HL Deb 02 March 1993 vol 543 cc543-57

.—(1) The Secretary of State shall by order establish an advisory panel for the purpose of making advice available to a child who has arrived in the United Kingdom unaccompanied by an adult person capable of looking after him.

(2) The members of such advisory panel shall be appointed from time to time in accordance with the provisions of section (Appointment and functions of advisory panel) below and shall have the functions therein described.

(3) A member of such advisory panel is referred to as an asylum-seeker's adviser.

(4) Where a child unaccompanied by an adult person capable of looking after him arrives in the United Kingdom and is, or appears to an immigration officer to be, under the age of 18 years and such child has made, or may reasonably be considered as desiring to make, a claim for asylum, the immigration officer shall notify the advisory panel with a view to the child being forthwith referred to an appropriate asylum-seeker's adviser for the purpose of carrying out the functions described in section (Appointment and functions of advisory panel) below.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are two new clauses which I seek to add to the Bill. They are designed to cope with the problem of children who arrive in the country unaccompanied and on their own from war-torn countries such as Eritrea, Somalia, Zaire and now Bosnia. As I said at Committee stage, those children arrive usually at Heathrow or Gatwick, fearful and friendless, exhausted by their journey, shocked at being separated from family and home and probably speaking no language known to the immigration officer. The child needs someone at the point of entry who speaks the child's language, is familiar with his culture and background and can be a friend and adviser to the child until his future is settled in accordance with the immigration laws. The numbers are not large. In 1991 128 such refugees arrived in this country unaccompanied. In 1992, the number was 185, an average of three or four a week.

The proposed clauses do not in any way alter immigration laws or procedures or interfere with the responsibilities of local authorities. Under the first clause, the Secretary of State is to set up an advisory panel whose function it will be to make advice available to a child who has arrived in this country unaccompanied by anyone capable of looking after it. The Secretary of State has no function to perform except to set up the panel on his own terms.

Under the first new clause, when an unaccompanied child refugee arrives here, the immigration officer is to notify the panel. He has no other duty to perform. The panel having been alerted, the child will be referred to an appropriate member of the panel who will carry out the functions described in the second clause.

The second new clause is crucial. It describes the qualifications which must be possessed by a member of the panel. It also describes the duties of the panel member to whom a child is referred. The qualifications which must be possessed by a member of the panel, called in the clauses an "asylum-seeker's adviser", are threefold. First, he must be able to speak or to call upon a person who can speak one or more of the languages likely to be spoken by these child refugees. Secondly, he must be familiar with the habits and customs of the place from which the refugee children are likely to come. Thirdly, he must have knowledge of child care legislation and immigration procedures.

I turn to the functions of the asylum seeker's adviser. These are crucial to the Bill and I must ask your Lordships to allow me to read the two subsections of the second new clause in full. They are the two last subsections on page 2 of the Marshalled List: (5) It shall be the function of an asylum-seeker's adviser, to whom a young asylum-seeker has been referred, to befriend and advise the asylum-seeker in all matters relating to immigration, accommodation, education, health and general welfare for so long and to such an extent as the adviser shall from time to time consider desirable; and in performing such function the adviser shall have regard to the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the young asylum-seeker (considered in the light of his age and understanding)". The final words are taken from Section 1 of the Children Act 1989.

(6) Nothing in this section or [the preceding] section … affects the powers or duties of local authorities under the Children Act 1989 or otherwise.

I emphasise the words "befriend and advise" the child. The role of the adviser is purely advisory, to advise the child, not to interfere with the immigration officer or the local authority.

That is the scheme which I urged upon the Government at Committee stage. There were five, and only five, reasons advanced at that stage for rejecting these amendments. Reason number one is given at col. 1108 of Hansard for 16th February 1993: "There would be delay". Not so. The scheme does not impinge on, interfere with or defer in any way whatever the existing duties of the immigration officer or of the social services department of a local authority. The immigration officer merely has to telephone the office of the advisory panel to report the arrival of an unaccompanied child refugee. The local authority would be alerted by the immigration officer, just as now happens. Nothing can cause delay.

Reason number two is given at col. 1108 of Hansard: there would be brought into being a body of people unable to give the advice that is required". Again, not so. Under the second clause, the members of the panel must be persons who can speak the languages, who are familiar with the cultures likely to be encountered and who have knowledge of welfare and immigration procedures. By definition, the members of the advisory panel are able to give the advice that is required. Otherwise, they would not be on the advisory panel.

