Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

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Mr. Malins: This provision would leave people in legal limbo with no clear immigration status in the United Kingdom. They would be unable to work or to access state benefits and it would be irremovable. Furthermore, it could be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Amendment No. 226 would delete ''for legal reasons'' from a fairly meaningless subsection. It is insufficiently explained. If, for legal reasons, the person cannot be deported, it is incongruous to take away his need to remain in the United Kingdom. Moreover, will the Minister explain why the unsatisfactory phrase ''for legal reasons'' appears in the subsection, and the equally unsatisfactory phrase

    ''for legal or practical reasons''

in the next subsection? What is the difference?

7 pm

Angela Eagle: The amendments are designed either to expand the scope of subsection (1) to cover all those liable to deportation or to delete it altogether, thus preventing indefinite leave from being revoked where a person is liable to deportation but cannot be deported for legal reasons.

Legal barriers to deportation could include, for example, where a person is likely to receive treatment contrary to article 3 of the ECHR, prohibiting torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, if they are returned to their country of origin. There are no exceptions to article 3, so it applies to all, regardless of whether they have committed criminal offences. Where deportation is prevented by article 3 or other legal obstacles, the power to revoke indefinite leave will enable a further sanction to be taken against the individual concerned.

It is necessary to include only legal reasons as obstacles to deportation as only legal reasons could prevent a deportation order from being set. Practical barriers to removal—I hope that this answers the hon. Gentleman's question—such as lack of documentation or difficulty in establishing nationality, are not included in subsection (1), as they would not prevent the issuing of a deportation order, although they might prevent its being effected. Its issue would have the effect of cancelling leave.

The revocation of indefinite leave in those circumstances is designed to enable us to take a tougher line against criminals and other undesirables liable to deportation but who cannot be deported for legal reasons. It will send a message to individuals that although their removal may not be possible at that time, their presence in the UK is not guaranteed. It will also express official displeasure at their conduct. The revocation of indefinite leave will disentitle the individual to its associated benefits, such as the right to immediate family reunion—if he has not made use of it already—as well as the assumption of permanent settlement and the stability and security that that entails. The intention will be to remove the individual from the UK if it becomes possible, and revoking

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indefinite leave may make it easier to do so if circumstances change.

Amendment No. 257 would prevent us from taking further sanctions against criminals liable to deportation but who cannot be deported. Amendment No. 228 would leave an incomplete sentence. Amendment No. 226 deletes the same wording as amendment No. 224 and is unnecessary. I hope that, with that brief exploration of what is in our mind, the amendment will be withdrawn.

Mr. Malins: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Allan: I beg to move amendment No. 277, in page 29, line 38, at end insert—

    ''(1A) The Secretary of State shall not exercise any power under subsection (1) unless, at the same time, he grants the person whose indefinite leave he revokes leave to remain in the United Kingdom for a period of not less than the period for which he cannot be deported under sub-section (1)(b).''.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 278, in page 30, line 1, at end insert—

    ''(2A) The Secretary of State shall not exercise any power under subsection (2) unless, at the same time, he grants the person whose indefinite leave he revokes, leave to remain in the United Kingdom for a period of not less than the period for which he cannot be deported under subsection (2)(c).

Mr. Allan: These amendments explore the status of individuals who have their indefinite leave to remain revoked under the clause but cannot yet be removed for reasons specified in two subsections. I am interested to hear what status the Minister intends to apply to such individuals. The indefinite leave to remain may have gone for good reasons, but it would be irregular to leave them with no legal status in the United Kingdom if they have to remain for any length of time. The amendments may not achieve that clarification, but it would be helpful to have an indication of the Government's intentions.

Angela Eagle: I cannot agree to the amendments because they would require us to grant further leave in all cases where it has been revoked because the person is not removable. That would result in indefinite leave being reimposed. Our intention is that periods of limited leave only will be granted to such people. It will allow us to keep their presence in the country under review if the reasons making it difficult or impossible for us to remove them change.

Mr. Allan: I am grateful for that clarification and beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Malins: I beg to move amendment No. 225, in page 29, line 40, leave out ''thinks'' and insert—

    ''has substantial grounds for believing''.

We have had this debate before. Many of us find the word ''thinks'' unsatisfactory. The amendment would prevent the arbitrary use of the power. The highly subjective approach in the clause as it stands could create problems on judicial oversight.

Angela Eagle: I said that I would go away and think about that. I have discovered that the insertion of the

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word ''thinks'' is an attempt to have simpler language in Bills, and that the word does not have a different meaning. I am thinking sympathetically about what the hon. Gentleman said in earlier debates, which has consequences on this debate.

Mr. Malins: In those happy circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Allan: I beg to move amendment No. 279, in page 30, line 3, leave out subsection (3).

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 246, in page 30, line 3, leave out

    'or someone of whom he is a dependant'.

No. 280, in page 30, line 30, leave out subsection (7).

Mr. Allan: I shall try not to detain the Committee for too long on this important issue. It harks back to an issue that we discussed earlier when we talked about people returning to their country of origin.

I understand that the indefinite leave to remain provisions are lost if an individual goes to another country for more than two years. There are ways in which individuals who choose to return to their country of origin, which is a major target of the provision, could lose their indefinite leave to remain. It speeds up the process by having a formal revocation at an earlier stage.

To what extent will the provision make exploratory trips more difficult? Will individuals who have indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom be more wary of engaging in a process of possible repatriation if they consider that that could damage their immigration status? Would a judgment be made that such individuals had the protection of their country of origin although they did not feel overly protected by it because they were in an exploratory phase?

A further issue is family visits. Individuals who take an extended family visit to their country of origin could be deemed to have accepted the protection of that country, although it might be only a temporary exploratory phase. Such individuals would be discouraged from returning to their home country although the situation may have improved to the extent that they would undertake a family visit but not be ready to resettle. Fear of losing the ability to remain in the United Kingdom under the provisions could discourage such individuals from maintaining family links.

We may require further exploration later in the Bill's progress to satisfy those questions, but I hope that the Minister tell us how the provisions will mesh with sensible intentions to allow individuals to chose whether to return to their home country at an appropriate moment.

Angela Eagle: Certainly, the provisions will not get in the way of exploratory visits home. We mentioned them when we discussed the international clauses.

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The Geneva convention mentions circumstances in which refugee status and protection granted may be cast aside by an individual's actions. The clause ensures that, if appropriate, an individual's actions to adopt another nationality, to return to their country of origin, to acquire a new nationality or voluntarily to re-establish themselves in their county of origin would allow us to end their refugee status.

In Britain, indefinite leave to remain is part of refugee status. The clause allows us to revoke indefinite leave to remain so that if people avail themselves of the protection of their original country, we may revoke their refugee status. That is all, and it will not occur in several of the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, such as people exploring whether they could return home. However, we may well revoke the status if we discover that such people have retaken their nationality or re-established themselves in their country of origin while wishing to keep their indefinite leave to remain in Britain that was granted because they became refugees. We should have the right to withdraw refugee status from such individuals, which the Geneva convention grants in such circumstances.

 
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