I beg to move amendment 199, in schedule 5, page 78, line 28, at end insert—
“( ) The following provisions apply if a person is detained under any provisions set out in paragraph (current Schedule 5 paragraph 1(1))—
(b) the Secretary of State must secure that a first reference to the First-tier Tribunal is made no later than the eighth day following that on which the detained person was detained;
(c) if the detained person remains in detention, the Secretary of State must secure that a second reference to the First-tier Tribunal or Commission is made no later than the thirty-sixth day following that on which the detained person was detained and every twenty-eighth day thereafter;
(d) the First-tier Tribunal hearing a case referred to it under this section must proceed as if the detained person had made an application to it for bail; and
(e) the First-tier Tribunal must determine the matter—
(i) on a first reference, before the tenth day following that on which the person concerned was detained; and
(ii) on a second and subsequent reference, before the thirty-eighth day following that on which he was detained.
( ) For the purposes of this paragraph, ‘First-tier Tribunal’ means—
(a) if the detained person has brought an appeal under the Immigration Acts, the chamber of the First-tier Tribunal dealing with his appeal; and
(b) in any other case, such chamber of the First-tier Tribunal as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
( ) In the case of a detained person to whom section 3(2) of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 applies (jurisdiction in relation to bail for persons detained on grounds of national security) a reference under sub-paragraph (3)(a) above, shall be to the Commission and not to the First-tier Tribunal.
( ) Rules made by the Lord Chancellor under section 5 of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 may include provision made for the purposes of this paragraph.”
To remove the provision which would allow the Secretary of State to override a decision of the Tribunal with regard to electronic monitoring or residence conditions placed on immigration bail.
Amendment 212, in schedule 5, page 80, line 32, leave out “in that person’s interests or”
Amendment 213, in schedule 5, page 80, line 33, leave out “and”
Amendment 214, in schedule 5, page 80, line 34, leave out sub-paragraph (f) and insert—
(f) whether the person’s removal from the UK is imminent, and
(b) such other matters as the Secretary of State or the First-tier Tribunal thinks relevant.”
To remove the provision which would allow the Secretary of State to override a decision of the Tribunal with regard to electronic monitoring or residence conditions placed on immigration bail.
Amendment 204, in schedule 5, page 83, line 22, leave out sub-paragraph 7(1), (2), and (3) and insert—
7 (1) The Secretary of State must provide, or arrange for the provision of, facilities for the accommodation of persons released on immigration bail.”
To remove the purported limitation on the use of the power to provide support to persons to enable them to meet bail conditions to circumstances where the Secretary of State considers that there are “exceptional circumstances” justifying its use.
Amendment 206, in schedule 5, page 83, line 29, at end insert—
‘(2A) If the Secretary of State decides that the applicant does not qualify for support under sub-paragraph (2), the applicant may appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Asylum Support).”
To provide a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Asylum Support) where the Secretary of State decides not to provide support or to discontinue support under this Part to enable a person to meet bail conditions.
Amendment 207, in schedule 5, page 84, line 34, leave out from “(a)” to “otherwise”
There are a number of amendments grouped together for obvious reasons. In my view, amendment 199 probably stands slightly apart from the others, being of a different nature, and I will deal with that first.
Amendment 199 would make provision for automatic bail hearings after 28 days and every 28 days thereafter. Bail hearings in immigration cases have been a source of considerable concern on both sides of the House and outside the House. There is concern about how bail hearings work and how effective they are, and there have been a number of questions as to what changes should be made.
The amendment would provide for automatic bail hearings in the way I have described. The starting point is perhaps obvious: unlike in the criminal justice system, there is no automatic judicial oversight of a decision to detain or a decision to continue to detain. Challenges to detention must be instigated by the detainee, and the main mechanism for doing so is by asking for a bail hearing. We are concerned with two types of bail: chief immigration officer bail and bail from the first-tier tribunal. The former, of course, does not involve a court, and detainees have no chance to put their case to anyone. For bail from the first-tier tribunal, an individual must have accommodation. People who do not have a private address to which to be bailed can currently apply for an address under section 4 of the 1999 Act, which will be removed by the current Bill—we will address that amendment in due course.
As hon. and right hon. Members know, the all-party group on migration has produced a report on immigration detention, which is significant not just because the APPG carried out an investigation and produced a report but because the recommendations were agreed by the House of Commons on, I think, 10 September. The inquiry panel included a former Cabinet Minister, a former chief inspector of prisons and a former Law Lord, and it considered evidence over eight months. The APPG recommended, and the House of Commons agreed,
“that the Government should introduce a robust system for reviewing the decision to detain early in the period of detention. This system might take, for example, the form of automatic bail hearings, a statutory presumption that detention is to be used exceptionally and for the shortest possible time, or judicial oversight”.
