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Short-term Holding Facility (Amendment) Rules 2022

Volume 829: debated on Tuesday 18 April 2023

Motion to Regret

Moved by

That this House regrets that the Short-term Holding Facility (Amendment) Rules 2022 (SI 2022/1345) remove important safeguards and reduce the standards for the lawful detention beyond 24 hours of migrants, including children and vulnerable adults, at the immigration detention facility in Manston, Kent; that the Home Office has not consulted on these changes nor provided an adequate policy justification for them; and that this potentially contentious legislation was brought into effect while the House was in recess.

Relevant document: 25th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument)

My Lords, the wording of this regret Motion is taken in large part from the highly critical report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which draws the rules to the special attention of the House. Its report reflects the grave concerns expressed in a joint submission from Medical Justice, Freedom from Torture, Bail for Immigration Detainees, Rainbow Migration, JRS UK, the Helen Bamber Foundation, and Detention Action. I am grateful to Medical Justice and Freedom from Torture for their help with this Motion, and refer to the register for support from RAMP.

By way of background, a short-term holding facility is a type of immigration detention centre governed by legal rules that regulate the amenities and services that different types of facility must provide. There are two types: residential STHFs, and non-residential “holding rooms”. Normal maximum detention times are five days in the former and 24 hours in the latter. These rules create a new category called “residential holding room” which is now being applied to the Manston facility, a non-residential holding room, which attracted considerable criticism recently for its dreadful conditions and unlawful operation. Residents of RHRs will be detained for a normal maximum of four days, extendable in “exceptional circumstances”. Exceptional circumstances are not defined, but in its written response to the SLSC’s questions, the Home Office gave us an example: “unexpected and very large numbers of small boat arrivals”. Could the Minister tell us what would constitute an unexpected and very large number, given that the Government give the impression that large numbers are far from exceptional or unexpected at certain times of the year? Can he explain why there are no absolute time limits, as with residential STHFs?

Criticisms of the rules in the SLSC report and the joint submission concern both their substance and the process of their introduction. The joint submission draws attention to how the safeguards applied in existing residential short-term facilities are being “dramatically downgraded”, and standards regarding healthcare, communications, sleeping accommodation and access to legal advice are being reduced.

Modifications to Rules 32 and 30 mean that detainees with particular vulnerabilities and at risk of harm, who are especially likely to suffer damage from detention, are less likely to be identified. This includes torture or trafficking victims, and those experiencing suicidal ideation and other serious mental health conditions. Yet the existing statutory guidance on adults at risk recognises the need to ensure that vulnerable people are not detained inappropriately. The amended Rule 32 does not, for example, include a reporting mechanism for those with evidence of torture, so there will be no process for identifying and safeguarding this highly vulnerable group. The amended Rule 30 changes the deadline for medical screening from within two to 24 hours of admission, and even that can be lengthened in “exceptional circumstances”—again, that is not defined, but the same example of unexpected and large numbers of boat arrivals has been provided.

Examples of reductions in the standards applied in residential STHFs include the absence of a firm requirement for separate sleeping accommodation for people of the opposite sex, and for minors or families to be in sleeping accommodation that is inaccessible to unrelated detained persons. Others reduced rights to communication: can the Minister clarify whether those held in an RHR will be permitted face-to-face visits, such as from external organisations? If so, will any restrictions be placed on who may visit? Of particular importance is the ability to meet a legal adviser; can the Minister confirm that RHRs will make provision for legal advice and representation, including the right to face-to-face meetings?

The SLSC underlines that:

“The overall effect … is that the facilities and amenities available to people who may be detained for four days are materially lower than those deemed necessary for people who may be detained for five days”.

The committee was not impressed by the Home Office’s response to its question as to why this was appropriate. Unlike the Home Office, it does not consider the appropriate comparison to be with the rules applying to non-residential holding rooms. Given that this is a new category of residential holding facility, the committee is surely right to make the comparison with other short-term residential facilities.

