Immigration and Appeals (Procedure) (Amendment) Rules 2001

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Ms Winterton: I take note of the hon. Gentleman's comment, and I am sure that it will be passed back to the Department.

I hope that I have answered most of the questions that hon. Members raised. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey asked about dependants not covered by the adjudicator, although I did not entirely understand his point. However, I may reassure him that, if a failed asylum seeker's dependant not covered by a decision were to make legal application, the failed asylum seeker would be covered by the other application. I think that that is correct. If it is not, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman.

The evaluation and review will consider the number of decisions being delivered in person, the prompt delivery of decisions, the number of people removed from the country following delivery of decisions and the time between delivery of appeal decision and removal. The review will certainly check that legal advice, if requested, was provided. It will also consider the number of judicial reviews or reviews made by the chief adjudicator or tribunal following delivery of decision in person.

I hope that hon. Members feel reassured by what I have said.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill): I have waited until I heard the Minister's response to other members of the Committee. She assured us that representatives would be informed of decisions. What happens if they are not sent the papers before a hearing?

Ms Winterton: I am not sure how that would fit into the process that we are discussing. Will my right hon. Friend explain exactly what he means?

Mr. Davis: It is obviously unfair if the papers for an appeal are not sent to representatives before the hearing, which has happened before in some immigration cases—I have experienced it personally. What is attitude of my hon. Friend's Department towards that issue? I have had some difficulty in getting a response.

Ms Winterton: I assume that in such a case, if an appeal went ahead without papers having been served, the whole appeal might be reviewed, the legal adviser would question it and the appellant would have a reason to relist the appeal. I would have thought that, if the process that we are discussing were affected in such a way, that would be grounds for a legal challenge. The Home Office normally sends papers to the Immigration Appellate Authority and to the legal representative at the same time. However, I shall check on my right hon. Friend's point and write to him if I have said anything that needs correcting.

Mr. Davis: I want the Minister to write to me anyway because, as I have told her, I have had experience of papers not being sent. She can take my word for that. I hope, too, that she will bear it in mind that it is unfair to impose extra legal expenses on the appellant.

Ms Winterton: I shall certainly write to my right hon. Friend. Perhaps he could provide my officials

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with some of the background to the cases to which he referred.

I hope that hon. Members feel reassured on the points that they raised. If, when they read the record, they discover points that I have not covered and on which they would like further information, I shall be happy to write to them.

Let me re-emphasise that the rules form part of our wider programme to ensure that our asylum system allows each applicant a fair and just opportunity to bring their claim, while enabling us to deal effectively with those who have failed to establish their claims. Overall, we believe that the programme will lead to an improved system that provides justice but maintains public confidence.

5.31 pm

Simon Hughes: I am grateful to the Minister for being careful in dealing with all the points that hon. Members have raised, and to her colleague in the other place yesterday for doing the same.

The debates of today and yesterday have to some extent retrieved the system from the problems that it faced, but they have also shown that the system was failed by the lack of a proper consultation process. It would have been better if there had been a proper consultation with the Council on Tribunals, the other statutory consultees and those who know about the process, because it is their daily business—including people such as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis), who advises constituents. Those people could have contributed to make the rules more practical, which would have caused us less concern and apprehension. In future, I hope that we will have a balanced consultation of that sort.

The hon. Member for Woking and I made the point that such legislation should not be processed under cover of darkness, during the holiday. It should be processed while Parliament is sitting, so that we can have a debate before the law is implemented. Although we allow for the possibility, it is nonsense to have the law in place before the Parliament can have a debate on it—that allowance was intended for emergency, not normal cases. I hope that we have learned that lesson.

There is one final issue that I want to flag up. When we approve the rules, which will mean that they have been approved by both Houses and that they become law, no time limit will be put on how long they will apply. Yes, there will be a pilot scheme and a review in March—but nothing in law prevents the rules from being rolled out without alteration, and with no regard to the points that hon. Members have made. I hope that the Minister will consider the matter, along with her colleagues in the Home Office, remembering that I am happy to be consulted—as, I am sure, is the hon. Member for Woking, who has a lot of experience in this area. We need to ensure that we do not proceed to implement the process until we are satisfied that lessons have been learned from the review and that the points made in Committee have been taken on board.

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I am not asking for a formal undertaking. However, will the Minister inform her Department and her colleagues in the Home Office that we will be unhappy if a general implementation of the rules takes place before we have a chance to consider the review? We should be unhappy not least because this process had such an unhappy beginning, owing to the fact that we were unable to have consultation.

I hope that lessons have been learned and that the Government, however laudable their motives, understand that they would do better to get everyone on board rather than appear to steamroller things and then, at the end of the day, appear more conciliatory

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only when Opposition parties seek a debate. Debates on the subject would not have taken place had colleagues in both Houses not asked for them, which is not satisfactory.

The Minister has helped in the circumstances, and I hope that we will continue on a better footing.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Immigration and Asylum Appeals (Procedure) (Amendment) Rules 2001 (S.I. 2001, No. 4014).

Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to Six o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Chairman)
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Davis, Mr. Terry
Follett, Barbara
Hughes, Simon
Hunter, Mr.
McCafferty, Chris
Malins, Mr.
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Organ, Diana
Robertson, John
Ruane, Chris
Stringer, Mr.
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Winterton, Ms Rosie

 
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