The APPG found that the mechanism for asking for bail hearings is not currently working. Not only do detainees struggle to get legal support but bail hearings also appear to operate in a way that creates a presumption against release.
The APPG reported that it can take a very long time for accommodation to be provided under section 4 of the 1999 Act—Bail for Immigration Detainees has reported that it takes up to 72 weeks in some cases. During that time, people are unable to challenge their detention by application to the first-tier tribunal, and legal advice is particularly hard to come by. The chief inspector of borders and immigration has raised concerns about the difficulties that people have in applying for bail, including not knowing how to apply for it. The APPG report mentioned that concern, referencing the joint inspection by the chief inspector of borders and immigration and the chief inspector of prisons, which found that 56% of detainees had made at least one bail application. The joint inspection report stated,
“we were surprised that of those detainees held for more than six months, nine (19%) said they had never made a bail application. This may have been because detainees were unaware of bail processes and/or had poor legal advice.”
The flip side of this argument is important. It is right that we should not detain people who do not need to be detained, both for their own sake and because it is costly to do so. I raise this issue because often, since I have been here, we take up the case across the House of those with mental health issues and many Members readily pledge greater support. It is those who have mental health issues who are least likely to be able to operate under the current system with no automatic right of bail. When we sign those pledges, make those commitments and say what we say about mental health, there is an obligation to see it through in a practical context—where it makes a real difference to people with mental health issues. In that spirit we put forward the amendment for automatic bail hearings, to cure a defect in the system that has been picked up by the APPG, has been accepted by the House and goes to central issues about vulnerable people and their ability to access a review of the decision to detain them.
If I went into a situation such as this, it would put enormous pressures on my own mental health. My hon. and learned Friend is talking about people who go into detention centres with mental health issues, but I would also say that to be incarcerated in sometimes very extreme situations will bring on underlying mental health issues that perhaps no one knew about.
I am grateful for that intervention and I agree. I wait to hear the Minister’s response on the amendment. I conclude by asking what the Government response to the APPG inquiry and its recommendations is, in light of their acceptance by the House. Mr Owen, I do not know if it is convenient to go on to the other amendments at this stage as they move into different territory.
Clause 29 and schedule 5 taken together make a significant change to the powers of the Secretary of State and the first-tier tribunal in relation to immigration bail. The changes will have a significant effect on the ability of the tribunal to provide an effective safeguard against prolonged detention. In particular, paragraph 1(6) of schedule 5 provides that a grant of bail by a tribunal does not prevent the person’s subsequent re-detention. That is a significant departure from current provisions where bail is granted by a tribunal, under which re-detention is permissible only where the individual has breached the conditions of their bail. Paragraph 1(6) would allow the Secretary of State to effectively ignore and overrule the decision of an independent tribunal to grant bail. That is an issue of some concern.
There is a point in being able to go to a tribunal. It is generally recognised that at some point within the process, the individual must have access to an independent judicial body, with all the attributes of a judicial body, in order for a decision to be made on their liberty. Put bluntly, there is not much point in providing for an individual to go before a body with judicial characteristics if, at the end of that exercise, the Secretary of State can simply override the tribunal. In that sense, the amendment makes a point about rule of law and separation of powers. In what circumstances is it envisaged that it will be necessary for the Secretary of State to have the power to override a tribunal on a question of bail such as this?
Moving on to amendment 210—
I am grateful, Mr Owen. As I have said on several occasions, I am learning the procedures, so I will simply continue until someone wrestles me to the ground or otherwise orders me to sit down.
Amendment 210 is probing and seeks to understand why a restriction on a person’s studies is to be included in the list of conditions, imposed by the Home Secretary, to which a person may be subject when on immigration bail. The reason for that is unclear to us. A decision from the Home Office should take about six months, but a constituent who came to see me last Friday has been waiting for two years. He was more concerned about the fact that he could not work, but such decisions can take a considerable period of time, so the introduction of a condition meaning that someone cannot study requires significant explanation.