Reason number three is given at col. 1108: the advisers are meant to do the work of children's officers and social services departments". They are not. They are exclusively to befriend and advise the child refugee, not to advise or do the work of a children's officer or the social services departments.

Reason number four is given at col. 1110: the responsibility for the welfare of the children lies quite firmly and legally with the local authorities". The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said again at col. 1110: I wonder whether to create another body or agency which had care responsibilities toward child asylum seekers would not … muddle the local authority's role". That is not so. The responsibility for the welfare of the child refugee would remain firmly where it is now. The existing care responsibilities towards child refugees would be totally unchanged. The role of the asylum seeker's adviser would be to befriend and advise the child, not to take over the responsibilities of the local authority. For example, if an accommodation problem arose or if a child needed medical attention, the role of the adviser would be confined to ascertaining from the child what the problem was, speaking to the child in its own language and seeing that the child knew what it could do to overcome the problem. No doubt the adviser would communicate with the local authority or health service facility, alerting them to the problem, so that it could be resolved in the proper quarter.

Reason number five is given at col. 1110: it would be difficult, in practical terms, to create a body of professional people who are experts in child psychology, or specialists in refugee issues, familiar with a range of different languages and cultures". The object of the new clauses is not to set up a panel of specialists in child psychology or refugee issues. It is to have people available who can speak the language required, are acquainted with the relevant culture and have knowledge of child care legislation and immigration procedures; someone who can befriend and advise the child in its own language until the child's future is settled.

There would be no difficulty in assembling such a panel. I specifically raised that point with the Refugee Council, with particular reference to the major troublespots: Eritrea, Somalia, Zaire and Bosnia. In a letter sent to me last week, the Refugee Council wrote: I am writing to confirm that the Refugee Council would be able to appoint"— the writer means "suggest"— panel members to provide a service to unaccompanied children from Zaire, Eritrea, Somalia and Bosnia".

Those were the five reasons, and the only reasons, advanced at Committee stage for rejecting the amendments. If further reasons are advanced now, your Lordships may feel that they cannot be very serious reasons or surely they would have been advanced at Committee stage.

I believe that the fourth reason for rejecting the amendments is the most important one of all. It was rightly stressed by the noble Earl at Committee stage and I should like to spend a few further moments on it; namely, whether the scheme might lead to some conflict, some muddying of the waters, between local authorities and the advisory panel. It was asked whether perhaps the advisory panel might not be altogether welcomed by local authorities. Are local authorities not able to cope already by making use of existing facilities such as the Refugee Legal Centre?

I can tell the House with confidence that local authorities feel the need for a scheme such as I propose and that they will welcome it. I say that because I am authorised to say that the amendments are supported, first, by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, secondly, by the Association of London Authorities, thirdly, by the London Boroughs Association, and fourthly by the Association of Directors of Social Services. Fifthly, the amendments are supported by the London Borough of Hillingdon, which has been at the receiving end of this problem as much as any local authority. I quote from a letter from Hillingdon dated 22 February: This local authority has provided extensive child care services far in excess of 110 such young people since January 1990. Our experience has been that our capacity to respond to our duties under the Children Act and our responsibility to ensure that the young person is properly guided through the immigration processes would be improved by such a facility being available at the point of entry. Consequently I wish to convey our support for the amendment".

I invite your Lordships' attention to the closing words of the second new clause: Nothing in this section [or the preceding section] affects the powers or duties of local authorities under the Children Act 1989 or otherwise". I see no room for confusion between the role of the local authority and the role of the asylum seekers' adviser. I see nothing but a warm welcome from the social services of all local authorities concerned.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, did not put forward cost as an objection to the scheme; but in these days I must not overlook expense and value for money. The scheme was originally costed by the Refugee Council in collaboration with the Children's Legal Centre at £60,000 to £64,000 a year. The latest information I have reads as follows; Clearly my estimate of £64,000 is too low as the administrator would probably need to be full-time, and I have not accounted for potential interpretation costs. Even so, it remains a very modest proposal, under or close to the £100,000 mark". The cost to a local authority of taking a child into care has been variously estimated at £25,000 to £40,000 a year for each child. Assuming the latest figure of 185 unaccompanied child refugees a year, the cost per child of this scheme would be £540 a year, which is a trivial sum to add to the £25,000 or £40,000 cost of taking a child into care.