While the committee did accept the need for what the Home Office described as

“a balance to be achieved between ensuring”

that Manston

“operates as efficiently as possible whilst addressing immediate healthcare and vulnerability concerns for any individuals”,

it points out that the Home Office has not explained why the balance

“should be struck in a way that provides fewer protections for migrants detained for four days compared to those detained for five”.

Can the Minister explain now, please?

In its written response to the committee, the Home Office did emphasise that the rules represent

“a minimum standard and we may go above and beyond these in practice”.

Given the failure to meet previous minimum standards at Manston, forgive me if I am sceptical. Can the Minister tell us in what circumstances he envisages the minimum standards being exceeded?

Overall, the committee concluded that the

“Home Office has not provided an adequate policy justification for creating the new category”,

and observed that:

“The House may wish to press the Minister for a better explanation of how the welfare of these migrants is to be safeguarded”,


“how Manston will operate in the future”.

I hope that the Minister will provide such an explanation in his response, and that he will be able to dispel the committee’s

“strong impression that the new category is designed for the operational convenience of the Home Office, rather than for good reasons of public policy”.

The committee suspected

“that the main consideration is facilitating the continued operation of Manston even though its conditions have raised public concern”,

and it expressed scepticism that the new regime will

“guarantee that the site is always able to operate within the law”.

What is the policy justification for creating the new residential category, rather than upgrading Manston to residential STHF standards?

The committee also criticised the Home Office on a couple of process grounds. The first was the lack of either consultation or an equalities statement. It suggested that:

“This may be because the arrangements fall below acceptable standards”.

The Minister might like to comment. The absence of any equalities statement is particularly worrying, given that the joint submission warns that the changes are likely to have a particularly negative impact on disabled people, survivors of torture, women and children. Has one now been completed for the new rules?

Secondly, why was

“potentially contentious legislation … brought into effect over a recess”?

Why indeed. Can the Minister explain, please, and can he update us on the timetable for implementation and tell us what steps will be taken to monitor the impact?

In response to the committee’s question as to whether it intended to apply the new RHR category to any other sites, the Home Office responded that, while it could do so, it did not have any such plans at that point. That was in January, so may I check whether that is still the case? Also, what criteria would be used to apply RHRs to other sites? Can we have an assurance that Parliament will be informed by way of a Written Statement if it is intended to apply RHRs to other sites in the future?

The joint submission to the committee sums up why these rules are potentially so harmful. It is worth quoting as a reminder of what is at stake in rules that were rushed in without consultation, during a recess:

“Taken in combination, the extension of the maximum period of detention with the modification and disapplication of key Rules, constitute a dangerous withdrawal of the safeguards that apply to detained people, and a deeply concerning downgrading of the conditions in which they are held. The changes risk children and vulnerable adults not being identified in RHRs, being harmed by continued detention and having little access to legal advice in order to understand and challenge their circumstances. This carries the further risk that such people will be routed inappropriately through the system”.

These concerns are all the more worrying, given the likely increase in detentions and the removal of existing safeguards relating to children and pregnant women as a result of new legislation before Parliament.

In the light of the predicted damage to highly vulnerable groups, I believe that the Minister should withdraw these rules. At the very least, I hope that he will answer our questions and do so more satisfactorily than the Home Office has done hitherto. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the Motion to Regret in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. The Government were clearly right to openly acknowledge that the Manston short-term holding facility had been operating outside of legal requirements and that action was needed to improve conditions at the site. Therefore, the decision then to use secondary legislation not only to extend the length of detention powers at such facilities but to reduce the required safeguarding standards must be highly regrettable. It cannot be right that, when the immigration estate fails to meet legislation passed by this House, the response is simply to rewrite the rules. I am reading a lot about the Soviet Union at the moment, and there is an echo of that: if the five-year plan was not met, you simply changed reality to meet what you were going to get.

It is important not to forget that short-term holding facilities accommodate families, children, and survivors of torture and trafficking, following people’s often traumatic journeys. We should be committed to the highest safeguards when seeking to accommodate individuals in this position, and take the right steps to identify those with protection needs. I therefore ask the Minister why it was deemed necessary to reclassify Manston as a residential holding room, thereby disapplying key safeguarding rules for short-term holding facilities. Why was only one fewer day of permitted detention justification for such a downgrade in safeguarding rules and standards?

