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Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it costs some £1,230 a week to keep somebody in detention; and does he agree that there should be a more rigorous examination of the decisions taken to detain, so that we do not give expensive board and lodging to people, two out of five of whom will not be deported but allowed to remain in the country? Does

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the Minister also agree that more effort should be made to reduce the numbers who are compulsorily sent back by increasing our liaison with the International Organization for Migration, which at present returns 250 to 300 people a month to their countries of origin voluntarily, and which says that the number could be increased?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, detention is used only when we believe that it is absolutely necessary and it is for the shortest possible time. The average detention time for an illegal immigrant is 28 days. For a family it is normally less than 72 hours, because clearly we want to look at those cases carefully. For prisoners it is longer, because it is difficult to get them back to countries. Sometimes it takes up to six months, but we keep them for as short a time as possible. We review these things. Each person has a case officer. We work on a careful case-by-case basis. I am very proud of the efforts that we put in to make sure that people are handled in a firm but fair way.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, given the current emphasis on deportation, is there not a danger that asylum applicants will be lumped together with overstayers, with illegal entrants and with former convicted criminals? Thus the innocent are likely to be treated as if they were guilty. Will this not harm our reputation overseas?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Lord raises a good point, and one that I talked with my briefers about this morning. The situation is that the worst prisoners are kept in prison until they go, because they are seen as a great risk. The incident at Campsfield House at the weekend was remarkably well handled. A couple of people suffered from smoke inhalation and there was some damage to the education centre. However, apart from that, little damage was done. As a result, we are reviewing whether we should be harder on some other prisoners, some of them drug abusers. I agree that we have to be careful not to indirectly harm normal asylum seekers. We are trying to achieve this; I think that generally we do. We put those who are at the greatest risk in areas where they are not going to interact with normal asylum seekers.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, is not the whole policy back to front? If the Government got their house in order and dealt with border controls, decided what Britain needed and imposed quotas based on those needs, we would not have to behave in this inhumane way in dealing with detention and every other aspect of removal. Do we not need to get our policy right and clear in relation to people coming into this country, rather than constantly focusing on trying to get them out?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am afraid that I disagree with the noble Baroness: we are not inhumane at all. I cannot accept that. However, she is right about us tightening the borders. Having come into this recently, I say that, over a number of years, a number of political parties have not addressed this. The party that I belong to is now addressing this very closely. We are reinforcing the controls and, in conjunction, we are looking after our borders. As I say, this is a

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wonderful country, and there are millions of people who would like to come here—so, my goodness, we have to make sure those borders are secure.


2.59 pm

Baroness D'Souza: asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, in recent days both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have spoken to the UN Secretary-General about Zimbabwe. In addition to discussing the humanitarian situation, they spoke of the need to deploy international observers in sufficient numbers to deter continuing state-sponsored violence and intimidation ahead of the 27 June election, the current visit of the UN envoy to Zimbabwe, and other support the UN could provide at this critical time.

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. I take this opportunity to thank him for his obvious concern for Zimbabwe and, indeed, for his regular briefings. Mugabe has said that he would rather go to war than allow Morgan Tsvangirai to take office, so the future is likely to get even uglier. Does the Minister agree that now is the time for the UN to call some kind of summit of the leaders of neighbouring countries and donor nations, and possibly also of Commonwealth countries, to pre-empt a civil war in that country?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite correct to say that the situation in the coming weeks looks appalling. We still hope that democracy will prevail on 27 June and that the likely very large lead that the Opposition enjoy in the polls will be enough to overcome whatever intimidation and violence is put their way. However, the noble Baroness is correct: we cannot count on that. We are therefore pressing heavily for not just the UN but the AU and SADC to be active. Just yesterday, the AU, which has often been criticised in this House for not being sufficiently forthcoming on Zimbabwe, put out a statement calling for free and fair elections and announced that it was sending 70 observers. Therefore, by the end of this week, we expect there to be 350 international observers in the country, with more arriving next week.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the hope for democracy on 27 June is of course very slim, with Mugabe, his team and his military men arresting and beating up opposition leaders. However, can the Minister expand on the very interesting and constructive idea put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza? Has not the time come for more vigorous action and perhaps a resolution at the UN? Is there not also a need to work with the Commonwealth, as she suggested, with SADC leaders, and with the chairman of SADC, the President of Zambia, in organising a really forceful message to the Zimbabwean people and the Zimbabwean junta, which seems to be running the election, that