In conclusion, I should like to draw attention to what the Minister said at Committee stage: I shall certainly be prepared to look further and see whether there are any ways in which we can meet with the general consensus expressed".—[Official Report, 16/2/93; col. 1111.] I know that the noble Earl has a great deal of sympathy for the plight of refugee children. He made that abundantly clear during the debate at Committee stage. But the matter has been considered by him for a fortnight and no other way has been found to meet what he describes as the "general consensus". I therefore invite your Lordships to accept my amendments as a reasonable, simple, inexpensive and humanitarian way of coping with this distressing problem. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long in supporting the amendment so ably and movingly put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. I simply point out that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will be moving an amendment to Clause 3 which evokes the principle for the first time in this legislation that children are a distinct social group and that in law—this law as in so many others—they need and deserve to be treated differently from adults.

I shall welcome the noble Earl's amendment when it is moved. The noble Earl having accepted the principle that children need to be treated differently from adults when they are first interviewed by an immigration officer—for that is the implication of his amendment—I ask him why we should stop there. Why should we not carry the matter further, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, suggests? The adviser is necessary at a child's first interview. I argue that it is equally important for him to ensure that the child's needs are subsequently considered and met by the statutory authorities and services. It is necessary that the child should be informed of its rights and obligations and be advised on how to exercise them. The child should be told that it is expected to make a full and frank disclosure on arrival. That needs special advice. The child needs to be advised also that if its application for asylum is refused it can appeal.

As the noble and learned Lord said, there are small numbers of children who fall into the category of "unaccompanied"—only 128 last year. The local authorities admit that there is an inevitable absence of expertise to deal with the problems that arise with the children. Some of them have no contact with local authorities; some are in the hands of informal parents. It is those children who particularly need the assistance, advice and presence of an adviser who can help them in the strange, new and alarming situation in which they find themselves.

I remind your Lordships of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which says that in all actions concerning children the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration. Article 12 of the convention provides for representation of children. Indeed, in nine out of 14 European countries some representation is provided.

In the light of what the noble and learned said, and in the light of the transparent needs of children arriving in a strange country after what may have been a terrifying experience, I hope that they will be given the benefit of the advice for which the amendment provides and which would accord with our duty, our humanity and our obligation.

Lord Renton

My Lords, some kind of advisory body of the kind proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, could be an advantage. But I must confess that, having looked closely at the amendment, I do not believe that the scheme he includes in the two new clauses on the Marshalled List are workable.

As has been mentioned, we have at present fairly elaborate arrangements involving the immigration officer, the local authority welfare officer and often the children's officer. I can well understand that they would be unable to speak the languages of the children arriving unaccompanied, especially from the four countries mentioned. We must bear in mind of course that those are not the only countries from which unaccompanied children will arrive.

The second new clause suggests that there should be people who have not only knowledge of the language and a familiarity with the customs and territories from which the children come—some of whose customs are quite strange—but also a knowledge of our child care legislation and immigration procedure. That is asking a lot. Some noble Lords will be familiar with the Children Act and the massive secondary legislation passed under it; some will be familiar with our immigration procedures, not all of which are free from controversy. That in itself is quite an achievement.

I believe that it would be exceedingly difficult to find the kind of people the noble and learned Lord suggested should take part. If we confine the concept to finding people (it would have to be from more than those four countries alone) who could be called upon first and foremost to act as interpreters and, secondly, to explain perhaps the social background and customs of the children and to pass on that information to the officials concerned (welfare officers and children's officers), that may be a good idea. My view is that it would be difficult for my noble friend on the Front Bench to accept the two new clauses as they stand and to accept the scheme tabled by the noble and learned Lord and presented with great sincerity and persuasion. Nevertheless, it would be worth the Government's while to give thought to the possibility of searching out people who could be of help, especially to the children's officers.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may say that if he looks at the second of the clauses of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, he will find that it is not necessary for one person to have all the qualifications listed in the clause. Those qualifications could be spread among one or more of the people on the advisory panel.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I am reading from subsection (3) of the second new clause which says, The advisory panel shall so far as practicable include persons who", have those qualities. Does that mean that we will pass a subsection which is in part a dead letter? We must make up our minds. Are they to have those qualities or not? I should have thought that it was quite inhibiting to look for people who have knowledge of child care legislation and immigration procedure as well as having been abroad or come from abroad, therefore possessing knowledge of the language and customs of the places concerned.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment of the noble and learned Lord and, if I may, to answer my noble friend Lord Renton from my experience of dealing with these children and with these cases.

