he qualifies for it. We seek assurances that there will be effective consideration initially and at monthly intervals of the need for detention and of its continuing reasonableness.

I underline the seriousness of these matters by pointing out that there were seven self-inflicted deaths in detention between January 2003 and September 2005. Detainees feel powerless and desperate. A government must take account of the following important guidelines and convention points. I mention in particular Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights; the UNHCR's guidelines on criteria for detention of asylum seekers dated 1999; Guarantee 3 of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and, finally, the Council of Europe's 20 guidelines on forced return of May 2005. All these call for challenges and reviews of detention to be heard by a court.
 
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If the Government do not pay attention to these documents, they will be wide open to criticism of the kind already made by Mr Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, in June 2005. He pointed out that, in December 2004, 55 people had been detained for more than one year and that 90 were detained for between six months and one year. He recommended judicial review in all cases exceeding three months, with free legal aid. I beg to move.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I warmly support the amendment. We have discussed this matter a great many times and have all condemned the long periods of detention that people must suffer under the immigration rules and the lack of access to proper legal advice and assistance in applying for bail. It results in the extended periods of detention mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. We do not even have proper statistics showing how long people have been held in custody. We receive merely immigration statistics showing how many people are in detention centres and for how long those people in the snapshot have been held.

When we discussed this subject on the 2002 Act, we received far more from the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. We were provided with a vignette showing the number of people detained, for what period and how many were under 18. We asked at the time, "If you can do this on the particular occasion of a Bill passing through the House, why can't you do it on a regular basis and why can't these statistics be published as part of the quarterly information from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate?"

It is a serious matter because, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, commented, some people commit suicide because of the length of time they have been in detention. I point out to the Minister that in her latest report on Harmondsworth, the Chief Inspector of Prisons mentioned suicide 19 times. That followed a case in 2004 where an inmate committed suicide. As the noble Baroness will probably recall, there were serious disturbances after that in Harmondsworth. But the lessons do not seem to have been learnt, because a few weeks ago there was another suicide in Harmondsworth followed the day after by an attempted suicide. Obviously part of the reason for these phenomena is that people feel hopeless and deserted and that they cannot gain proper access to outside help.

The Home Office is considering a scheme to allow rota solicitors to go round the detention centres and to take instructions on bail. That goes part of the way towards what the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, seeks. If such a scheme gets under way, it will be extremely welcome and may help to relieve some of the enormous caseload with which BID constantly seeks to cope. As the Minister is probably aware, BID is a small charity which attempts to help people by putting them in touch with solicitors wherever possible and by finding sureties for them. If that can be dealt with on a more organised and thorough basis through the duty solicitors who will go into the detention centres,
 
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I should warmly welcome it. I am sure that BID would, too, as would all the thousands of people who suffer detention every year.

10.15 pm


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