I want to be brief, so I will pay attention to just two key issues. First, it is unclear whether the Rule 32 process will fully apply to residential holding rooms. Will detention therefore be reviewed within the mandatory timeframes for those identified as vulnerable through the Rule 32 process? The modification to a review as soon as is practicable, as suggested in the Explanatory Memorandum, is highly concerning, as individuals, including children, may be harmed further by their continued detention.

Secondly, why is there no requirement for minors or families to be in sleeping accommodation in residential holding rooms that is inaccessible to other detained individuals not known to them? Surely this requirement should never be downgraded when it comes to a child, and the risk is even greater with extended detention for up to 96 hours.

Given that the Government are looking to impose a duty on the Secretary of State to detain those in contravention of Immigration Rules for any length of time deemed appropriate through the Illegal Migration Bill, this debate reminds us that detention safeguards and accommodation rules are vital in protecting the most vulnerable people. I therefore ask the Government to ensure full scrutiny of these rules as facilitated through the passage of the Bill, rather than has been the case in this instance thus far.

My Lords, I first thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for tabling this Motion to Regret, and echo her call for these rules to be withdrawn—they are unacceptable.

I think it is useful to put this in the context of Oral Questions earlier. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, speaking for the Government on their plans for the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik. The noble Lord said that this was

“an important opportunity for member states to renew their commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

Yet here we are, debating regulations that clearly fail to meet basic standards of human rights. Basic standards are being denied to people in the UK. That is horrifying in its own moral terms but, thinking about the state of the world and the role the UK Government say they wish to play in it, it is definitely going to damage our status and our ability to have impact in the rest of the world.

It might be said that it is some of the usual suspects in your Lordships’ House who are saying these things, but we are reflecting the conclusions of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. These regulations remove important safeguards and reduce standards, including for children and vulnerable adults, and the Government have

“not provided an adequate policy justification”

for or consulted on these changes. This was brought in while the House was in recess. There are blows everywhere to democracy, the rule of law and all the things that the Government say they are standing up for.

I want to briefly reflect, drawing on a report by Amelia Gentleman in the Guardian last month, on what was happening at Manston and what is apparently being regularised. The journalist quoted a Home Office employee who said that what was happening in Manston

“had got way beyond what was ethical and humane … There were people who’d been sleeping on a mat on the floor of a marquee for 20 days”.

Some families had been

“shut inside tents without access to fresh air”

for seven days. This is unacceptable.

One of the other issues was private security contractors. It is a particular concern where we see removal of democratic oversight through outsourcing and privatisation. A company that usually does security for festivals and shopping centres suddenly had staff, clearly not trained for the practices, who had to deal with a very difficult situation.

There is a lot to say, but we have limited time, so I want to focus on a couple of issues. There are much broader issues around immigration detention and the fact that the UK is one of the very few countries in the world that locks up for an indeterminate period—sometimes for years—people who have not even been accused of any crime. I ask the Minister directly, under the RHR regulations we are debating, why is there no maximum legal time limit, as there is to an STHF? Will the Government commit to introducing a time limit?

What kind of system have we now arrived at? Will the Minister confirm that the current changes will see a dramatic change in the amount and form of detention being used in the UK in the coming months and years? Is the Minister concerned about increasing breaches of human rights, in particular the right to be protected from arbitrary detention, torture and inhumane and degrading treatment?

My Lords, if I did not speak to this Motion and support it, I think I would be haunted by the ghost of the late Lord Eric Avebury, for whom improvement of the conditions in which people are held at the border was something of a mission. I appreciate that I am speaking of a Member of this House who died some time ago, but his legacy lives on with some of us.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, has been very thorough. I hope that the Minister managed to note all her questions. If I repeat any of them, I apologise to the House; I do not think my editing quite kept up with all she had to say. The noble Baroness said that the House did not need reminding of the concern there has been, and which remains, about conditions at Manston and the number of people held in those conditions. Perhaps we should not be surprised that, instead of changing “facilities”—a term which I find rather inappropriate in this context—to fit the rules, the rules are being changed to fit the facilities.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said that there was

“insufficient information to gain a clear understanding about the instrument’s policy objective and intended implementation”.