On 2nd February this year I wrote to my noble friend the Minister asking why his civil servants opposed the setting up of a panel of advisers who would assist the social services department with children who were unaccompanied refugees. I further asked whether the civil servants had visited London Airport. On 16th February my noble friend replied: I can assure you that there is very close contact between the Asylum Division, the Immigration Services Headquarters in Croydon and Immigration Headquarters at Heathrow and other ports". The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, and I visited Heathrow and talked with immigration officers and members of staff to whom the immigration officers referred the unaccompanied refugees. One cannot get nearer the grass roots than that. We learnt that a panel of advisers would be of enormous value to them, to the social services and to the children. How were the civil servants, not having visited either the immigration headquarters at Croydon or Heathrow airport given an opposite point of view?

In the same letter my noble friend said: Officials are also regularly in touch with the Ministry of Health and have heard … from Directors of Social Services". Yet I have a letter from Miss Higgins, the Director of Education and Community Services who is responsible for administering the Children Act 1989, stating: I consider that we should do everything possible to help and befriend unaccompanied refugee children. I would therefore welcome a panel of advisers, particularly with language skills, to support the child and assist the Social Services Department carrying out its duties under the Children Act 1989". Furthermore, the leader of Hillingdon Borough Council wrote: Our experience has been that our duties under the Children Act … would be improved by such a facility being available at the port of entry. I support your amendment". It is therefore strange that the civil servants and those actually involved in the work at the grass roots do not seem to agree.

In a letter to me of 16th February my noble friend the Minister said that he had been discussing with the refugee council the setting up of a new advice and information centre. I have to confess to the House that at the previous stage of the Bill I misunderstood that statement, thinking that my noble friend was referring to the panel of advisers. In fact he was referring to a research unit to be set up at the refugee council with quite different terms of reference. It was stated at that time by both the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and myself that the role of the guardian ad litem had already been established in this country for children of this country. It was to befriend and to help. Therefore, the appointment of an adviser for refugee children is nothing new. Social services departments are quite used to having someone from outside befriending children even though they are in the care of the local authority.

I come to the comments of my noble friend Lord Renton. I have had to accept children into care as a member of a social services department. Imagine how difficult it is to come to London Airport to find a frightened child to whom one cannot speak because one does not know the language. One does not know his background or what his worries and fears are. One only knows that he is fearful. All one can do is to place him somewhere, hoping that he can fit in. One may take him to a children's home where there is no other child from the country from which he came and there is no one—neither staff nor children—who can speak to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, has perhaps not quite understood what a panel of advisers means. A panel of advisers means that there are a number of people from different countries—one perhaps from Somalia, one from Ethiopia and so on. In this country those who have moved a great deal among the ethnic groups know that one can probably get in touch with someone from practically any part of the world if one knows who they are. The refugee council would know who they are. If a child comes from Somalia the social services would be able to get in touch with someone from Somalia. If the child comes from Ethiopia or Bosnia the social services would be able to get in touch with someone from those places.

I used to work in Oxford which had a very mixed population. I could usually find someone from a particular ethnic group with whom I could get in touch. Such a person would befriend the child and would advise me on how I should deal with the child. He would probably be able to get in touch with relatives in the country from which the child had come. In the end one might even find a foster parent of the group from which the child had come. Therefore I think that there would be no problem and no conflict between social services departments and the social worker working with the child. There would be no conflict between the adviser and the social services department, which has statutory duties. I commend the amendment to the House.

4 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, as she has been so kind as to refer to what I said, perhaps I may say that there is not much difference of opinion between us. Her experience is much more valuable than mine but at the same time we have to be careful not to have a procedure and a formal body of people under statute who could add confusion to the existing services. But they could quite well be a body of people available to help the existing services, as my noble friend wishes.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I should have thought that the objections raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, had been abundantly answered. Since the social services and the other departments concerned all say that this would not be an objective, is it not slightly patronising of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, to tell them that they must be wrong?

I think, however, that in the course of his original remarks the noble Lord made one point which probably does mean a slight rephrasing of the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. It is important that a panel be not so rigidly constituted as not to allow for additional members at very short notice because of the possibility, which is all too obvious in the current situation, that there might be unaccompanied children from countries other than those for whom the expectation now exists—the countries that have been named.

