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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am happy to try to help the noble Baroness. If she thinks back to her logical position on the tax system, she will appreciate that child benefit is claimable by the person responsible for looking after the child. The child cannot claim on its own behalf. The person caring for the child does not have to be the parent. As the noble Baroness is aware, ordinary child benefit can be claimed by citizens of this country--grandparents and others--with the financial responsibility and care of the child. They can in some circumstances claim child benefit. But that claim is

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made usually by the parent, although certainly it can be made by the person responsible for looking after the child.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the Minister appears to be saying, heads the Government win, tails the asylum seeker loses. If one sees child benefit as an amalgamation of family allowance, on the one hand, and tax relief, on the other, it cannot be claimed as a tax relief, even though if the child was British it could be claimed because it is a child and therefore the tax relief belongs to the parent. If it is said that it is a tax relief, on my argument the parents should be entitled to it but the Minister says that they will not get it. But if it is family allowance they may not have it because that is a general form of benefit. This will not do. It is a deeply unfair system. However, it is late at night, and I am confident that we will return to this at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 96 to 98 not moved.]

Baroness Flather moved Amendment No. 98A:

Before Clause 11, insert the following new clause--
(".--(1) Section 13 of the 1971 Act shall be amended as follows.


(2) In subsection (3A)(a), after the words "as a visitor," there shall be inserted the words "other than as is provided in subsection (3AD) below,".
(3) After subsection (3A) there shall be inserted--
"(3AD) A person who seeks to enter the United Kingdom as a visitor to visit a family resident in the United Kingdom shall be entitled to appeal against a refusal of an entry clearance to an adjudicator who will consider the appeal together with any representations made by the appellant's representatives on the papers without an oral hearing".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have tabled this amendment in response to evidence of great distress caused by the removal of the right of appeal from visitors to this country in 1993. Noble Lords may remember that at that stage I moved an amendment, accepted by the Government, which led to the appointment of an independent monitor to look at refusals from the entry clearance officers for the purposes of fairness, equity and the proper conduct of that power.

We have received two reports from the independent monitor, Dame Elizabeth Anson. They point to some grave injustices and anxieties on the part of the monitor that perhaps not all is as well as it should be. She looks at only one in 38 cases. She reports,

    "that most applications are considered properly under the Immigration Act and the Immigration Rules, but a number have caused me grave concern. Some of these examples are family visit cases where there have been a number of applications and refusals for members of the same family, and as I stated in my last report evidence of the reasons for the refusals should be in the interview notes. When an application is refused and all the reasons in that refusal are answered and evidence accepted by the ECOs then a similar application supported by that extra evidence should satisfy the ECO and an entry clearance be issued".
She further states:

    "The ECO must therefore cover all his reasons for refusal in any refusal notice and not bring up new reasons on a second application unless there is new evidence to support them".

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My reason for tabling the amendment is that family visits are being hampered. Those most affected are British citizens who have settled here from other countries. They are the ones who have been caused distress. Members of families who want to attend weddings or other special occasions are being denied the right to come by entry clearance officers. There are no means to deal with these matters as there is no right of appeal. The Immigration Advisory Service, which is the largest national charity that undertakes this kind of work, is aware of a very great number of documented cases where matters are not as they should be and the degree of distress caused by these unnecessary refusals.

One of the IS staff members was refused leave to bring his elderly parents into this country because the entry clearance officer said that he had visited them in the country of origin in the past. That seems strange. Many people living here would go back to visit their relatives and families and the country itself. Does that mean that anyone wanting to come here to visit would be refused entry just because their relatives can visit them?

Elderly parents apply for settlement rather than a visit because there is then a right of appeal. It cannot be right that all that money is being spent by the individuals who want to come here and by the administration in this country just because those people know that they are unlikely to obtain permission to visit here.

It is also worth noting that the predecessor of the Immigration Advisory Service (the UK Immigrants Advisory Service) was winning 50 per cent. or more cases on appeal. Since the criteria have not changed, it would appear that 50 per cent. of the people who in the past would have been able to gain entry on appeal as genuine visitors are now being refused entry. The consideration is whether this provision would lead to a great expansion in numbers.

It is not intended that the right of appeal should lead to a full hearing. It should be a limited right which should be dealt with on paper by a single adjudicator sitting in chambers. He should be able to see all the papers, including the representations made. He would then be able to give an independent and impartial view.

Up to 10,000 letters are being received by Members of another place on behalf of their constituents. That number will increase, because when people's close relatives are refused entry, the first person to whom they will go will be their Member of Parliament. A great deal of work will be involved in dealing with all those letters. It is unlikely that this limited right of appeal will cost much more than what happens at the moment.

There is another point which my noble friend the Minister may wish to bring up; namely, the question of a review by the entry clearance manager of his officer's view of the case. It is difficult to imagine that the entry clearance manager would want to go against the decision of one of his officers. That was the very point upon which I was able to base a previous amendment in l993. There must be someone who is not within the system and part of the system itself. The independent monitor's report points out that some of the reviews are extremely sketchy. She was unable to read some of them

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because they were written in almost unreadable long hand. Other concerns are expressed in the monitor's report; for instance, the fact that the interviews with the applicants have lasted only 15 minutes.

It is extremely important to people to be able to maintain their family ties. I very much hope that the Minister will look carefully at the issue in order to see whether there is some way of meeting that great need. I beg to move.

12.30 a.m.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, one is given to understand that the present Government protect, defend and uphold the interests of the family as a basic unit of society. The amendment concerns family relationships and on such grounds it seems to be very worthy of support. I do indeed recall the noble Baroness's amendment of 1993 and I congratulate her on bringing forward this amendment today. I hope that it will receive a very sympathetic hearing from the Government.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I warmly welcome the amendment. I too remember the noble Baroness's intervention in 1993. Her amendment could not be better designed to illustrate the point that I was making just a few minutes ago; that we no longer exist in a lot of little separate national boxes. We belong to one world and our social circle comes from many different countries.

Recently my wife's uncle was dying. That was hardly an unexpected circumstance as he was in his middle 90s. His daughter in Australia wished to visit him before he died. I can imagine the shock and outrage all around the family if after flying all the way from Australia she had been refused entry clearance.

That is exactly what happens from time to time and it is the problem to which the noble Baroness wishes to call attention. We see in the papers a great many such cases which arise under the habitual residence test. I shall not enter into that debate now but it illustrates, particularly in families which are divided between here and India or Pakistan, the very real difficulty and the gross hardship which can arise from the casual refusal of entry clearance.

What the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said about the effect on families is entirely to the point. The extended family is very important. It is a support system which the Department of Social Security ought to welcome. Indeed, it relies on it often enough in unexpected and often mistaken places. But, where that system wishes to operate, to restrain it from doing so in the name of a concern for bureaucratic tidiness or a respect for a kind of national privacy which in this world no longer exists is perverse.

My only misgiving about the amendment is the words "without an oral hearing". I see why the noble Baroness included them. In this context one might possibly forgive them if they were never to get out of it. I fear that they might but I am glad that the noble Baroness tabled the amendment. It makes a very important point which I hope will receive a hearing.

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