Amendment 211 is probing and seeks to ascertain what additional conditions are envisaged to be imposed on immigration bail. The Bill states that a condition to require a person
“to appear before the Secretary of State or…Tribunal at a specified time and place” can be imposed on someone currently on temporary admission, now renamed immigration bail. The conditions imposed by an immigration officer are those currently—
I think I had just got pretty much to the end of amendment 211, dealing with additional conditions. The concern here is that there has been the ability, obviously, to impose conditions for a significant period of time under an understood regime. That now includes a power to impose additional conditions that are unspecified. At the moment, as I understand it—unless the Minister says otherwise—judicial review is the only opportunity to challenge in many cases. There is a concern about what the likely additional conditions are. What is the need for them, given that the current regime has been in operation for some time, and what assurances can be given on challenging the conditions without going to the High Court through judicial review, which is a long and expensive route and only for those who can get support or otherwise afford to go that route?
I shall take amendments 201 to 203 together. They deal with removing Executive power to override the judiciary on bail conditions, a similar point to the one that I was making before our short adjournment about the Secretary of State’s ability to override the judiciary on detention. These amendments focus on the override relating to conditions, particularly electronic tagging or residence conditions. The point that we make in support of the amendment is that there is not much point in an individual going before a tribunal to argue about conditions of detention, and in the tribunal faithfully going through the prescribed test on the face of the Bill in an independent way and coming to its own view on the facts of the case, having assessed the individual and the risks, only for the Secretary of State to ignore and override the tribunal’s decision and impose the conditions that the tribunal decided were not appropriate based on the facts of the case.
I shall take amendments 212 to 214 together. They address the different and controversial issue—controversial in the sense that it does not just crop up in the immigration field—of the ability to withhold bail on the basis that it is in the best interests of the individual. In the past, that ability has been used in relation to those with mental health issues, for example, or where there is considered to be a risk of suicide. The powers have been used in other areas—the criminal justice context is the obvious one—to detain someone for their own good, as it is understood or perceived. The provision is certainly wide enough for that unless assurances are given to the contrary. The other example of its use in a criminal justice context is where the person might be vulnerable to attack or abuse, and the detention is for their own protection.
On the point about vulnerability and acute mental health episodes, that is something that we are considering closely with the Department of Health. I am clear that an individual in those circumstances is best suited in a health setting and not in detention. At times, difficult assessments must be made in ensuring that transfer. Perhaps that will give him a sense of the purpose and manner in which we apply the powers in relation to mental health. He might be reading something into the Bill that we certainly do not read in that way.
I am grateful for that intervention; it certainly clarifies the issue and deals with part of my concern. As the Minister will know, the High Court looked at this in 2010. The case then went to appeal and its decision was upheld. The High Court said that,
“the use of immigration detention to protect a person from themselves, however laudable, is an improper purpose” and that,
“there are alternative statutory schemes available under section 48 of the Mental Health Act 1948 or under the Mental Health Act 1983” for people with acute and real mental health issues. Notwithstanding the intervention, the concern is that on their face, the provisions are wide enough to enable an individual to be detained in such circumstances. I will wait to hear what the Minister says about how his assurance will be carried into effect in practice, because the provisions are currently wide in the Bill.
I conclude by asking the Minister two questions. First, in what circumstances, if not the harm to self or harmed by others examples—classic criminal justice examples—is it envisaged that the provisions would be used? Secondly, how does the Minister intend to put his assurance, or at least his statement of intention, into practice to ensure that it is not used in the way that the High Court thought inappropriate, as endorsed by the Court of Appeal in 2011 and 2014, and is now considered inappropriate in a criminal justice context? I will wait for the Minister to deal with those two questions before saying any more on that.
Amendment 204 is intended,
“to restore the power provided by Section 4(1)(c) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 for the Secretary of State to provide such accommodation pursuant to a detainee’s application for bail to the Tribunal.”
It is a practical amendment. In part 5 of the Bill, the Home Office is making changes to arrangements for support to be applied to persons under immigration control. We will get to that part of the Bill in due course. One set of circumstances in which support is provided is in the case of persons who might be released on bail who would otherwise be destitute. In other words, section 4(1)(c) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 is used to enable an individual to be granted bail. The concern is that in the absence of that support, the individual will not be able to propose a bail address to the tribunal. If that is the case, they will be detained in circumstances where they would not otherwise be detained.
I am not sure whether that was the intention of those drafting the Bill, but it appears to be one of the consequences. If we are wrong about that, we will reconsider the amendment, but it seems that the consequence could be that a number of people who under the current system would be granted bail without difficulty, because they can provide an address because of the support they have received, will now not be able to do so and will not be bailed, to their detriment and to the detriment of public expense.
