The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman

Part of Prisons and Courts Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 29 Mawrth 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway 2:15, 29 Mawrth 2017

I am sure it is not lost on hon. Members that it is almost exactly the hour that those awful events happened in Westminster last Wednesday. There are various memorials going on around us. I am sure all colleagues would back me in saying that we would much rather be at those memorials than here, but business goes on, life goes on, laws continue to be made and we have to continue to do our job.

The Bill applies only in part to Scotland; specifically, it applies primarily to immigration detention and its processes. Amendments 30 and 31 would ensure independent oversight of detention periods in immigration cases, and that detention happens with due regard to Home Office rules and the facts of the individual case. Amendment 30 would add to the ombudsman’s powers the function of investigating where a person is held in detention for more than 28 days. Amendment 31 would compel the ombudsman to investigate such cases where detention exceeds 28 days.

The Government know this debate well. During the passage of the Immigration Act 2016, an amendment tabled by honourable colleagues went further than the amendment I have moved today. It would have limited detention for immigration cases outright to 28 days. The Government were defeated in the Lords and the amendment attracted cross-party support in the House of Commons, but was ultimately unsuccessful. I hope that closer consideration will be given to this amendment than was given to the last.

The all-party groups on refugees and on migration have concluded very clearly that there should be a 28-day limit. People held in immigration detention have committed no crime, yet their detention is open-ended, without limit, and could last for years. In no other sphere of our jurisdiction would we allow that to happen. It simply would not happen in the rest of the prison estate—no one would be held for more than 28 days without being placed before a judge—but it happens in our immigration system. The UK is the only EU country not to have a time limit on immigration detention. The current position is inhumane, ineffective and hugely expensive. Personally, I would say that indefinite detention without trial is an affront to the rule of law, which I hold so very dear, having studied law on both sides of our border.

Let us consider some statistics. Some 7% of detained immigrants were detained for longer than six months. Only 23% of those detained leaving Dungavel in Scotland were deported, so by inference 77% were deemed safe. In that circumstance, is it proportionate to not have a 28-day limit? It is in the interests of both sides of the Committee that following detention or following anybody coming to this country to settle and make their life, integration is of paramount importance. Having this draconian measure and not having safeguards to limit the amount of time that immigrants may be detained will not get them off on the best foot in terms of integrating them into our society. That is in no one’s interests. I respectfully suggest that the Government act and impose a limit to the time that people can be detained in immigration centres.