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their time has come? Is there not currently a need for more vigour in this whole operation? I should like to hear more from the Minister on that approach.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, first, as we speak, a UN envoy, who was accepted by the Government after some delay, is in the country. He will return to New York and we are pressing for him to give a Security Council briefing in public so that his views of the situation will be disseminated as widely as possible. Secondly, as I pointed out, the AU is sending in a delegation and has backed it with a strong statement. It will be led by a former president, whose party stepped down in Sierra Leone after it lost an election, and therefore he knows, and can convey the reality of, that situation. Equally, we should understand that, even now, there are only just sufficient votes in the UN Security Council to ensure a debate on the issue. Several powerful countries are still resisting action in the council. We must press for it through all available means but not assume that we yet have a united international community on this point.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that you can build all kinds of resolutions in the United Nations and the Commonwealth but that the country that will have the greatest effect is South Africa? We should talk sincerely and firmly to South Africa and ask the South Africans whether they realise what harm they are doing to themselves and their colleagues by not bringing pressure to bear in the way that they should.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend is right: South Africa has a pivotal influence on the situation, but I regret that it is one of the countries in the Security Council that is still resisting action. However, on the other side, South African public opinion has been inflamed by reports of the violence coming out of Zimbabwe and the country has faced its own difficulties in relation to Zimbabwean immigrants. Increasingly, we are seeing politicians and civil society take the lead in South Africa in an attempt to block arms shipments, to protest against what is happening and possibly to send trade union and civil society observers directly to oversee the elections. Therefore, I think that the people of South Africa are on the right side.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, was it decided in the Security Council last Thursday that only humanitarian and not political issues should be discussed? How does the Security Council manage to disentangle humanitarian from political issues when there are massive internal displacements, armed action by ZANU-PF thugs and prevention of the feeding of starving people, including 170,000 orphans, who have been deprived of UNICEF aid? How can you disentangle political from humanitarian issues?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right; it beats me. I do not know how you can disentangle the two. I think that it is holding on to a fig leaf to prevent a full discussion of the horrific situation in Zimbabwe in front of the council that calls a spade a spade and says that there is a political breakdown in the country. We will continue in the forum allowed to us in the council and elsewhere to

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insist that where the presidential candidate of the Opposition has already been arrested four times since his return, where his number two remains in jail on treason charges since his return, where almost 60 people have died, tens of thousands have been displaced and several thousand injured and temporarily imprisoned, the conditions are not in place for free and fair elections. President Mugabe needs to understand that elections held on those terms will not be recognised anywhere around the world, least of all in Zimbabwe, as free, fair and legitimate.

St Austell Market Bill

3.06 pm

Read a third time, and passed.

Pensions Bill

3.07 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 1 stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Noakes. It is some time since the House has been asked to consider a Bill as complicated as this. I expect that the Minister has spent as many hours as have my noble friend and I getting to grips with exactly what it means and understanding what it says. By the size of the file in front of him, I feel confident in making that comment; I must say that my file is modest in comparison with his. Partly because of discussions in another place and partly because of their own volition, we already have a raft of government amendments even before your Lordships have had the opportunity to discuss the details of the Bill. It almost goes without saying that we would not have the first 86 clauses—that is, Part 1 of this Bill—if the Government had not decided that this was the year to enact the proposals of the Pension Commission of the noble Lord, Lord Turner, and we would not have had the Bill at all if the arrangements for stakeholder pensions had included an employer contribution and/or automatic enrolment by law. However, we are where we are and we on this side of the Chamber will make the best fist of it that it is possible to make. I therefore start with this amendment.

I said at Second Reading that the Bill has been so drafted that the rationale for it—namely, that the Government, in the shape of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority, may set up a pensions scheme with all the attributes outlined in the first 57 clauses—does not become clear until Clause 58, which is nearly

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halfway through the Bill. I noticed the Minister glaring at me and I have taken note of what the Minister said to me at Second Reading. He said that the Bill had been drafted in this way because:

None the less, I question whether we would have Part 1 at all if we were not to have personal accounts. We will not attempt to completely redraft the Bill—that is way beyond the competence of the opposition party, even with the pensions experience, both in and out of government, of many of my noble friends. We have chosen to ask the Committee to agree that we should have a statement at the beginning of the Bill that encompasses what it is all about. In recent years this has almost invariably been stated in the Long Title. This Bill, however, has both the snappiest and the vaguest Long Title that I can recall of any Bill I can recall for years.