Amendment 206 picks up the same theme. It is intended:
“To provide a right of appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Asylum Support) where the Secretary of State decides not to provide support or to discontinue support under this Part to enable a person to meet bail conditions”.
I think that the background points are pretty much the same as the points that I have just made.
Amendment 205, linked to the previous two amendments, would remove the purported limitations on the use of powers to provide support to people to enable them to meet bail conditions to situations where the Secretary of State considers that there are “exceptional circumstances” justifying its use. We have similar concerns here. We wait to hear what the Minister has to say on those three amendments. If our concerns about possible unintended consequences are allayed, it may be sufficient for us to have set out the concerns.
Finally, amendment 207 would provide that a person arrested without a warrant and detained because it was considered that they had breached bail, or there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that, is brought before a tribunal. The amendment almost speaks for itself. In a number of contexts, individuals are released on bail or condition. It happens frequently in the ordinary criminal justice arena. It also operates for those released from prison on condition. In most circumstances, where someone is arrested and re-detained on the basis that they have breached bail conditions, there is usually a provision for a tribunal before which that individual can argue that they had not in fact breached bail. There are thousands of cases, year in, year out, where on examination by a tribunal it is found that the suspected breach of bail is not made. The person concerned is usually put back in the position they were in before being arrested for breach of a bail condition. The amendment would align the provisions with that common-sense approach that prevails elsewhere. That brings me to the end of this group of amendments.
I will not go through the exhaustive list of provisions. Amendments 199 and 200 attempt to take action on the length of time for which someone can be held in detention, with amendment 199 requiring that bail hearings should be automatic and held on a more regular basis than is currently the case.
The Bill does not discuss the use of detention centres in great detail, and it may not be the time and place to have that debate. However, I hope we can use the scope of the Bill to take action to prevent and reduce the inhumane practice of detaining men, women and children in detention centres for over-long periods of time.
In fact, some of the changes that the UK Government intend to make in schedule 5 may prolong the time for which someone is held in detention. Justice and the Law Society of Scotland have expressed concern that the proposals in schedule 5 will have a significant effect on the ability of the first-tier tribunal to provide an effective safeguard against prolonged detention.
Schedule 5 extends the powers of the Home Secretary to unparalleled and worrying levels. The amendments submitted by my party and by the Labour party aim to take that power back from the Home Secretary and place it back in the hands of the correct and appropriate authorities. We should all be concerned that the Bill would provide the Home Secretary with the power to override a decision that has been made by an independent tribunal court. In its briefing, Justice highlighted the views of Lord Justice Neuberger who claimed:
“A statutory provision which entitles a member of the executive to overrule a decision of the judiciary merely because he does not agree with it would not merely be unique in the laws of the United Kingdom, it would cut across two constitutional principles which are also fundamental components of the rule of law.”
For the second time in a matter of days I find myself agreeing with a Lord, and therefore urge the Minister to accept the amendments.
We have had a wide-ranging debate on this group of amendments. I say at the outset to the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, on the subject of the report of the all-party parliamentary group, I wrote to Sarah Teather, who chaired that group as a Member of this House prior to the election, with a formal response. On the issue of vulnerability and the use of detention, we have commissioned Stephen Shaw to review a number of the themes that the hon. and learned Gentleman on. We will be coming back to the House to publish Stephen Shaw’s review and to provide the Government’s response to his recommendations. There is ongoing work on and consideration of the issue of vulnerability and the appropriateness of detention in those circumstances.
I underline the importance that I attach to appropriate procedure and to issues of vulnerability being taken into account within the system. The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that I took the decision to suspend the detained fast track system so that I could be satisfied that the checks and balances and safeguards in the system were applied appropriately in the context of issues of vulnerability. I frame my opening comments in that way to give him a sense of the significance that I attach to these issues. Depriving someone of their liberty is a serious thing and needs to be allied to the issue of removal. Indeed, there should be the presumption of liberty, to which I think I have alluded to in a previous debate.
Before moving on to the amendments I will briefly touch on the question of mental health and the appropriateness of detention. I have given a clear indication of the most appropriate setting for someone with severe or significant mental health issues that cannot be addressed in a detention setting. I underline the Home Office policy on the detention of individuals suffering from mental illness: other than in very exceptional circumstances, those suffering from serious mental illness which cannot be satisfactorily managed in detention should not normally be detained. All cases are considered on the basis of particular circumstances, and all factors arguing both for and against detention must be considered when deciding whether to detain. Serious mental health problems are likely to be an argument against detention but do not automatically preclude it. There may be other factors, particularly the risks of absconding and of public harm, that argue in favour of detention, and equally I point to cases where detention may be appropriate. For example, it may be necessary and appropriate in exceptional circumstances to maintain a short period of immigration detention when an individual is to be transferred to local authority care where otherwise they would be released on to the streets with no support and care. It may also be necessary for safeguarding reasons; for example, if an unaccompanied child arrives at a port, especially late at night, and there is uncertainty over whether there are any complicating factors.
