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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The workings of paragraph 9 are worth a few seconds explanation. The Secretary of State can certify that an appellant's claim falls within any of the following categories: where he failed to provide a passport when entering the country and had no reasonable excuse for not doing so; or he produced an invalid passport without explaining at the time that it was invalid; or his claim does not show a fear of persecution by reason of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; or his claim does show a fear of such persecution but that fear is manifestly unfounded or the circumstances which gave rise to it no longer subsist; or his claim does not disclose a right under the convention; or it does but that right is manifestly unfounded; or under sub-paragraph (6) he has been refused leave to enter the United Kingdom under the 1971 Act; or he has been recommended for deportation; or he has been notified of the decision to deport him; or he has been notified of his liability to removal; or his claim is manifestly fraudulent; or it is frivolous or vexatious.

The Secretary of State can make a certificate that that person falls within one or other of those categories. He also has to certify that the person has not been tortured or will not be tortured if he is sent back. Although the Secretary of State makes that certification, there will still be a hearing before the adjudicator. If the adjudicator agrees with the certification of the Secretary of State, he will make a ruling on the appellant's claim and that appellant will have no appeal to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal.

Plainly, the provision is designed to ensure that vexatious or time-wasting or abusive applications do not get beyond one judicial hearing. That sort of approach is reflected in many other claims in the court system as well. It does not depend only on the certification of the Secretary of State because the matter will be heard by the adjudicator before any decision is made on whether or not the right of appeal can be exercised. The question raised by this paragraph is: is it right that there should

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be certain kinds of appeal which, if the Secretary of State and the adjudicator agree, are so fruitless that there should not be yet another level of appeal?

In our respectful submission, having regard to the need for a proper and speedy level of appeals, that is a perfectly sensible approach. It does not depend only on the Secretary of State; it depends also on the adjudicator. I believe that will not give rise to an excessive number of judicial reviews. Once there has been one hearing conducted by an adjudicator, and after he has heard the evidence and concluded that the certification was justified, it is difficult to imagine that giving rise to an excessive number of judicial reviews, although there will be some. In my respectful submission, we should not change the existing arrangements.

It may be helpful to remind the Committee of the principles, as I have done. As my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn said at Second Reading, we are strongly committed to protecting the rights of those who claim asylum in this country. We are also committed to fulfilling our obligations under the Human Rights Act.

We must also face the fact that the majority of asylum applicants--we do not yet know what the situation will be in respect of human rights claims--simply cannot establish a sustainable claim under the refugee convention. In saying that, I am not implying that all such applicants will have set out deliberately to abuse the system. I accept that some people whose claims are rejected outright may genuinely have believed that they had a valid claim to be here. None the less, there is no doubt that the asylum system is being used by large numbers of people who seek, systematically, to evade immigration control. We make no apologies for putting in place proper and safe procedures to deal with such people.

I remind the Committee that certification curtails the appeal process; it does not remove it entirely. Applicants whose asylum or human rights claim has been certified will continue to have a right of appeal to an adjudicator.

I also remind the Committee that dealing with abusive cases quickly, as the certification procedure allows, means that the system can be managed more efficiently to the benefit of those with genuine claims.

Amendment No. 110 deals with the position in relation to passports, but as not one noble Lord who referred to it sought to deal with that point specifically, I shall not deal with it in detail. I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps he will address a point that was raised during the debate arising from the phrase at the end of sub-paragraph (b) in relation to,

    "the circumstances which gave rise to the fear no longer subsist".

Will the Minister reflect on the arguments voiced in the debate? Where circumstances change there is not a transparent procedure for knowing that the attitude of the Home Office has altered towards a specific country, and there is no reason why an appellant should necessarily be aware of that. Will the Minister give

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some thought, if not this evening, between now and Report stage, to ways in which that question may be answered?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It was implicit in what I said but perhaps I can make it clear. Where a certificate is given by the Secretary of State that, for example,

    "the circumstances which gave rise to the fear no longer subsist",

and if there has to be, as there has to be under this procedure, a hearing before the adjudicator, the Home Office (which is one side of the argument in this debate) will have to explain why it says that the circumstances which gave rise to the fear at the forefront of the appellant's case no longer subsist. In effect, there would be a judicial hearing before an adjudicator in which the Home Office would be forced to explain its position. It is hard to imagine a more transparent procedure.

Lord Hylton: While the noble Baroness makes up her mind in relation to this amendment, perhaps I can make a specific point about people who are returned to countries where there are dictatorial regimes and where the rule of law no longer applies.

Whatever may have been the circumstances of the person when he left his country, the fact that he is being returned more or less in custody and sometimes handcuffed to an official of this country exposes him to a whole lot of new risks. There is plenty of evidence of that kind of thing happening already in this country; for example, in relation to countries such as Zaiuml;re and Nigeria (there are many others which are impossible to list). What I am saying bears on whether a person should be deported even though his case may have failed in this country.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Amendment No. 109 relates to whether circumstances exist where there should be exceptional cases which should not have leave to appeal from an adjudicator to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. The point the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, makes applies just as much to a case which has failed in the IAT as one whose appeal failed before an adjudicator. The question is whether there are cases in this field where a combination of a certificate and a full hearing from the adjudicator could lead to the conclusion that this is a case so hopeless that it should not clog up the system. The balance that has to be struck is between those cases which are completely hopeless going on to another level of appeal and simply delaying it for everybody, against the risk that the Secretary of State, an adjudicator and the possibility of judicial review do not provide sufficient protection.

With the greatest respect to the arguments put forward, the safeguards I indicated seem to me to be sufficient to meet the balance required between making sure that those claims which clog up the system are not allowed to go on and the risk of not providing sufficient protection. The way in which the amendment was opened by the noble Baroness put the case too high. This is not this great pivotal part of the Bill; it is a sensible, procedural position where proper safeguards

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are built in which provide a means whereby we do not have these appalling delays which everybody in the Chamber deprecates.

Lord Hylton: I do not dissent at all from what the Minister said. I am against endless appeals and judicial reviews. I am in favour of improving the quality of decision making all the way along the line, and I should like to take this opportunity of supporting the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in relation to country assessments. If those can be improved, there is a greater likelihood of the decisions being right in the first place.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Avebury: Perhaps I may add a few words on the question of country assessments. The Minister asks what could be more transparent than when the situation in a country changes. In that case, the Home Office has to appear before the adjudicator to say why it is thought that it has changed to make it possible for that individual no longer to have the fear of persecution that he might have had in the past.

However, if the Home Office or the IND can contact the adjudicator and make the comprehensive statement as to why it is believed that the situation in that country has changed, why can they not, similarly, put that statement on the website where the Home Office country assessments are to be found? In that way, not only the people who attend that particular hearing before the adjudicator can see what the Home Office opinion is about that country, but also anyone else who may be in the position similar to that of the appellant, having come from the same country and being part of the way through his or her asylum process, can receive notification that the attitude of the IND towards that particular country has changed.

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