I agree, at one level—the level of the law—but politically, frankly, it is clear enough. As the SLSC spells out, facilities for people

“detained for four days are materially lower than those … for people who may be detained for five days”.

It gives some examples that I do not think have been mentioned yet. The ability to meet a legal adviser in confidence is downgraded to only

“if it is practicable to do so”,

rather than being unconditional. Of course, there is also the issue of medical screening.

The Home Office is going to have to be very sure that it can process and move on the asylum seekers who find themselves in this situation within four days. I would like to check that the four-day limit is for all holding rooms and that you cannot be moved from Manston to another equivalent facility. I know that only Manston falls into the category now, but I would like to check that you cannot be moved on and find that your four days start again. What if you are sent to a “normal”—as it were—holding facility? Do your four days count towards the five-day limit there? I know that the Government regard Manston as unique, but it is entirely possible that that could change, considering the fast-moving situation over just the last year or so. Why not confine the instrument to Manston? Are there plans, proposals or notions waiting to be worked up for other sites to be designated as residential holding rooms? Can the Minister guarantee that asylum seekers will not be moved from one RHR to another without, for instance, proper access to legal advice or medical or vulnerability screening?

On the argument about, essentially, the balance between efficiency and treating people well, the SLSC politely said:

“We accept the need for … a balance, but the Home Office has not explained why it should be struck in a way that provides fewer protections for migrants detained for four days compared to those detained for five”.

I have to say that I find it an unpleasant concept to be seeking to balance those two situations. I appreciate that what noble Lords are saying does not play into the Government’s narrative about torture and trafficking.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, reminded me about the issue of security and those who are engaged to act as security operatives—or perhaps agents, I do not know. Does the Minister know—if not, can he find out—whether people engaged in that work are DBS checked? It is an issue I have raised in connection with hotel accommodation, and I recall the Minister saying that he was quite sure that they would be DBS checked. I am less sure.

Exceptional circumstances, which allow for more than 96 hours, have been mentioned. Can the Minister confirm that these are only external circumstances, not related to an individual—in other words, that if one of the people working in one of the centres gets a bit worried about an individual, they cannot decide there is something exceptional about the individual and exceed the 96 hours? The House’s committee reports are always worded very carefully, so it will have known what it was doing when it used the term “disingenuous” about this—and I think it was right to do so.

The right reverend Prelate raised the issue of children and families, but I could not pick up what the provisions about sleeping accommodation would be for families—I accept that I may have missed that. The SLSC commented that it had

“the strong impression that the new category is designed for the operational convenience of the Home Office, rather than for good reasons of public policy”—

the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, quoted this. This was where I started. The SLSC suggests that:

“The House may wish to press the Minister”

on safeguarding, welfare and the future operation, and on

“why potentially contentious legislation was brought into effect over a recess”—

this was mentioned. Adding to that, I ask why we only get to debate it three months later—although, sadly, everything we are talking about remains entirely topical.

Quite rightly, the sector has raised further questions on matters that have occurred since January. We on these Benches very much support—I was going to say “are pleased about”, but in the context that is wrong—the Motion.

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend for bringing this regret Motion. She set out the reasons for doing so in her characteristically thorough way, and I will try not to repeat her points—but she has been so thorough. Nevertheless, I will set out the case as quickly as I can.

This SI creates a new category of STHF called the “residential holding room”. It appears that this has been created specifically for Manston detention centre, for which, as a non-residential STHF, the previous time limit was 24 hours. This SI changes the time limit to 96 hours, or four days. Additionally, the Secretary of State can extend this. Despite this being close to the five-day limit for residential STHFs, there are significant differences in the minimum conditions, which it is worth setting out. There is no requirement to allow migrants to have access to the internet or to send and receive correspondence, and there is no requirement to fund migrants to correspond with legal advisers, the court system or the UN Refugee Council. It is also unclear whether face-to-face visits are provided for, or whether detainees have the right to meet their legal advisers. There is also no requirement to have separate sleeping quarters for men and women—this was mentioned—or for minors to be housed in separate sleeping quarters, away from unrelated detainees. There are also reduced requirements for health-risk reporting by health staff.