I underline—and this is something that I continue to discuss with colleagues in the Department of Health—the transfer from detention to a health setting. Someone with a severe mental health episode is likely to require some form of stay in, for example, a secure mental health unit. It is not appropriate to hold someone with an acute mental health problem in an immigration removal centre. There is guidance in place and we have to analyse the issue carefully on a case-by-case basis. If detention is not appropriate, someone should be dealt with under the Mental Health Acts and be taken to a place of safety such as a secure mental health unit. Equally, where a mental health condition may arise in detention, consideration would be given, particularly if it is a severe episode, to their transfer from an immigration removal centre to a health setting in order to treat them properly and appropriately.
On a point of order, Mr Owen. At the beginning of the Committee stage, the Minister said that he would outline the position of unaccompanied minors under the Bill. It would be incredibly helpful if we could have clarity on how it impacts on them, or where they are excluded, particularly in the forthcoming provisions, otherwise we will keep returning to this area. Would the Minister confirm that we will have that, ideally before Thursday?
Perhaps the Minister would clarify something. I understand the argument that mental health in and of itself does not override the provisions if there is another reason to detain. It would depend on the facts of the case. The assurance the Minister has just given applies where mental health is the only concern, and there is not another reason to detain. Would he be good enough to write to me to set out what he has just said? That is the real issue of concern. I accept that in the other cases, there is the overlap that he has described.
I appreciate the manner in which the hon. and learned Gentleman has sought to raise this issue. As I have tried to elucidate, there has to be an examination on a case-by-case basis but, to return to the principles, the purpose of immigration removal centres and of detaining somebody should be for removal. However, there may be public protection issues as well, particularly if we are looking at foreign national offenders, for example. There are other elements which sit alongside this. There could be someone who is potentially dangerous, and obviously balancing decisions must be taken on the use of immigration detention for public protection reasons.
I understand the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman makes about whether, from the utility of a public protection standpoint, the provisions and the conditions for immigration bail might be triggered purely on the basis of the individual’s state of mind. I am happy to reflect further on that. Certainly, as I have set out, the approach and the intent concerns what is an appropriate setting for someone. I will look at what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said in Committee and, if there is some further clarification that I can offer, I will certainly review that. There is a sense of the most appropriate setting, and immigration removal centres have to meet certain criteria. The normal Hardial Singh-type principles on detention operate. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a specific point on mental health, and I will reflect further on whether there is anything I can add to what I have said.
Amendment 199 would require a bail hearing in the tribunal after eight days, after 28 days, then every 28 days thereafter. As I have highlighted to the Committee, the Government take matters of liberty extremely seriously, but we do not consider that there is a need for mandatory judicial oversight of detention in terms of the checkpoints that the hon. and learned Gentleman outlined. There is already well-established judicial oversight available. Individuals detained under immigration powers have unrestricted opportunity to apply to the tribunal for bail at any time. They can also apply for a judicial review of their detention, or for a writ of habeas corpus to the High Court, again at any time.
The current system was designed to be flexible in the interests of justice, and allows the detainee ready access to the tribunal. Legal advice and legal aid remain available for challenges to immigration detention. All detainees are made aware of the ability to apply for bail, but there is obviously a need to strike a balance. Introducing automatic bail hearings in all cases would be a further significant burden on the tribunal, with potential financial loss to the taxpayer, and would utilise time that could be spent on other matters. That could prolong the time spent in detention, and could deny other appellants timely access to justice.
It is interesting to note that the House has considered this issue before. The hon. and learned Gentleman may indeed wish to reflect on the comments of his hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) when the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill was in Committee. In respect of the repeal of an uncommenced provision that then existed, the hon. Lady, who was then a Home Office Minister, said:
“We concluded that it would be a logistical nightmare that would divert scarce resources from processing asylum applications. That would make it harder for us to complete the asylum process as speedily as all members of the Committee want…We have to be honest and open about these issues. The administrative consequences of automatic bail hearings are substantial. Given the figures and the potential for bringing the whole system to a halt, it was our reluctant judgment that unfortunately it would not be realistic for us to introduce part III bail hearings. We thought it more open and transparent to repeal those provisions, as the amount of available funding and the priorities we have for getting asylum claims through the system would not allow us sensibly to bring them into effect without that having an adverse or catastrophic effect on our system.”—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 14 May 2002; c. 256-57.]