If we had been discussing this six years ago and we had said that we must provide advisers for unaccompanied child refugees, we would probably not have thought of any of the countries—certainly not of all—which we are now discussing. There was no question of refugees from Bosnia six years ago. Therefore, although I think that the basic principles of the noble and learned Lord's suggested panel are perfectly valid for the reasons given by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, it would be useful if there was some kind of provision that the Secretary of State or, acting for him, some other person could, if necessary, appoint an adviser if someone turned up from a country whose language was not represented on the existing panel.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment to which I have been very pleased to add my name. At Report stage we have to anticipate the Minister's reply since we do not have an opportunity to speak after him. So we take the noble Lord, Lord Renton, as not being the light but as being witness of the light. I rather think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, expressed the basic principles behind the amendment so clearly that it is difficult to imagine what effective response there could be from the Government except on the grounds raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, which seem to have been fully answered by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull.

Perhaps I may attempt to anticipate one other possible objection there might be in view of the small numbers of unaccompanied children coming in in any one year. I shall attempt to dispose of the possible argument that the system works reasonably well at the moment and/or that the proposals of the Government would meet any difficulties. I suggest that the system does not work well at the moment. In 1990 about 350 Eritrean children came to this country fleeing from civil war in Ethiopia. No arrangements had been made by immigration officers for their reception, which meant that they were taken by adults to community centres and to individuals who received them across London. Some were separated from their brothers and sisters. Some of them were eventually referred to social services departments. But it took a number of months before they were effectively resettled on a permanent basis, although of course they had been accepted as refugees. So something was going wrong there.

More recently, in 1992, a number of unaccompanied children came from the former Yugoslavia. Here again the social services department was not involved and there was no adequate reception of them other than a rather haphazard placing in foster-parent homes. The provision of services on a consistent basis with the advice of an advisory panel as proposed in the amendments would be a clear improvement on the existing situation.

The Government may also say that there is provision under the regulations or that Ministers have it in mind to make provision to deal with the problem. My understanding is that the refugee legal centre—the body to be made responsible, by order, for the advice and care for claimants for asylum—will be required to restrict its advice to legal matters and that its services will be available only in London. I suggest that that is not adequate to the purpose and that the case made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, is undented by any arguments made so far or which are likely to be made. I suggest that the amendments are worthy of the approval of the House.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, before my noble friend replies, I have one important matter to raise. It is very hard to listen to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, and not be totally convinced by what he says. If we look after these children sympathetically, properly and carefully the moment they arrive, that will save time and trouble later and it will be much easier for everybody. That will save money, although I know it is not a question of money. What the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, has suggested is eminently sensible.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I would much prefer to speak after my noble friend has answered the debate, but the rules say that I cannot. Therefore, I must briefly say what I have to say now. In moving the amendment I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, did a very effective demolition job on the objections which the Government had previously made to this idea. I do not in any way doubt the eloquence of my noble friend, but I believe that he will have some difficulty in breathing new life into any of those objections which the noble and learned Lord has so effectively dealt with.

I have one very strong prejudice to which I should like to give voice here—that is, that those who are involved are entitled to be listened to with care. My noble friend Lady Faithfull made that point with very great clarity. I shall be listening to my noble friend with some interest. Are the Government saying either that there is no real problem here, or that they have a better way of dealing with it than that proposed in the amendment? If they have, I shall be very interested to hear it. I shall need to be convinced on one or other of those points. If they have not, then I hope that the Government will be very careful before they decide to reject the amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Onslow said that it was difficult not to be anything other than totally convinced by the argument which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, put forward. Perhaps I may say to my noble friend that that is why the noble and learned Lord rose to such dizzy heights in the legal profession, which depends so much on the powers of advocacy. The noble and learned Lord displayed much concern in speaking to the amendment this afternoon, as he did at a previous stage.

I have given a great deal of consideration to this matter. The noble and learned Lord took all the objections which I made to the amendment in Committee and systematically knocked them on the head, one after the other. It is quite difficult to rehearse the same arguments again without appearing to just repeat what I said in Committee. Then the noble and learned Lord used the fine lawyer's argument which is that if I produce any other arguments they are bound to be poor ones because all the good bullets would have been fired at the first stage. However, I shall do the best I can.