The Long Title, as your Lordships will see, merely says:

This is true as far as it goes, but can hardly be described as explicit. Noble Lords may remember an old song which contains the line:

Despite the blandishments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis—who I am glad to see is in her place—during the passage of a previous Bill when I quoted from another song, I shall not sing it, either now or in private. Since there is nothing in the Long Title that gets to grips with the purposes of the Bill, a general statement of what it does is necessary. This amendment covers only the rationale of Part 1; that is, the first 86 clauses. The Committee may feel that purpose clauses should cover the whole of a Bill, but this is not so. The 2008 edition of the renowned Bennion on Statutory Interpretation tells us that a purpose clause is,

It goes on to say:

I am strongly suggesting that this new clause, Amendment No. 1, be included at the beginning of the Bill. The wording is:

We have chosen these words carefully to cover, not only what is currently in Part 1 of the Bill, but what we would expect to see before it completes its passage and arrives on the statute book. The basic premise is that Part 1 of this Bill follows as closely as possible the scheme set out in the second report of the Pensions Commission, which believed, as I do, that it is necessary to:

That is exactly what this Bill will do. There are, however, concerns, of which the Minister is no doubt well aware. If not, he very soon will be. These include: the possibility that firms will close their existing workplace

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pension schemes in favour of the new scheme, which will be very much cheaper to administer; the auto-enrolment process; advice to workers on savings, including pension saving, but not exclusively that; regulatory burdens and excessive administrative costs on businesses, especially small and medium sized enterprises; and ensuring the low cost of operation.

I invite the Committee to consider the inadequacy of the Long Title and the need therefore for a purpose clause covering Part 1 at the beginning of the Bill. I beg to move.

3.15 pm

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: We on these Benches support the amendment, and if the noble Lord chooses to press it to a Division we will support him. There is a fair element of motherhood and apple pie in it, but we Liberal Democrats are always in favour of that. I am not sure which of the team on the Official Opposition Front Bench represents the motherhood tendency and which the apple-pie tendency, but we are with them on this.

As this is the first amendment, I want to say a word following the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, having pointed out how extremely complicated the Bill is. The more I looked through the amendments last night and thought about what we would say today, the more I thought that the Floor of the House was not the right place to hold this Committee stage. We on these Benches do not see why one party with 201 Peers out of 733—28 per cent—seems to have a complete veto on where Committee takes place. That same party has under 40 per cent of the non-government Peers. Operationally and practically, we would make better progress, have an interactive discussion with the Minister’s officials—they would be better able to deal with points as they arose—and make better law quicker if Committee on the Bill, like that for some of its predecessors, had been held in Grand Committee. Report gives plenty of opportunities to challenge and, if necessary, pass amendments on the Floor of the House.

Having said that, we take no exception. We broadly support the new clause, and will support it in a vote if necessary.

Lord Lyell: At the outset, I apologise to the Committee for not being available to be here on Second Reading. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, said, perhaps we should look at the newspapers. One leading newspaper has a wonderful headline saying, today of all days: “If the old refuse to die, let them work longer”. I do not know whether that referred to our deliberations on the Bill, but one aspect of the article came to mind. Doubtless my noble friends will be able to cover it in considerable detail, and I suspect that even the Minister may be able to use his accountancy qualifications and experience on it. The article states that:

Experts in the field that we are discussing have predicted that 50 per cent of those of today’s population who are 30 years of age will live to 100 years of age. We can do some simple actuarial calculations; I am sure that

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that will be meat and drink to my noble friend Lady Noakes and the Minister. The statistic gives some idea of the importance of the Bill, even though we take into consideration the wise words of my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale on the Front Bench. A massive task is in front of us, but we have to set about it. I am interested in and supportive of what my noble friend proposes in his amendment.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I welcome the opportunity for a brief Second Reading debate about the principles of the Bill, and welcome the general thrust of the amendment. However, I fear that it sets out only a partial story about the general objectives of our reform. For that reason I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, will not press it in its current form.

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