Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

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Simon Hughes: The hon. Member for Woking may take a view on the matter that he and I jointly raised, but I am happy to consider the Minister's comments to see whether the three specific grounds in subsection (2)(h) to (j) cover all the usual eventualities. I appreciate where the Government are coming from on registration and naturalisation. I do not disagree with the Minister that there is an appeal process for the withdrawal of citizenship. I am also aware that part 1 clarifies the law and makes it catch up with practice, so that when decisions are made reasons are given.

I also accept that there is the judicial review option. However, the circumstances are slightly odd. The Government say that they are happy about judicial review but do not want an appeal system. We will later have a debate in which they will say that they are happy about the appeal system but do not want something in the traditional form of a judicial review. The Minister says that it is a judicial review, but it is only on the papers.

There are grounds on which it is perfectly proper for there still to be an appeals system. First, people can acquire British citizenship by marriage. That is normal. A non-British citizen who marries a British citizen is entitled to seek citizenship once a sufficient period has passed to show that the marriage is genuine. Again, I appreciate that some countries do not allow dual citizenship and others do. If an application for citizenship is turned down, there should be not just a judicial review option but an appeal option. That might prevent the judicial review option from having to be triggered.

Secondly, people apply for British citizenship on the basis of length of residence in this country. That is perfectly normal. Some people can be here all their life without wishing to apply, but an application will normally be considered after 10 years. In such cases it may be proper to have an appeals system as well as judicial review.

Finally, children might seek naturalisation or British citizenship in order to have the same citizenship as their parents, or vice versa, and other family groupings may apply. I ask the Government to think about that. I shall also think about the issue and take advice on what the Minister has said, but I believe that Ministers and civil servants should reconsider some cases, if not all of them. I would be happy if we could reach agreement before Report stage. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Ms Winterton: I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 33, line 21, at end insert

    'under section 10 of this Act'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 251, 347, 355, 371, and 372.

Ms Winterton: Amendments Nos. 347 and 355 are clarificatory.

Simon Hughes: That is good.

Ms Winterton: Yes, it is an excellent phrase.

The amendments are clarificatory in that, except in relation to the payment of a fee, the procedure for applying for and issuing a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode is presently unregulated. Clause 10 makes provision for regulation of those matters and redefines ''certificate of entitlement'', where that term occurs in the Immigration Act 1971, by reference to the new procedures. By referring to clause 10, the amendments will ensure that references to certificates of entitlement for appeals purposes in part 5 have the same meaning as under the 1971 Act.

Under amendment No. 251, if a person ceases to be a refugee and has his indefinite leave revoked, he will have a right of appeal against that decision and will be able to raise any grounds listed in clause 62 at the appeal. If removal is intended, a decision to remove by way of directions under section 10 of the 1999 Act will follow on immediately from the revocation of indefinite leave, in order to enforce departure. The issuing of removal directions will be consequential to the revocation decision. There can be no reason to justify it resulting in another right to appeal when all relevant arguments against removal may be raised at the appeal against the decision to revoke.

Removal may not take place while an appeal against revocation is pending by virtue of clause 57. If the appellant is successful at appeal, there can be no removal because indefinite leave will be restored. If a person's indefinite leave has been revoked but he is granted further leave and removal subsequently becomes possible, the leave can be curtailed or the person can be refused an extension when that leave expires. He will accordingly have a further right of appeal at that time. In those circumstances, the appeal will be against the decision to curtail or vary leave or to refuse to vary leave to remain.

As for amendments Nos. 371 and 372, a series of Government amendments have already been tabled to make all references to certificates of entitlement refer back to clause 10, which governs those certificates. The definition of the term is set out in clause 10(5). The definition in clause 89 is therefore unnecessary and potentially confusing. The reference to ''that Act'' in line 31 makes no sense if line 29 is deleted, so we need to amend line 31 to show which Act is meant.

I hope that I have given a comprehensive explanation of the Government amendments and that the Committee will accept them.

Simon Hughes: I always smile when Ministers are asked to table amendments to Bills that have only just

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come from the same source as the amendments. That shows that the word processing is not yet under control. There is an argument for consolidation of legislation. I hope that Ministers will confirm at the end of the Committee stage that they will consider a consolidating Act, which they have done for other legislation, that will pull together the dozen or so pieces of immigration, asylum and nationality legislation. For those who are trying to work their way around the legislation, one Act is more likely to illuminate than 10 Acts spread over 50 years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department argued convincingly for a card to replace the various bits of paper showing the status of an asylum seeker to allow them access to facilities. We agreed that we need a system that prevents fraud and forgery, and is secure. The amendments seem fine, although I will read tomorrow's Hansard to see what the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department said to ensure that I still think that they are fine.