I said that the noble and learned Lord had knocked all the arguments on the head, but I did not say that he had knocked them all over. I am bound to repeat to your Lordships that I do not really believe that the addition of a provision such as this in the Bill is either necessary or desirable. The reason is this: the responsibility for the welfare of any child, whatever its status, who is without an adult to turn to, lies quite firmly with the local authority. The provisions of the Children Act see to that. Those provisions make no distinction as to the child's nationality or his or her immigration status. The provisions apply to a child arriving here from abroad just in the same way as they do to a child who is already in the country.

The amendment acknowledges the role of the local authority by stating that nothing in the proposed provision should affect the authority's powers and duties. We believe that the local authorities are in the best position, in terms of personnel with experience, facilities and resources, to tend to the welfare needs of a child in the absence of a parent, relative or other guardian, wherever that child comes from, and whether that child is already in the United Kingdom or is entering it. I believe that the special and particular needs of children are best met from within our existing systems, with recourse as necessary to different areas of specialism and advice.

Obviously—here I yield to the point made by my noble friend Lord Renton—from time to time there is a need for the specialised knowledge and experience of the asylum process. I fully appreciate that the local authority staffs may not be familiar with the procedures or with the best way in which to put in train or to pursue an asylum application or an appeal. But there are other expert sources of advice which are available. For example, the Refugee Legal Centre is specifically funded to provide an advice and representation service for any asylum seeker. The staff are specialists in the asylum procedures and in preparing and presenting cases. They have a team of counsellors who are designated to deal with vulnerable applicants, which includes children.

I can understand the attraction of the idea referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, and my noble friend Lady Faithfull, that a child asylum seeker who has arrived from another country in a terrible state needs to have a friend to whom he or she can relate. But I doubt whether the proposed amendment is a practical way of achieving that. In the same way that the local authorities might not have all the expertise required, it would be very difficult to find professional people who are experts in all aspects, such as child psychology, who are specialists in refugee issues and familiar with a range of different languages and cultures, and who are also willing to be available to the immigration service wherever and whenever an unaccompanied child might arrive. Even if we were able to create such a body, I am not sure that it would necessarily achieve some of the results which are intended.

The fact is that the responsibilities are firmly on the local authorities. They have the resources. Where they do not have them, the extra additional expertise is available to be found.

I believe that the fundamental question remains: Why is it necessary to create a new statutory function and a new statutory body? The noble and learned Lord has emphasised that advisers would not take over or dilute the existing responsibilities of the immigration department or local authorities. That seems to me to be agreeing with the principle that I enunciated at earlier stages and also this afternoon; namely, that we should be seeking to bolster those authorities in the exercise of their responsibilities.

If local authorities need further advice and assistance we do not need to legislate to enable them to take it. I know that the Department of Health, for instance, is already looking at proposals from the Refugee Council for an advice and information organisation in this area. It does not need legislative provision of this sort in order to achieve it. So while I have sympathy with the arguments of the noble and learned Lord and with his amendment and understand the reason behind it, I suggest to your Lordships that the structures which we have in place at the moment are the right ones and that they should not be duplicated, or even blurred, by adding an additional body.

Lord Brightman

My Lords, I do not want to repeat the arguments which I addressed to your Lordships earlier. I am content with such knocks on the head of the noble Earl's arguments as I have been able to achieve so far. Perhaps I may say this. The real test must be what the people on the ground say is necessary and what they say is desirable.

All the local authority organisations are in favour of this scheme. The social workers are in favour of it. There is no question in the minds of local authorities but only in the mind, I think, of the noble Earl that there will be any overlap between the work of the advisory panel and the existing work of the local authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, suggested that the scheme was too rigid because new circumstances might arise and it might be necessary for further persons to be placed on the panel. The scheme is drawn in a way which enables that to be done, and it is not necessary to make any alteration to the amendment to allow for changed circumstances. The composition of the panel, additions to it and retirements from it, rest entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, suggested that it would not be possible to find persons able to fulfil the various qualifications set out in the second clause. The noble Earl also made that point. However, it is not necessary to find somebody who is an expert in the Eritrean language and one who also has knowledge of immigration law and welfare procedures, because the qualifications of the panel are that a person shall have knowledge of the language required or shall be able to point to somebody who has that knowledge. It is not necessary for any single person to have knowledge of the foreign language and also of immigration procedures and welfare procedures. The panel as a whole can fulfil the advisory function which I seek to set up under these amendments.