The Government have defended the new rules, stating that the new category of STHF is needed because Manston is a “unique” facility that requires “bespoke” time limits and arrangements. Can the Minister confirm that it is indeed unique, in that there are no plans to extend RHRs to other sites in the future? Both my noble friend Lady Lister and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised this question, and I look forward to the Minister’s confirmation that this will not be extended.

We heard that stays in Manston have been confirmed to be much longer than the 24-hour limit—up to a month, according to the Home Office. I understand that there are exceptional circumstances and that the Government are in a difficult situation in many ways. I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Will some of the detainees at Manston who are being accommodated there for up to a month be entitled to phone calls, internet and gender-separated sleeping quarters, as they are in other facilities in which they are allowed to stay for only five days?

Also, given the reports of dozens of cases of diphtheria in Manston last year, and warnings from health officials that cases were spreading within migrant facilities, do the Government believe that the new requirements for health reporting in Manston will be enough to protect detainees’ health? The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, raised this question at Oral Questions today, and clearly there is concern about this matter. I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, compared the rhetoric of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, in another Oral Question today, about the ideals of the Council of Europe and the ECHR—and here we are, talking about the practicalities of dealing with a difficult situation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned Eric, Lord Avebury, whom I am proud to claim as a noble kinsman. I remember many years in this House when he unremittingly raised the concerns of refugees—he may well be looking down on us in this debate now.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds raised an interesting idea, pointing out that quite soon we will deal with the Illegal Migration Bill, which may be an opportunity for this House, or perhaps the opposition parties, to investigate this SI and similar ones and to give them more thorough scrutiny. I was interested in that suggestion, and I will consider whether my party wants to take that further.

The questions have been set out thoroughly by my noble friend and other noble Lords, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for bringing this debate before the House. Clearly, these are important rules, and it is important that they get an airing and that the views of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee are considered in this forum. The debate obviously follows concerns about the new rules expressed in that report by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, and I will endeavour to answer them in the course of my speech and to address the questions of the previous contributors.

I will first put these new rules into context. Since 2018 we have, sadly, seen an enormous increase in the numbers of people choosing to put their lives into the hands of people smugglers and enter the UK unlawfully, after crossing the channel in small boats. We will all be aware that last year some 45,755 people crossed the channel, seeking to enter the country illegally. That figure was 60% higher than in 2021. We know that the estimates for this year range between 65,000 and 85,000. We also know that 51% of those 45,755 who arrived last year arrived in August, September and October, with 8,631 in August alone. The Manston facility in Kent was opened specifically to provide secure processing and security checks for those small-boat arrivals.

To date, Manston has been operating as a holding room under the Short-term Holding Facility Rules 2018, the same rules prescribed in relation to holding rooms at ports and airports, where people are detained on arrival in the UK should that be necessary. This means that detention there has been subject to a 24-hour limit under the Short-term Holding Facility Rules, but that limit was always subject to an extension in exceptional circumstances—that is clear in the rules. The other rule exceptions and modifications to which holding rooms are subject under the 2018 rules also apply to Manston. The Short-term Holding Facility Rules are made under Section 157(3) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, a flagship part of the Administration led by Mr Blair, and those rules were made to deal with an immigration situation very different to that faced in the present climate.

As I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, it is of fundamental importance that the Home Office is able to undertake initial processing of all new arrivals and has sufficient time to do this. Unfortunately, on those occasions when there has been a significant number of arrivals in a very short period, it has proved very challenging to do that within a 24-hour period. I stress that Manston is unique in that it acts as a reception facility for all small boat arrivals, and it is only right that bespoke rules are developed to recognise that unique status. The rules create a new type of short-term holding facility, known as a residential holding room, where individuals may be detained for up to 96 hours. Again, that is extendable in exceptional circumstances, if authorised by the Secretary of State. I am clear that the rules are an appropriate, safe and decent response to the unprecedented pressure on our border caused by the illegal and dangerous journeys across the channel.

