ILPA Briefing for Ping Pong Immigration Bill (for Lords consideration) 10 May 2016


ILPA Briefing for Ping Pong Immigration Bill (for Lords consideration) 10 May 2016

Below is also the summary of the Commons Insistence, Non-Insistence, Amendment in Lieu and Amendments to the Lords Amendment (10 May 2016), that were debated.  

Updated with additional resources:

Following the debate in the Commons on Tuesday 10th May, a link to the debate is below. 

Notable topics were:

  • Judicial oversight

There was a substantial debate on the provisions but amendments seeking judicial oversight at an earlier stage and a duty on the Secretary of State to justify detention were withdrawn.  The Government amendment introducing an automatic bail hearing at four months for those who had not had a bail application considered within that time remained unchanged.  The Government confirmed that the bail hearing would be granted automatically without the applicant having to make an application.

  • Detention of pregnant women

Baroness Lister of Burtersett tabled an amendment to seek that the language of the statute reflected the detention of pregnant women only in ‘very exceptional’ circumstances and put questions to the Minister on the safeguards that formed part of her earlier Lords amendment.  The amendment was withdrawn but the following clarifications were provided by the Minister.

 ‘very exceptional circumstances’

The Minister stated that the legislation refers to exceptional circumstances and the guidance in force today refers to ‘very exceptional circumstances’ and that will continue to be the policy.  It will only be in very exceptional circumstances that it will be appropriate to detain.  The word ‘very’ was not considered to add to the statutory construction of the provision but the policy guidance will be clear that ‘very exceptional’ circumstances will apply. 

‘apart from this section’

The Minister was questioned about the inclusion of the wording ‘apart from this section’ in the clause requiring a person authorising detention to have regard to the woman’s welfare.  The Minister stated that the provision is intended as an additional safeguard though the drafting may be inelegant.   The party exercising the power to detain must also have regard to welfare before deciding to detain.  For example, if a pregnant woman arrives at a remote port and there are exceptional circumstances to detain but no appropriate place to detain, then having regard to the woman’s welfare will be a determining factor not to detain and an additional safeguard. 

or’ rather than ‘and’

The Minister explained the choice of the word ‘or’ rather than ‘and’ in the provision allowing for detention in exceptional circumstances or for removal in a short time.  He stated:  “the intended effect of these provisions, so far as pregnant women are concerned, is that they will, like all detainees, be detained only for the purposes of removal. Because there will be a time limit on the detention of pregnant women, all cases of detention of pregnant women will be necessarily short. Some of these cases will have exceptional circumstances attached but, by definition, not many. For example, cases at the border are quite likely not to have exceptional features. The clause as drafted therefore allows for the detention of pregnant women only when they can be removed quickly, or when they can be removed and exceptional circumstances pertain. It is merely to allow for the two circumstances—namely, that they can be quickly removed, or that they can be quickly removed and exceptional circumstances pertain”.

The Minister did not agree to a review of the wider process under which women are taken to detention on the basis that Shaw was doing a further report, but was reminded that he had made an earlier committed to undertaking a review of the transport of women to detention. 

The Minister did not provide the statistics requested by Women for Refugee Women on the numbers of pregnant women detained.  He indicated that there is a process for following up the freedom of information request made. He also maintained that Yarl’s Wood was a suitable place for detention with a new care suite for pregnant women.


The Bill went on to receive Royal Assent on 12 May 2016, and is now the 2016 Immigration Act. 

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