Bishop Donald addresses the House of Lords regarding Immigration Detention

From the Standard 

On 26th March 2015 Lord Lloyd of Berwick led a short debate, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the Report of the Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom, published on 3 March”. The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, spoke in the debate, which was the last of the 2010-15 Parliament and the final contribution of Lord Lloyd, who was to retire.

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, from these Benches I too pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and thank him in particular for his service as chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. He has chaired the committee for 13 years with a forensic eye for detail. He has taken the time and made the effort, as we know is typical of him, to understand the Church of England—and has maintained a sense of humour. It is remarkable and we are hugely grateful. He has also been a friend to many of us, for which we are also grateful. We wish him very much happiness in his retirement, not least in his lambing next month.

I was shocked and distressed to read this report. I did not take part in the inquiry but some of the facts that are presented here—which were to some extent in the public domain anyway but are now made clear before us—are deeply distressing. It is a truism that justice delayed is justice denied. I understand the difficulties that the Government can face: very large numbers of people coming into the country, some very complicated cases and some very difficult investigations that may need to be undertaken to determine the facts. We understand that these are real problems. I understand, too, the principle of not wanting a time limit, lest that time limit become a default which everyone has to serve in detention. I understand where the Government are coming from but, in this anniversary year of Magna Carta, it is hugely distressing to hear of people being detained for three or four years, not knowing what their future may be and how long that detention may continue.

One of the essentials of the Judaeo-Christian principles that are such an important part of our history, and indeed of our Britishness, is the principle of treating the foreigner—the alien, the stranger within our midst—well, caring for those who come into our midst for whatever reason. Of course, those who come intent on crime or wrongdoing or those who come for hidden reasons need to be investigated, sought out and dealt with. Of course, we cannot give a home to everyone in the world who wants to leave their own country. There is no suggestion that we should do that. But for those who come here seeking the opportunity to stay, we need to investigate, we need to take care and we need to make a proper and appropriate decision—which may be that they can stay and may be that they have to go—but they must know that during that process we as a people, with our British values and our Judaeo-Christian heritage, are seeking to care for them. I plead with the Minister and the Government—and the future Government, whatever form they take—to understand the importance of caring for the alien, the stranger in our midst.

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