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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am not sure where an English accountant fits into the hierarchy set out by the right revered Prelate, but wherever it is, here I am! I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, my former colleague--I nearly said "former friend" but I hope that he remains so--down the road of comparing different governments. The problems which surround immigration and asylum remain real and the dilemmas which faced the previous government continue to face this Government and have led to this Bill and the issues which surround it.
I support Amendment No. 1. We, too, saw the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and its important recommendation. That and other representations led us to table Amendment No. 210. As my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out, we chose to place it after Clause 154, towards the end of the Bill, rather than at the beginning. With all due respect to my noble friend, that is a secondary point, but the wording is to all intents and purposes identical.
The time has come to give serious consideration to ensuring that any future amendments to the immigration rules come before both Houses of Parliament for the affirmative procedure. It would also be helpful if the proposed changes to the immigration rules were made available to us in good time for our considerations on Report, which will presumably follow after the Recess. That was done for previous Bills a year or two ago.
The case for such scrutiny of changes to the immigration rules rests on the importance of those rules. That case has been well made by others during the debate and I do not need to emphasise the point. The issue also reflects a larger problem facing Parliament: the increasing volume of secondary legislation that is incorporated into all Bills. This is not a party point. Many recent Bills have required a great deal of secondary legislation. The trend is probably increasing, although there was already a heavy volume--getting ever heavier--under the previous government.
We all regret the complexity of modern law, but there is an inevitability about it. Given that complexity and the number of measures requiring secondary legislation, our procedures need to be looked at again. That is a wider point of which the amendment is an example. The immigration rules are of sufficient importance to warrant the affirmative procedure when they are changed. I support the amendment.
Lord Renton: Before my noble friend sits down, will he make it clear how he feels about the placing of the amendment or one like it? He wisely placed it after Clause 154, which deals with regulations and orders. It would be incongruous for it to be the first clause of the
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I have not changed my mind. That is a more sensible place for the clause. I shall wait until I have heard further discussion of the issue to decide whether it should be a subsection of Clause 154 or a separate clause. I would be content to leave that to the parliamentary draftsmen. My noble friend has given a lot of sound advice to parliamentary draftsmen over many years, particularly in his report. I shall not quarrel with him about matters of parliamentary drafting.
Lord Dholakia: I support the amendment. We value the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, particularly when we agree with him. In this case, he is right. We are not bothered where the amendment appears in the Bill as long as the Government intend to include it. It precedes the other amendments because it is right and proper to draw attention to an aspect of the Bill on which we feel that discussion could be stifled to an extent because of a lack of information, particularly on rules and regulations.
At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and I drew attention to the problems that the Bill created. We identified clause after clause that provided that the Secretary of State may "make regulations" or,
The amendment received the support of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, which took into account my comments and those of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. It is important for us to be able to identify aspects of the Bill that breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
We have a clear statement from the Minister in the Bill. However, we do not know whether the rules to be made under delegated legislation will breach the convention. That can be determined only when the matter comes before your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby and I have tabled several clause-stand-part Motions rather than amendments because that gives us an opportunity to highlight the potential breaches of the convention.
There is a fundamental problem. Some years ago my noble friend Lord Avebury asked for not just the immigration rules but the instructions to immigration officers to be laid before Parliament. We were surprised to discover that they were confidential documents. It is not just the rules that are important, but the way in which immigration officers implement them. We hope to have some sight of that document.
I support the amendment for the reasons that I have stated. It has been supported by all those who have spoken so far. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has always been helpful. I remind him that on Second Reading he said,
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The intention of both amendments is the same. They would make any change to the immigration rules under the Immigration Act 1971 subject to the affirmative procedure. I understand the reasoning, but I think that the concerns are misplaced.
Immigration rules are statements of the practice to be followed in the administration of immigration legislation. By virtue of Section 3(2) of the 1971 Act, they are made by the Secretary of State subject to a special form of negative procedure. He is required to lay a statement of the changes to the rules before Parliament.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, asked about the opportunity for either House to pray against changes made under Section 3(2) of the 1971 Act. If the Secretary of State wishes to make a change, he is obliged to lay before Parliament a statement of the changes in the rules. If the statement is disapproved by resolution of either House within 40 days of being laid, the Secretary of State is obliged to make such changes or further changes as appear to him to be required and such further statement must be laid before Parliament within 40 days of the date of the resolution.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is quite right. Those questions need continuing thought and, as I said to your Lordships on Second Reading, I am perfectly happy to look at those matters between now and Report stage.
I should say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, that it is unlikely that the new rules will be available before Report. The nature of the rules will depend in sensible part on the final shape of the Bill. We want wide consultation outside the Chamber with all interested parties. I cannot think that the appropriate consultation will be complete in the time specified by the noble Lord, Lord Cope.
Lord Avebury: When the Minister says that the new rules will not be available before Report, is he implying that consolidated rules will be published at that time and not simply a statement of the changes?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I cannot give an answer about what the final shape of the new rules will be. That would be offensive to this Committee. We shall want to see the final shape of the Bill. Plainly, at the moment, we are scrutinising the rules, and I hope that that is of benefit not only to the noble Lord in his helpful intervention but also to other Members of the Committee who have spoken. We are currently
Baroness Williams of Crosby: We fully accept that the draft immigration rules will have to be drawn up at the end of the procedures which turn the Bill into an Act. But would it be possible for the draft immigration rules to be laid before this House before we complete the Report stage so that we can consider them and perhaps the noble Lord can consider our comments on them?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Again, that is a perfectly reasonable request. I shall take advice on it. Irrespective of the outcome, the noble Baroness has raised a helpful point.
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