Although I understand the intention behind amendment tabled by the hon. and learned Gentleman, it is worth understanding the history and, equally, the challenges of automatic hearings.
During our evidence sessions, much was made of the Home Office seeking to take control of bail from the tribunal, and I want to assure the Committee that that is not the case. It is an inaccurate description of the effect of the bail clause and the schedule. I want to make it clear that the Home Office is already responsible for the management of the vast majority of cases on conditions imposed by the legislation that is being consolidated.
I turn to amendment 200, which would prevent the detention of an individual on bail unless it was thought that they intended to breach, or had breached, their conditions. I think that I understand the intention of the amendment. I underline the purposes for detention, primarily on removal but equally there might be public policy conditions. I suppose what the hon. and learned Gentleman asks is whether we can do more to achieve removal from this country of people who should not be here, without the necessity of detention. That might, in part, underline some of his thinking. Our approach to immigration enforcement seeks to promote and encourage more facilitated or encouraged removals, rather than simply to use detention as a means of achieving the outcome that I think people would want to see. Certainly that is an approach—an embodiment—that we seek to take with our removal strategy. The hon. Member for Rotherham made a point about not only the cost but the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.
I understand the Minister’s comments about detention and its purposes, but we are talking about a situation in which the tribunal is charged with faithfully going through a test of the individual circumstances of the case. In that situation, in what way and for what purpose does the Minister see the Secretary of State overriding the tribunal? Normally, if one side in a tribunal loses an argument on detentional conditions, there is an appeal route, but this appears to be something different in that the side that loses simply gets on with what it wanted in the first place.
I will come on to that point. It is a slightly different one from the one I was addressing. On amendment 200, I was responding to points about preventing detention where bail had been granted and about re-detaining if there was no risk of a breach. Sometimes, very close to a removal, when it is felt that the safest and most appropriate action would be to use detention, that mechanism may be adopted. Re-detention could be appropriate. It is also worth remembering that people granted bail might never have been detained. There will be people who are allowed into the UK on conditions while their claim is being considered. The amendment would mean that the Secretary of State could not detain such individuals if there were a change in their circumstances—for example, if their claim had been refused—without a suspicion that they were about to breach or had breached conditions.
The power as drafted could not be used on an individual who had been granted bail by the tribunal where the facts in their case had not changed. Any attempt to re-detain would be unlawful. The power is not about marginalising the tribunal’s ability to grant bail by allowing the Secretary of State to re-detain almost immediately after release. The power is about ensuring that detention is still available as an option when an individual is on bail and there is a change of circumstances in their case. The individual may never have been detained. The power is most likely to be used when removal becomes imminent, such as where someone was admitted at the border and their claim has subsequently been refused.
I am grateful to the Minister for outlining the position on changes of circumstances. He has given a degree of reassurance, because what he said chimes with other not dissimilar regimes, but the matter is not clear in the Bill. Nothing in the Bill refers to changes of circumstances, so what level of assurance can he give that the provision is not intended to be used, nor will it be used, in a case where there is no change of circumstances?
If we are talking about detention, we are in many respects back to some of the basic principles as to why detention would be used, such as the immediacy of removal. Alternatively, we are talking about some other public policy objection on the basis of established legal principles around the matter. Those principles are what guide the potential use of the power, in addition to the obvious example of a change in circumstance.
Amendments 210 and 211 are probing. The Committee wants to better understand why there is a need for a restriction on study and what other conditions are envisaged on immigration bail, and when they may be imposed. We have chosen to include a restriction on study as it is something that may be considered under the bail powers. Like the other conditions listed, a restriction on study is only an option that is available; it is not a mandatory requirement and can be imposed as appropriate.
The power is not, as was suggested, about trying to deny education. If a child can lawfully access education services, we will not seek to disrupt that by using restrictions under the bail power to place a prohibition on them attending. We also do not intend to impose through the use of the power a blanket ban on asylum seekers accessing education. Where the power could have utility, however, is on specifying the place at which someone can study, for example. That would mean knowing where they are and saying that they are permitted to study, but only at a particular institution. For example, the wrap-around for a particular family group may be most appropriately provided for by conditions that are allied to a child going to a particular school. I point to it in that way. We have other regimes where conditions can be attached to study that are more towards that stance and approach.
