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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 125A:


Page 47, line 25, at end insert ("and the Scottish Ministers").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 126 not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 127:


Page 47, line 27, at end insert ("and, in particular, to ensure that only those who are trained to do so provide such advice or services in respect of children").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is very much a probing exercise at this stage. The Minister will not be surprised that a number of children's organisations have a vested interest in what is being proposed. The purpose of the probing amendment is to obtain information about how the Government envisage the requisite expertise, skill and sensitivity to deal with asylum-seeking children.

We welcome the move to regulate immigration advisers and service providers designed to improve the quality of legal representation for asylum seekers. However, we are concerned that legal representatives must be suitably trained in representing children. This opportunity is taken to do so.

There are a number of organisations which firmly believe that child asylum applicants require specialist legal advice and legal services such as they already receive in other areas of law. For example, members of the Law Society's Children's Panel act for children in proceedings under the Children Act 1989.

The issues of concern are not only on the representation of children but also the importance of developing child-sensitive legal representations whenever required. It is also a matter where we need to communicate with child clients. Children may express themselves differently from adults and have greater difficulty in expressing wishes and needs. How will those factors be taken into account? Children's sense of time can be different from adults' and waiting to hear about a decision can be disturbing to them. They need regular reassurances about their claim.

Child-specific requirements for legal representation mean knowledge of special rules, procedures and policies that apply to unaccompanied children, knowledge of child-specific forms of persecution, knowledge of the Children Act 1989 and skills in communicating with and interviewing children and young people.

It is not the intention of the amendment to restrict the number of advisers who can represent children. It is only to ensure that those who are the most vulnerable within the system receive the best possible advice, for which people are appropriately trained. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: We support the amendment in so far as it will enable the Minister to explain how the Government envisage that the expertise, skill and sensitivity to deal with asylum-seeking children will

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be assured in all the aspects of the provision of the immigration advice services. We look forward to the Minister's explanation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: These are important questions and I shall spend a moment developing and explaining our thinking on this. I entirely appreciate the thinking behind Amendments Nos. 127 and 142.

One of the main objectives of the regulatory scheme which the Committee has generally approved in concept is to ensure that we provide or have provided competent immigration advice. The matters raised by noble Lords are matters which the immigration services commissioner will wish to consider, including in the code of standards and rules. That is the proper place for them, rather than on the face of the Bill.

We are conscious of the particular needs of children referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. He knows that we in the Home Office fund a scheme under which the Refugee Council provides representatives to act on behalf of unaccompanied children. So there is a substantial body of expertise that we are keen to use.

Finally, on the general point put by both noble Lords who spoke, I return to Clause 73(5). There is the very important obligation in the present context under that subsection that,


    "The commissioner must exercise his functions so as to secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that those who provide immigration advice or immigration services"--

then we reach the two critical matters in the context of children--


    "are fit and competent to do so".

I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said: children have different requirements whenever one represents them. Secondly, those who provide services must,


    "act in the best interests of their clients".

That is extremely important and it is the basis on which we approach matters. I reiterate that I am sure that the immigration services commissioner will want to consider those matters for inclusion in the code of standards and rules.

Lord Dholakia: I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 73, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Schedule 5 [The Immigration Services Commissioner]:

[Amendment No. 128 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 128A:


Page 114, line 43, at end insert--
(" .--(1) The Commissioner's rules must be made or altered by an instrument in writing.
(2) Such an instrument must specify that it is made under this Schedule.
(3) Immediately after such an instrument is made, it must be printed and made available to the public.

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1013


(4) The Commissioner may charge a reasonable fee for providing a person with a copy of the instrument.
(5) A person is not to be taken to have contravened a rule made by the Commissioner if he shows that at the time of the alleged contravention the instrument containing the rule had not been made available in accordance with this paragraph.
(6) The production of a printed copy of an instrument purporting to be made by the Commissioner on which is endorsed a certificate signed by an officer of the Commissioner authorised by him for that purpose and stating--
(a) that the instrument was made by the Commissioner,
(b) that the copy is a true copy of the instrument, and
(c) that on a specified date the instrument was made available to the public in accordance with this paragraph,
is evidence (or in Scotland sufficient evidence) of the facts stated in the certificate.
(7) A certificate purporting to be signed as mentioned in sub-paragraph (6) is to be treated as having been properly signed unless the contrary is shown.
(8) A person who wishes in any legal proceedings to rely on an instrument containing the Commissioner's rules may require him to endorse a copy of the instrument with a certificate of the kind mentioned in sub-paragraph (6).").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 128A, 203B and 203C are in the next grouping. Amendments Nos. 203B and 203C are tabled to clarify that the immigration rules and the commissioner's rules are not subject to the provisions of Clause 154. They are not to be made by statutory instrument.

Amendment No. 128A makes further provision for the commissioner's rules. It stipulates that the rules must be made or altered by an instrument in writing and that they must stipulate that they are made under Schedule 5. They must be printed and made available to the public subject to a reasonable fee.

The amendment also provides for a person not to be taken to have contravened a rule made by the commissioner if it is shown that at the time of the alleged contravention the instrument containing the rule had not been made available. It provides for a printed copy of the instrument certified by an officer of the commissioner to be taken in evidence that the instrument had been duly issued.

This amendment therefore places essential requirements on the commissioner with regard, first, to the promulgation of the rules and, secondly, that those who are registered will be aware of the rules. I beg to move.

Lord Avebury: Could not these rules be placed on the Internet like so many other documents nowadays? That means they would be readily available to anyone who has the necessary Web address. It could be held to constitute publication.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: What the noble Lord said has a good deal of validity. We have been much more open-minded in the Home Office to the noble Lord's more recent request about the provision of material in that way. I shall give it careful thought and write to him. We are looking for the bare minimum that anyone likely to be affected by

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something is entitled to have it in writing available to the public at a reasonable fee. I do not dissent from the noble Lord's general approach.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 128B:


Page 115, line 7, leave out from ("services") to end of line 9 and insert ("other than--
(a) a person who is authorised by a designated professional body to practise as a member of the profession whose members are regulated by that body;
(b) a person who works under the supervision of such a person; or
(c) a person mentioned in section 74(6).").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.


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