The noble Earl recognised where the general consensus of opinion lay at the time of the Committee stage. I am not able to judge where the consensus now rests, but I think I ought to ask for the opinion of the House.

4.23 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

*Their Lordships divided: Contents, 169; Not-Contents, 114.

Division No. 1
Abercorn, D. Darcy (de Knayth), B.
Ackner, L. David, B.
Acton, L. Dean of Beswick, L.
Airedale, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Alport, L. Donoughue, L.
Annan, L. Dormand of Easington, L.
Aylestone, L. Dundonald, E.
Banks, L. Eatwell, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Elibank, L.
Beloff, L. Ezra, L.
Bessborough, E. Faithfull, B.
Birk, B. Falkender, B.
Blackstone, B. Falkland, V.
Blease, L. Fisher of Rednal, B.
Bonham-Carter, L. Flather, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Gainsborough, E.
Bottomley, L. Gallacher, L.
Bridge of Harwich, L. Galpern, L.
Bridges, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Brightman, L. [Teller.] Geddes, L.
Brigstocke, B. Geraint, L.
Brookeborough, V. Gibson, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Gladwyn, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Glenamara, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. Gregson, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Grey, E.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Haddington, E.
Clinton-Davis, L. Halsbury, E.
Cobbold, L. Hampton, L.
Cornwallis, L. Hamwee, B.
Croham, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Cudlipp, L Harvington, L.
Hayter, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Healey, L. Parry, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Hollick, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Quinton, L.
Hooson, L. Rankeillour, L.
Hughes, L. Richard, L.
Hunt, L. Ripon, Bp.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Hylton, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Hylton-Foster, B. Rochester, L.
Jay, L. Ross of Newport, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. Russell, E.
Jeger, B. Sainsbury, L.
John-Mackie, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Judd, L. Seear, B.
Kennet, L. Selkirk, E.
Kilbracken, L. Serota, B.
Killearn, L. Shannon, E.
Kilmarnock, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Shepherd, L.
Kirkhill, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Lawrence, L. Slynn of Hadley, L.
Listowel, E. Stallard, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stedman, B.
Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Longford, E. Strange, B.
Lovell-Davis, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Lowry, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
McCarthy, L. Templeman, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Tenby, V.
Macleod of Borve, B. Terrington, L.
Mallalieu, B. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Mayhew, L. Tordoff, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Mishcon, L. Underhill, L.
Molloy, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Mulley, L. Wharton, B.
Munster, E. White, B.
Murray of Epping Forest, L. Wigoder, L.
Mustill, L. Wilberforce, L.
Nicol, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
O'Cathain, B. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Ogmore, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Onslow, E. Winchilsea and Nottingham,
Palmer, L. Woolf, L.
Aberdare, L. Coleraine, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare L. Cranborne, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Astor, V. Cross, V.
Barber, L. Cumberlege, B.
Blatch, B. Davidson, V.
Blyth, L. Denham, L.
Boardman, L. Denton of Wakefield, B.
Bolton, L. Eccles, V.
Borthwick, L. Eccles of Moulton, B.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Ellenborough, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Elles, B.
Bridgeman, V. Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Brookes, L. Ferrers, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Finsberg, L.
Butterworth, L. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Cadman, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Caithness, E. Gainford, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Gisborough, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Goold, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Goschen, V.
Carnock, L. Gridley, L.
Chelmsford, V. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Chilver, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Cockfield, L. Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. Orkney, E.
Hesketh, L. [Teller.] Oxfuird, V.
Hives, L. Pender, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Howe, E. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Ironside, L. Prentice, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Reay, L.
Kinnoull, E. Renton, L.
Kitchener, E. Renwick, L.
Knollys, V. Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Leigh, L. Romney, E.
Liverpool, E. St. Davids, V.
Long, V. Seccombe, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Selsdon, L.
Lyell, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Stewartby, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Stockton, E.
Manchester, D. Strathclyde, L.
Manton, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]
Marlesford, L.
Merrivale, L. Sudeley, L.
Milverton, L. Teviot, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Mottistone, L. Trumpington, B.
Mountevans, L. Ullswater, V.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Moyne, L. Wakeham, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Whitelaw, V.
Nelson, E. Wise, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Young, B.

*The Tellers for the Not-Contents reported 114 names. The Clerks recorded 113 names.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

4.34 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 4: Before Clause 3, insert the following new clause—