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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Perhaps I may say a brief word on procedure. Clearly, I have caused some trouble by grouping my later amendments with this one. My intention in grouping Amendment No. 26 with Amendment No. 1 was to draw attention to the only point where the redrafting of the amendment had been substantially changed. It was my intention to persuade your Lordships that we should debate now only the

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redrafting of Clause 1 and the issue of parliamentary scrutiny. All the other issues which noble Lords have debated, with the exception (I am glad to say) of the right reverend Prelate, can much better be debated in later amendments. I suggest humbly to the Committee that, having made this mistake, it would now be best for the Minister to wind up on those two issues.

Earl Russell: Does the noble Lord understand that the points we have been making necessarily arise from what we see as the insufficient nature of the Government's concession on the affirmative procedure?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not believe that I do. I believe that the noble Earl has, very properly and honourably, moved on to substantive issues relating to Clause 1 which can be debated in considering later amendments or that Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill. I am afraid that on this occasion I do not agree with the noble Earl. But I have caused confusion by the grouping that has been agreed, and therefore I am utterly humble about this matter. I suggest that when other noble Lords have said what they wish to say about those two issues, it is better for the Minister to wind up on those matters and to move straight on to Amendment No. 2. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Renton has said, neither I nor the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has moved any amendments. We cannot do so. Only one amendment is before the Committee, and that is Amendment No. 1.

Lord Shepherd: As a member of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, I should like to speak in response to what has fallen from the noble Earl.

The support received by that committee from every quarter of the Chamber is very helpful in its approach to what may occasionally be complicated and difficult legislation. The fact that now the Government more often accept its proposals is even more gratifying. The committee has to operate within a very short period of time. Following Second Reading, the committee obtains the first memorandum from the department and has to put it before the House within two or three days of the Committee stage. Therefore, it is not able to look at the Bill in very great detail. It can go only to the heart of what concerns it.

In this particular case, what concerned the committee was the very wide power sought by the Secretary of State. The policy of the Bill is not a matter that enters into the deliberations of that committee. Therefore, the kinds of points raised by the right reverend Prelate do not enter into the thinking of that committee.

When the committee looked at the Bill, apart from the powers, it wanted to know what it ought to say to the Chamber. That committee reports to this Chamber, not the Government. The Government have responded on the basis that the noble Baroness is a Member of the House and no doubt has been able to obtain a copy. But it is a report to the Chamber, not the final word. Noble Lords who are members of that committee can vote according to their views as a consequence of the debate.

The reason why the affirmative procedure was recommended in regard to the initiation of first orders was that at least the Chamber would have some idea of

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the countries that would be placed on one list or another. If there are additions, on that basis one may say that an affirmative order should equally follow. We thought that, having established the basic principles, that would be enough. However, I remind your Lordships that that committee was reporting to this Chamber. It seems to me that over the years there has not been much difference between the affirmative and negative procedures. Here, one can obtain a negative procedure debate fairly quickly. I am not aware of any occasion when the business managers have found reasons to prevent a debate subject to the negative procedure. Of course, in another place the position is very different. It is not for the committee to do anything in regard to procedures in the House of Commons. As far as concerns this Chamber, the negative and affirmative procedures are basically the same in terms of debate.

The fundamental problem that has become clear in this Bill is that whatever one does between the negative procedure and the affirmative procedure, one will not be able to amend the measure. For example, one will not be able to remove Nigeria, Pakistan or Turkey from one list. One will have to reject the whole order in order to eliminate one country. I can see grave difficulties in terms of relationships with some countries who we recognise do not have as good a procedure as we have in order to deal with their problems but progress is being made. We do not wish to aggravate it perhaps by asking a Minister to say something that might put our friends in those countries at risk.

I wonder whether, before an order is made in this Chamber, the matter should be sent to a committee appointed by the Leader of the House. It will take evidence why the names are on the list, satisfy itself as to that matter, and report to the Chamber that it has conducted an investigation whether those countries should go on the list. I believe that the procedure for debate, be it affirmative or negative, will prove to be very difficult, certainly to get to the truth. In view of our great history, I believe that we should look at a procedure whereby these matters, which may be very delicate, can be considered quietly and perhaps in privacy, with a report to the Chamber on its views on the matter.

I shall support this matter. I believe that whatever is done in this field should be done with as much parliamentary surveillance as possible. But one recognises that whatever one does, one will be hamstrung. One may have a debate and speak one's mind, but at the end of the day if the Government will it, the particular order will be passed, whether it should or should not. If a committee were appointed by the Leader to look at these matters, perhaps not too formally, we would be discharging our duty to a greater extent than is now proposed.

Lord Dean of Harptree: I also welcome the new clause, in particular subsections (7) and (8), which have just been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. I am also a member of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. I find it encouraging that the Government have accepted in toto the recommendations made by that committee.