Perhaps it would help if I set out again where we are now in relation to short-term holding facilities. In essence, under the original scheme—the 2018 rules—there were two categories: holding rooms and residential short-term holding facilities. As you would expect, the conditions relating to holding rooms were less detailed than those in relation to residential short-term holding facilities. The upper limit for holding rooms in the 2018 rules was, and remains, 24 hours; the residential short-term holding facilities had an upper limit of seven days, as prescribed in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 in the definitions sections. Direction from the Secretary of State has been made that the detention should be a period of five days, unless exceptional circumstances are met, as set out in the 2021 direction. The effect of the 2022 rules is to insert in the middle of those two categories a further category of a residential holding room, which, as I have already said, allows for detention of up to a maximum of 96 hours and is extendable in exceptional circumstances. As is appropriate, the conditions for that period of detention are commensurate to the length of the potential detention, so the House will see that there is therefore a scale of short-term holding facilities.

It is right to suggest that to reflect that a residential holding room may be used for a longer period it builds on and provides more extensive facilities to those using them, and which are more extensive than those which have previously been available at Manston. I can reassure the House that an ongoing programme of work is under way at the site to upgrade the existing facilities, which is of course reflected in the legal framework that will apply to it under the 2022 rules. Examples of that refurbishment work include installation of fire doors, replacement of boilers, general building and fabric repairs, lighting and electrical works, and redecoration of all internal rooms and communal areas.

A regime will be operated in the residential holding room to allow free association of residents for the majority of the day. There will be a canteen area for the provision of food and drink. There will be recreational rooms, which will be furnished and equipped for immediate use. There will be access to the open air. A multifaith room will be designated as part of the refurbishment. Legal visits can be conducted on-site, using interview rooms within the asylum screening suites—I hope that reassures the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, in relation to her questions concerning legal visits. Phones will be available, and a secure room can be provided for confidential legal calls.

Rule 48, in relation to visitors, does not apply to residential holding rooms. I entirely accept the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that there is a difference under Rule 27, in that individuals will be permitted to meet their legal adviser in confidence if it is practicable to do so. But it will clearly weigh heavily on members of the staff if they determine that it is not practicable, and I would expect efforts to be made to ensure that sufficient facilities are available.

It is clear from the report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that noble Lords have interpreted the new rules as seeking to downgrade the facilities and amenities that residential holding rooms are required to provide, when compared to residential short-term holding facilities. Residential short-term holding facilities are also governed by the 2018 rules, which apply to them in full. Although individuals can be detained in residential short-term holding facilities for up to five days, as I have already said, in certain circumstances individuals can, in fact, be detained for a maximum of seven days. It is therefore right that residential short-term holding facilities, where someone may stay for up to one week, should be required to provide more in terms of facilities and amenities than a residential holding room. I repeat again that Manston is a unique detention facility compared to a residential short-term holding facility or an immigration removal centre, where individuals are detained predominately for removal. In answer to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, it is correct that we cannot circumvent the time limits for short-term holding facilities by moving an individual to another site and, in effect, restarting the clock—that will not occur.

Turning to the question of welfare raised by the committee, we will, as ever, strive to prioritise the welfare and processing of vulnerable adults and families from the initial point of their arrival. No unaccompanied children are detained at Manston; they are instead processed at the Kent intake unit. The proposed facility at Manston that will form a residential holding room—which I should add is only a part of the Manston site—will not contain unaccompanied children, because they are processed at the Kent intake unit. Single adult women and single adult men will continue to be held in their own discrete accommodation—I hope that goes some way to reassure the right reverend Prelate on his concerns in this regard. That is of course already the case in residential short-term holding facilities. The only time that residents mix is in family accommodation, which is carefully supervised and relatively lightly occupied. Families should be prioritised for processing; however, where it is necessary to use a residential holding room for families, guidance sets out that they should be provided with sleeping accommodation that must not be accessed by unrelated detained adults, where practicable.