On the broader power to impose conditions as appropriate, it is designed to maintain current flexibility in the ability to impose bail conditions specific to the facts of the case. That is most readily seen in Special Immigration Appeals Commission bail, but it is also seen in some of the most harmful foreign national offender cases. SIAC bail conditions are often bespoke, based on the risk the individual poses. Some cases will require specific conditions to mitigate specific risks. For example, we may want to impose an overnight curfew based on the risk posed, or it may be appropriate to create an exclusion zone if a convicted paedophile is bailed pending deportation.
A slightly more general point I would make is on the question posed on the general conditions that can be attached. The hon. and learned Gentleman sought to argue that that should be limited. My understanding and advice is that that is already maintained in the existing legislative framework and is in essence a read-across from pre-existing legislation. The power to impose any conditions appearing to be likely to result in the appearance of the person answering bail is currently in primary legislation at paragraph 22(2) of schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971. I think it is to maintain the existing flexibility that that applies.
Amendments 201, 202 and 203 would remove the ability of the Secretary of State to require a residence condition or the imposition of an electronic monitoring condition as a condition of tribunal bail, undermining the Government’s commitment to deliver electronic tagging as part of our manifesto commitments. If we did not take this power, the tribunal could in theory decline to impose a tag. During the evidence sessions earlier in Committee, it was suggested that these provisions make the role of the tribunal meaningless. Let me assure the Committee that that is not the case. The tribunal will still be able to order the release of an individual on bail and will still be able to impose the conditions it sees fit, subject to the specific point that I have highlighted on requiring that an individual resides at a certain address or wears an electronic monitoring device where the tribunal has declined to impose such a condition when granting bail. We expect this power to be used very rarely, as the tribunal would normally impose a residence condition or tag when one is requested. If the Home Office seeks to impose a condition where the tribunal earlier declined to impose one, such a decision would be challengeable by way of judicial review. The Secretary of State would need to justify why the condition was imposed.
How is it proposed that this will work in practice? There is a hearing before the tribunal. The tribunal goes through the individual facts of the case and there is an argument before the tribunal on whether a condition of electronic tagging, for example, is appropriate. The tribunal looks through all the relevant material and says that in this case, it is not necessary according to the test. As I understand the Minister, the Secretary of State then comes along and says, “That’s all very well, tribunal, we disagree and we are now imposing a condition that you have just decided it is not necessary to impose.” If the individual does not like it, they go to the High Court on judicial review. Is that the regime?
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has set out what I have just indicated to the Committee. It is that sense of requiring. We have looked at, for example, foreign national offender-type cases. Our judgment is that foreign national offenders who are in this country unlawfully should be subject to ongoing monitoring through electronic tagging. It is that clear policy intent that we judge, but, as I have indicated, there would be a right of challenge by way of judicial review.
There is a precedent for such a power. The House passed a similar provision in the Immigration Act 2014; the Secretary of State is required to consent to the release of an individual on bail by the tribunal when removal is 14 days or fewer away. The Secretary of State already has that mechanism—in, I accept, a slightly different situation—and that sets a precedent on how the Secretary of State has a direct interest.
Amendments 212, 213 and 214 remove the requirement to consider whether it is in a person’s best interests to be detained before releasing on bail. I understand that these are probing amendments to understand when it will ever be in anyone’s best interests to be detained under immigration powers. First, I want to repeat that it is the Government’s policy that there is a presumption of liberty and that immigration detention should be used as a last resort. I make no apologies for stating that fact again and I hope that the Committee welcomes that clear and unequivocal statement. However, there may be some cases in which immigration and detention powers have to be exercised while arrangements are made for an individual to be transferred to appropriate care. I have given some examples of that in my earlier comments. I want to be clear that the power should only be used in a limited way and for the shortest period possible, but I hope that the Committee understands that that may be needed in those exceptional circumstances.
Amendments 204 and 206 relate to accommodation arrangements for individuals who are on bail. Amendment 204 would create a duty to provide accommodation to anyone released on bail even if they had the funds to secure their own accommodation. Amendment 205 would remove the term “exceptional circumstances” from the new power in the Bill and amendment 206 would create a right of appeal against refusal to provide accommodation to a person released on bail. Schedule 5, paragraph 7 provides a power to allow the Secretary of State to meet accommodation costs and travel expenses for those granted immigration bail. That arrangement is designed to replace section 4(1)(c) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which is repealed by the Bill, but to date has been used to provide accommodation for persons released on bail in the limited circumstances where we judge that that is appropriate. The repeal is part of the wider changes to support provision for failed asylum seekers and other irregular migrants which will be debated later, so I hope to leave detailed debate on that until we get to schedule 6, when we can have a much fuller debate.
