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Lord Williams of Mostyn: It seems to me that if we stick to the regulations path, as is more likely than not to be the case, it might be appropriate to pick up the references in the schedule and place them in the regulations. I do not put forward that suggestion as a nit-pick; I am simply saying that there is virtue in what the noble Baroness has said and that we might also need to consider that possibility. However, I think that it would end up in regulations rather than in this clause of the Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments No. 122H to 122M:


Page 45, line 14, at end insert ("or by which it is bound").
Page 45, line 25, at end insert--
("( ) The regulations may--
(a) amend sections 2 and 2A of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 (appellate jurisdiction of the Commission);
(b) amend or revoke the Immigration (European Economic Area) Order 1994.").
Page 45, line 30, leave out paragraph (b).
Page 45, line 32, at end insert--
("(8A) If a person claims to be an EEA national, he may not appeal under the regulations unless he produces--
(a) a valid national identity card, or
(b) a valid passport,
issued by an EEA State other than the United Kingdom.
(8B) For the purposes of subsection (8A), a document--
(a) is to be regarded as being what it purports to be unless its falsity is reasonably apparent; and
(b) is to be regarded as relating to the person producing it unless it is reasonably apparent that it relates to another person.").
Page 45, line 33, leave out subsection (9) and insert--
("( ) Regulations may--
(a) prescribe the persons who, in relation to an EEA national, are the members of his family; and
(b) make provision as to the manner in which membership of a person's family is to be established.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1001

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 122N:


Page 45, line 37, leave out subsection (11).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 70, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 71 [Grants to voluntary organisations]:

[Amendment No. 123 not moved.]

Clause 71 agreed to.

Clause 72 [Interpretation of Part V]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 124:


Page 46, line 6, at end insert--
(""business" excludes any registered or exempt charity;").

The noble Viscount said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 141. These are both probing amendments, so I can be very brief. The first amendment seeks to ask the Minister whether charities have to register as a "qualified person" to provide immigration advice or services. We should also like to know the difference between, say, a charity doing this and a legal adviser or, indeed, a business. Can the Minister say how that works?

The second amendment slightly widens the question and also concerns advisers and voluntary organisations. It probes what the commissioner may, or may not, have to take into account with regard to voluntary organisations. We seek a brief explanation from the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Dholakia: I support these amendments. I believe that an explanation in this respect would be very helpful. Although we are trying to regulate those who exploit asylum seekers, especially as regards heavy financial charges, we should bear in mind that one of the difficulties here is that there are some legitimate bodies, including charities, which perform a very useful task. I have in mind students' unions, for example, which students quite often consult for advice and help. There are also a number of local bodies with no financial interest whatever in such matters which are able to offer assistance, or at least to direct individuals in the right way to approach their particular case. We want to know how such exemptions will apply to bodies which are genuine. In trying to regulate those who exploit, we do not want to harm those who carry out very valuable work in this particular field.

Lord Avebury: Can the Minister remind us of the position in this respect of Members of this and another place?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: If I understand the noble Lord correctly, I believe I dealt with this point earlier in the proceedings on the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, asked whether Members of Parliament-- I beg their pardon, I meant Members of another place--might be liable to criminal sanction if they were carrying out their ordinary constituency business in such circumstances. With a certain measure of regret, I had to tell him that Members of the House of Commons would not be liable to criminal sanction because they

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1002

would not be discharging their functions in the course of a trade or a business. I believe that that answers the noble Lord's question.

I am grateful to Members of the Committee for the questions which have been put, and especially for the way that the issue has been approached. I believe that we are absolutely in agreement. I am also grateful to the noble Viscount for saying that these are probing amendments to ascertain the Government's view on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, made exactly the same point.

Amendment No. 124 would exclude any registered or exempt charity from the requirements of Part V of the Bill. As the Committee knows, Part V is critically important. I was grateful to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, on this matter. He has made his position absolutely plain in the past. We want to stop unscrupulous and incompetent advice being offered. Obviously if it is unscrupulous advice which is being used to prey on people, that is morally wrong. However, incompetent advice is also a scandal as regards those who are far away from their own homeland in a country which is foreign to them in every respect.

I am happy to be able to say that Home Office officials have on a number of occasions met representatives of the voluntary sectors who provide immigration advice and services. The voluntary sector recognises--most responsibly, I think--that some organisations are well meaning but are simply not competent. I believe that it is accepted by the voluntary sector generally that such organisations need to be regulated.

Exemption is allowable under paragraphs (a) and (d) of Clause 74(4). What we have done so far--I am happy to repeat this commitment--is to work with the voluntary sector and with the education sector on the exemption process. As I have said, we have had a series of meetings. We are developing the possible criteria for exemption. We do not want to exclude charitable organisations in this area, but we want to exclude incompetent advice. We do not think that one ought to exempt a body until that body has demonstrated that it meets the proper criteria for exemption which I mentioned a moment or two ago. There will be a lead-in period between the commencement of the scheme and the prohibition on the provision of immigration advice and services to allow persons to seek either registration or exemption.

I am sorry to say that some voluntary bodies although well meaning are just not competent. In the particular context of Amendment No. 141, I do not think it is right or properly protective of those who need protection to allow incompetent activities to go unregulated for a period of three years.

5 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: I hope that the Minister will allow me to intervene. I think that he agrees that this is an important point. I have considered paragraphs (a) and (d) of Clause 74(4). In the absence of the right reverend Prelates, I ask the Minister about the position of the Churches and visitors to detention

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1003

centres as regards this matter. If a member of a church--let us say a priest, vicar or rabbi--is approached by an asylum seeker (as they often are because, as the Minister will know, they work closely with them) and is asked for advice on, for example, making an appeal, to what extent would the Bill as it now stands catch what is, as it were, friendly advice from someone whom the asylum seeker considers is unlikely to be a dubious figure? Obviously it is part of the job of such a member of a religious faith to offer such help and advice. He may, unwittingly, give incompetent advice because he may not be fully cognisant of immigration law.

Those who visit asylum seekers were, quite rightly, praised at an earlier stage of the Committee. They, too, are often asked for general help and advice; for example, advice on obtaining legal representation. To what extent would that kind of well meaning help--offered by people who are not likely to seek registration because this activity constitutes only a small part of their normal activities--be caught by the Bill?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I shall expand on the rather Delphic answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, because I had dealt with the matter at greater length when replying to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, on an earlier occasion. I hope that I can reassure the absent right reverend Prelates through their present earthly representative!

I think that the answer is to be found in Clause 72, the interpretation clause. Clause 72(1) defines "immigration advice". I do not think it is helpful to the Committee to read that out as it speaks for itself. "Immigration services"--another aspect that the noble Baroness mentioned--are also defined there. However--I think this is of comfort to the noble Baroness--Clause 72(2) states,


    "In this Part, references to the provision of immigration advice or immigration services are to ... and in the course of a business carried on (whether or not for profit) by him or by another person".

I cannot see that a voluntary visitor to an asylum seeker in detention is offering advice or services,


    "in the course of a business";

nor would the members of a church be providing advice,


    "in the course of a business".

That is the same general saver, as it were, that I mentioned when the noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked me about the position of a Member of the Commons going about his constituency business. I believe that this is the same point as was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, some days ago and by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, this afternoon. It is now raised by the noble Baroness.


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