I am conscious that noble Lords are concerned about what is seen as a downgrading of some protections that apply to vulnerable people detained in short-term holding facilities under Rule 32 of the 2018 rules, particularly in respect of those who claim they have been victims of torture. As I outlined earlier, a residential holding room builds on and provides more extensive facilities than what is currently available in a holding room at Manston.

Noble Lords should be aware that rule 32 does not apply at all to those held in holding rooms—the first tier of the three categories. There is a balance to be achieved between ensuring that Manston operates as efficiently as possible while addressing immediate healthcare and vulnerability concerns for any individuals. If immediate risks to the detained person’s health are identified, the modified rule 32 for residential holding rooms sets out that the individual’s detention must be reviewed as expeditiously as possible. I hope that addresses the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It is important to note that, prior to entering a residential holding room, the individual will already have had an initial health screening and access to medical staff if required. The provision of medical screening and reporting immediate medical risks in residential holding rooms will be an additional safeguard.

Processing new arrivals as quickly as possible continues to be our primary objective. The majority of the Manston facility will continue to operate as a holding room, to which the 24-hour time limit will still apply. This new type of short-term holding facility was created to provide additional and essential operational flexibility within our detention estate to undertake processing and security checks and to provide staff with additional time to process people effectively and safely at times of significant pressures.

Turning to the procedural points raised by the committee in its report, it is clear that noble Lords are concerned that there was no external consultation on these rules before they were laid before Parliament and that they entered into force on 5 January before the end of the Christmas Recess. I would like to be clear that there is no statutory requirement to undertake a stakeholder consultation before amending the Short-term Holding Facility Rules 2018. Furthermore, as I have explained, we are seeking to improve the facilities at the Manston site, not downgrade them. It is important that this work is completed as soon as possible, thereby improving the experience of people detained at Manston at the very earliest opportunity. I would hope noble Lords would welcome this. Undertaking what would be a very prolonged consultation on these amendment rules would have been likely to detract from that goal.

The enduring solution to this challenge is to stop the illegal, dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings that are beginning to overwhelm our asylum infrastructure. That new legislative regime—as the House is well aware—is the Government’s ultimate objective. The recently introduced Illegal Migration Bill, which will shortly arrive in your Lordships’ House, will change the law so that those arriving in the United Kingdom illegally may be detained and then promptly removed to a safe third country or their home country. In the meantime, the creation of residential holding rooms will give our hard-working Border Force officers the time they need to undertake their vital work and keep our country safe. In light of all that, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her Motion.

My Lords, before the noble Baroness responds, I asked a question about DBS checks. I wonder whether the Minister is able to answer it.

Certainly. It remains my understanding that those who have dealings with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children would be the subject of DBS checks. Whether it is the case that all of those working at the Manston site have DBS checks—those working with adults—I cannot answer at this point, but I would anticipate that is the case. I will certainly write to the noble Baroness in respect of that.

I am sure the Minister will understand that vulnerable adults need safeguarding as well—it is much wider that children.

My Lords, I am very grateful to everybody who has spoken, all of whom I think have deepened the arguments and reminded noble Lords what is at stake here. I am grateful to the Minister for spelling out the Government’s case. I suspect he did not manage to answer all the questions, so I would be very grateful if he could look through Hansard and write to everybody who spoke in answer to those questions.

I am conscious that the Committee wishes to get going. The one thing I want to say is that the Minister says that we should be welcoming this, and that it is somehow an improvement. Yes, of course it is an improvement on the holding rooms, but what he has not answered is the really the kernel of the SLSC’s report. Why, in upgrading from a holding room, is it necessary to introduce this intermediate category that, for the difference of one day, removes many of the protection that are there for those held for five days? He has not answered that. That is why there is so much concern among all the organisations that know what is going on at Manston and are really worried about what this will mean. I hope that when he writes he will make clear when this actually starts being operative. He talked about the upgrading of Manston—that is great, he made it sound, if not exactly wonderful, certainly better that perhaps it is at present—but the fact is that this is a downgrading of the treatment of people who are kept for more than 24 hours. That is the point, and that point has not been met. However, I am conscious that the House wishes to proceed and therefore I withdraw my Motion.

Motion withdrawn.