The power is deliberately drafted in a restricted way as in general, individuals seeking bail are expected to accommodate themselves or arrange accommodation through friends or relatives. This is no different from the way the section 4 power is currently used. It is clearly inappropriate to spend public money providing accommodation for people who do not need it. It should therefore only be in exceptional circumstances that the Secretary of State should pay for the accommodation of people seeking release from detention on bail. If the person is truly unable to arrange their own accommodation, the powers can be used to provide it on a case-by-case basis, considering the particular circumstances, including whether they are able to avoid the consequences of being left homeless by returning to their own country. It would be unnecessary to use the power to accommodate asylum seekers, as section 95 or section 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 are already available for this group.
On amendment 205, the concern expressed about the provision appears to be based on the assumption that there will be increased use of detention for a longer period, because bail can only be granted when an address is available. The new bail powers contain the concept of conditional bail, at paragraph 3(8). That will allow the tribunal to grant bail conditional on arrangements specified in the notice being in place to ensure that a person is able to comply with the conditions. Where a residence condition has been applied, it will be for the individual to find a suitable address during the period of conditional bail and, if a suitable address cannot be found, for them to go back to the tribunal for a further hearing. If the person is unable to find an address, consideration will be given to using the powers in paragraph 7 to provide one. We do not consider it necessary to add further complexity to the process by creating a specific right of appeal against refusal to provide an address. Any claim that there has been a refusal to provide an address could be challenged by way of judicial review.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way because it may settle this amendment. As I understand the Minister, it is envisaged that the tribunal will use conditional bail to bail someone on the condition of a residence, or an address, unspecified. There will then be a period during which the individual either finds an address or consideration will be given to supporting the individual to have an address so that they can be released. Is that how it is envisaged that this will work, when looked at in the round?
That is how conditional bail can be used in these circumstances, as I think I described in my response to the hon. and learned Gentleman’s points. I think that I have covered all his amendments and, in the light of that, I hope that he will be minded not to press them.
I want to press amendment 207 to a vote. I do not know whether it is appropriate, but on amendments 199, 200, 201 to 203 and 212 to 214, I have listened to the Minister with care and I will not press them to a vote now, but I reserve the right to bring them back later, having reflected on what has been said about them.
On a point of order, Mr Owen. the Minister confirmed during the witness stage that he would come back with clarity on the issue of unaccompanied minors and how they are impacted by the Bill. I asked the Minister for a point of clarification in the previous debate on when that would be forthcoming, but he did not respond. He just implied in his summation that it would be covered under the debate on schedule 6, but schedule 6 refers to asylum seekers as being people of
“at least 18 years old”.
May I ask for clarity on when we will get the confirmation on how the Bill impacts on unaccompanied minors?
As I explained earlier on, there is a difference between a point of order and a point of frustration. I can see that the hon. Lady is frustrated by not getting an answer from the Minister, but that is a matter for him. He has heard what has been said. He may want to intervene now or to indicate that he will do so later. He is not indicating anything, so that is the position. It is not a point of order.
On a point of order, Mr Owen. I am sorry if I am labouring the point but, whatever the procedure, I want to preserve the right to raise amendments 199 to 203 and amendments 212 to 214 on Report. There is a temptation when someone is doing this for the first time to possibly take advantage of their ignorance.
I have got the gist. I think what the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying is that he will not press those amendments to a vote at this stage, but he reserves the right to do so on Report.
See the explanatory statement for amendment 32.
Amendment 32, in schedule 5, page 88, line 41, at end insert—
“Paragraph 4(2)(d) (arrangements under electronic monitoring condition) has effect as if for ‘the First-tier Tribunal’ there were substituted ‘the Special Immigration Appeals Commission’.
Paragraph 5(5) (payment of sum under financial condition) has effect as if for ‘the First-tier Tribunal’ there were substituted ‘the Special Immigration Appeals Commission’.”
The Bill already makes provision for bail conditions to be applied by both the First-tier Tribunal and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. This amendment inserts some further consequential provision to give this full effect.
Amendment 34, in schedule 5, page 89, line 1, leave out “(5), (6), (7) and (8)” and insert “(4), (6), (7), (8) and (9)”