Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 10th October 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour 4:45 pm, 10th October 2002

My Lords, it is right to spend time discussing the detention of children. As a general principle, we would all wish that it could be totally avoided in this circumstance—or in any other, for that matter.

As I listened to the moving story told by the right reverend Prelate—I invite my noble friend the Minister to respond to this—I assumed that the family in detention whom he mentioned had had their application for asylum refused, had been through all of the appeal processes and had been told that they had to leave the United Kingdom. I also assumed that a country had been found—presumably the country from where they came—that was willing to take them back. I assumed all of that. In those precise circumstances, a family has exhausted all of the appeals and is told, "Look, we are terribly sorry, but you must leave the United Kingdom by this or that date". Will my noble friend clarify whether the family can then say, "Okay, give us a week"—or a fortnight, a month or whatever—"and we will leave by whatever date"? If so, that disposes of the problem. Alternatively, in circumstances in which it is felt that the family will not voluntarily leave the United Kingdom—or, indeed, they may have said that they will not voluntarily do so and a decision is taken to put them into detention—are the parents in that case given the opportunity to say whether or not they would prefer the children to be taken into detention with them or to have the children separated from them and taken into care?

Many assumptions are being made in this context. As I listened to the contributions of a number of noble Lords, I thought, "What would I do if I were faced with exactly that circumstance?". As a father and grandfather, my strong feeling is that I would want my children with me. That is my view. I do not believe that I should take that decision for other families; that decision belongs to those families. Will the Minister be kind enough to clarify what happens in that situation and whether choice is available for parents who find themselves in that unhappy position?