However, the amendments do not offer anything more firm and reliable than the bits of paper issued at various points in the certification process. I understand that someone may be given leave to remain or a direction for removal, which can be adjusted depending on the circumstances. I ask Ministers to consider a safer system. It is often to the applicant's advantage to have something that everyone recognises is valid. The Parliamentary Secretary may have constituency experience, as I do, of people who have gone to the local authority, benefits agency or social services department, but no one is clear about their status. They may be here legally, but may have interim status as they are between decision and adjudicator, or adjudicator and tribunal, or they may have an appeal against a direction for removal. What someone is entitled to as a result of that is often unclear.

The Chairman: Order. We are beginning to move to a Third Reading type of debate.

Simon Hughes: I was trying not to do that, but I could not have made that point elsewhere.

Angela Eagle: Other than on Third Reading.

Simon Hughes: Indeed. I would be grateful if Ministers could consider the matter at the appropriate time, and respond.

Ms Winterton: Of course we are prepared to consider all those issues as we continue to develop ideas, but provision for identification needs to be in primary legislation.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 251, in page 33, line 31, leave out '10' and insert '10(1)(a), (b) or (c)'.—[Ms Rosie Winterton.]

Mr. Malins: I beg to move amendment No. 399, in page 33, line 40, at end insert:

    '(4) An explanatory statement of the reasons for refusal will be despatched to the appellant and the appellant's legal representative (if any) within one month from receipt of the notice of appeal for

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    non-settlement applications, and within three months for settlement applications.

    (5) The respondent to an appeal under this section shall be stopped from presenting a case against the appellant if there is a failure to comply with the provisions in subsection (4).'

A glance at the title of the Bill reveals that the central word is immigration. My amendment is designed to focus our minds on immigration appeals. Some say, with much merit, that it is a great omission for a Bill with such a title not to introduce a measure that would facilitate and speed up immigration appeals, especially when there is considerable emphasis on speeding up asylum appeals. It is a great shame that students and people coming here for permanent settlement sometimes have years of their lives wasted and irreparably prejudiced through bureaucratic incompetence. On Second Reading, several hon. Members referred to immigration appeals. The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) said:

    ''There is one glaring problem that the White Paper and Bill fail to address: the appalling delay in the immigration system, and in particular, the time that it takes to appeal against a refusal to be brought before the Immigration Appellate Authority. The Government have shown, especially in asylum cases, that the process can be speeded up if there is the will to do so. I just hope that the Home Office shows the same regard to people who are waiting in the immigration queue for their appeals to be settled.''—[Official Report, 24 April 2002; Vol. 384, c. 367.]

That was one of several comments that focused on immigration appeals, which the Bill seems hardly to address.

Not long ago, I tabled a series of written questions designed to tease out some information from the Government. The answers show that although there are targets for entry clearance officers, they are not monitored. Worse still, there are not any targets, let alone monitoring, for how long an explanatory statement should remain in the Home Office. My amendment would do two things. First, it would revert to the old practice of sending explanatory statements by post to the appellant and to their representative, if there were any, thus saving time and bypassing the Home Office. The Immigration Appellate Authority should be able to handle that administratively now that it has a centre at Loughborough. Secondly, it would prevent the Home Office from opposing an appeal if there were non-compliance.

Why is it necessary to include the Home Office in the process? Even if the Minister has an answer to that, there is no reason why there should not be a penalty for non-compliance. If I were in a more kindly mood than the Government seem prepared to be with appellants—I refer to clause 82, which determines when an appeal will be ''treated as abandoned''—I would suggest that it could left to the discretion of the adjudicator to decide whether the Home Office should be able to contest the appeal. That would soften my position on the amendment.

One written question was:

    ''To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state against each category of appeal, and for the last full year for which records are kept, (a) the (i) target and (ii) actual time for despatch of explanatory statements by entry clearance officers from notification by unsuccessful applicants of their notice of appeal, (b) the time such statements are held in the Home Office before being

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    sent to the Immigration Appellate Authority and (c) for what reason figures are not published in the Home Office annual report; what proposals he has for reducing the delay; and if he will make a statement.''

The Minister replied:

    ''The target time for despatch of explanatory statements from entry clearance posts to the Home Office is one month from receipt of the notice of appeal for non-settlement applications and three months for settlement applications. Information on the actual time for despatch is not available. Information on the time such statements are with the Home Office is not recorded centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. These figures were not published in the last Home Office report as they do not measure performance against a Public Service Agreement or Home Office target. The scope for reducing timescales will be kept under review as part of the substantial expansion in appeals capacity announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 29 October 2001.''—[Official Report, 15 January 2002; Vol. 378, c. 192–194W.]

In effect, the answer was, ''We'll have a look at the problem'', but it has not gone away, and other parliamentary questions, including from the hon. Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan), have not drawn a more positive response.

My amendment is therefore designed to draw attention to immigration appeals, which are neglected in the Bill and in the action being taken by the Home Office. I hope that the amendment receives support from the Government and Liberal Democrat Members.

11.45 am

 
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