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The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon said he did not understand the logic of adopting the affirmative procedure for the first list and the negative procedure for any changes. I suggest that there is very good logic here. One is dealing with the concept of designated countries that move into a fairly new area. It is important that this Chamber should have an opportunity to discuss the principles that lie behind the designation. The adoption of the affirmative procedure for the first list gives the Chamber an opportunity to discuss these matters. It also gives Her Majesty's Government an opportunity to explain to noble Lords the logic and reasoning behind the placing of countries on the list.

When it comes to changing the list, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has said, quick action is very often required. There may be a coup d'etat or a change of circumstances in a country which could endanger the life of an individual or a group of individuals. Quick action would certainly be needed, but I suggest to the noble Lord that this would be a very significant matter for the country concerned and Parliament should have the opportunity, if it so chose, to discuss the matter. Of course, the negative resolution procedure would give this House that opportunity.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: It is my intention to speak to Amendments Nos. 24A, 25A and 26, mainly on the understanding that that is what I believe we have been discussing for 50 of the last 54 minutes, and in the hope that when we come to Amendments Nos. 24A, 25A and 26, we will not have this debate all over again.

As has already been said, we have accepted the reasoning put forward by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee for the initial order under Clause 1 to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, with subsequent orders by the negative resolution procedure. The new version of Clause 1 implements that recommendation in full. I am grateful to my noble friends for what they have said about that. I can assure the House that the first designation order will be comprehensive and will contain all the countries considered suitable for designation at that time. To remind the House, the countries we are currently considering as being suitable for designation are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Poland and Romania.

Amendments Nos. 24A and 25A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and Amendment No. 26, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, go much further. Amendments Nos. 24A and 25A propose that the affirmative procedure is adopted for all changes to the designation order; namely, whether countries should be added to the list or removed from it. Amendment No. 26 is similar. That amendment would prescribe the affirmative procedure for the first and all subsequent designation orders which add countries to the designated list.

The designation procedure must be sufficiently flexible for us to be able to make amendments quickly. If I may be forgiven, I should like to employ an

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argument which I believe was used by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and with which I wholeheartedly agree. There may well be occasions when we want to remove a country from the list very quickly indeed. There is a slight difference between us, because I am tempted to accept that there should be no procedure at all; but I believe that Parliament would still like to know whether a country was to be removed from the list. However, it can be done quickly, particularly if the case for removing the country from the list is uncontentious. But to subject this procedure to the affirmative procedure would--or could potentially--cause very real problems in the future. I believe that this argument was an argument accepted by the scrutiny committee, and I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said about that. As I have said, there may be sound reasons for needing to add a country to the list quickly--for example, as a result of a sudden influx of unfounded applications. That is another reason we put to the scrutiny committee, which agreed that flexibility was important.

The negative procedure is already used for extending visa requirements to additional countries and for making other changes to the Immigration Rules. As the debates in both Houses on the benefit changes earlier this year demonstrated, the negative procedure is capable of providing effective parliamentary scrutiny.

Designation will not of course result in automatic refusal of asylum claims, and it will not result in the denial of an appeal right. That is a very important point to be made.

As I have said, I would have no objection to the proposal in Amendment No. 26 that the Secretary of State should be able to remove a country from the designation list without any parliamentary approval, but I simply cannot accept the amendment as a whole.

As I have said, the Government have implemented in full the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. However, Amendments Nos. 24A, 25A and 26 depart from the committee's report and are, for the reasons I have given, undesirable and unnecessary.

On some of the points that have been made during the course of debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, referred to procedures for considering claims from designated countries. I hope that we shall actually resort to accuracy in the course of our debates. I said it at Second Reading, but I shall say it again now: we envisage that applications from nationals of designated countries will be considered under the short procedure, and in relation to those who apply on arrival, they will be interviewed on the day of arrival if the applicant is fit and well enough to be interviewed. The applicants then have a month--not a matter of days, but a month--in which to submit additional information before the case is considered. It is not the case that the case will be completed from the start to the end of appeal within 10 days. Cases are unlikely to take anything less than two months, even under this new procedure.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, has played with figures--and I suppose that one can make almost anything of the figures--but it is irrefutable that, in

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1988, there were 3,998 applications for asylum in this country. In 1995, there were 43,965. We can talk as much as we like about how many leave the country, how many are dealt with in this way, that way or the other way; the truth is that when 43,965 applications are made, they have to be dealt with; they have to be processed; and they go into the appeal system. Noble Lords will remember that I said there was a backlog of 84,000 cases. That is the arithmetic. That is the time-consuming part, and that is why we have increased by eight times the number of people dealing with applications. That is why we have made available a great deal more money to speed up the process. However, it is not just to be tackled from one angle; it actually needs to be tackled by the system for dealing with the asylum applications as well.


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