Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Cope of Berkeley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 3:


Page 4, line 16, leave out from ("which") to ("has") in line 17.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 3 was intended to clarify a point that was conceded earlier; namely, that no fee will be payable if asylum is refused. However, I realised a few minutes ago that the amendment as printed does not achieve that objective. I shall therefore not move it.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

4.30 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton) moved Amendment No. 4:


After Clause 7, insert the following new clause--

PERSONS EXCLUDED FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM UNDER INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS

(" . In the 1971 Act, after section 8A, insert--
"Persons excluded from the United Kingdom under international obligations.
8B.--(1) An excluded person must be refused--
(a) leave to enter the United Kingdom;
(b) leave to remain in the United Kingdom.

2 Nov 1999 : Column 744


(2) A person's leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom is cancelled on his becoming an excluded person.
(3) A person's exemption from the provisions of this Act as a result of section 8(1), (2) or (3) ceases on his becoming an excluded person.
(4) "Excluded person" means a person--
(a) named by or under, or
(b) of a description specified in,
a designated instrument.
(5) The Secretary of State may by order designate an instrument if it is a resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations or an instrument made by the Council of the European Union and it--
(a) requires that a person is not to be admitted to the United Kingdom (however that requirement is expressed); or
(b) recommends that a person should not be admitted to the United Kingdom (however that recommendation is expressed).
(6) Subsections (1) to (3) are subject to such exceptions (if any) as may be specified in the order designating the instrument in question.
(7) An order under this section must be made by statutory instrument.
(8) Such a statutory instrument shall be laid before Parliament without delay."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to speak again to this amendment which was originally tabled on Report and which concerns persons to be excluded from the United Kingdom under our international obligations. During the previous discussion of this amendment, the question was raised of whether the United Kingdom had ever been censured for admitting someone subject to a travel ban that was binding on the United Kingdom. I am pleased to confirm to the House that there is no record of any such occurrence.

During the previous discussion, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also asked whether the application of the new clause should be extended to cover travel bans imposed by the Commonwealth. I have given this matter careful consideration. However, the Commonwealth does not take decisions which give rise to binding legal commitments. The Government do not believe, therefore, that it is necessary to include in the new clause a reference to the Commonwealth.

Having looked again at the amendment, we realise that it also requires a minor amendment to ensure that internationally-binding travel restrictions are framed in terms of defined categories of person rather than named individuals, which are also covered by the provisions of the new clause. For example, UN Security Council Resolution 1054, adopted in 1996, requires states to take measures to restrict the entry into their territory of members and officials of the Sudanese Government and members of the Sudanese armed forces. The amendment now takes account of this requirement.

As I explained on Report, the effect of Amendment No. 4 is to insert a new Section 8B into the 1971 Immigration Act. This will provide that certain people who are subject to an EU or UN travel ban have to be refused leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom. In addition, where a person has leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, this leave will be cancelled upon his or her becoming an excluded

2 Nov 1999 : Column 745

person. Subsection (4) of the new clause defines an "excluded person" as a person named by or under a designated instrument, or of a category described in a designated instrument.

For the purposes of the clause, the Secretary of State may by order designate an instrument if it is a resolution of the UN Security Council or an instrument made by the Council of the European Union which requires or recommends that the United Kingdom does not or should not admit a person or category of person, however that requirement or recommendation is expressed.

At Report stage, great concern was also expressed about the implementation of travel bans and the great effort that needs to be made to ensure that only individuals who are the intended target of such bans are inconvenienced. I fully understand the concerns and take this opportunity to reassure the House that, in implementing travel bans, officials take great care to ensure that this result is achieved. With far from adequate information being available in respect of some persons, this is often difficult. However, we are determined to ensure that everything possible is done to minimise the possibility of errors. Equally, where there is a possibility that someone wanted in connection with, for example, war crimes might be apprehended, we believe that we should make every effort to ensure the full and proper implementation of our international commitments. I commend the amendment to the House.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for writing to me after the previous debate. However, I still have some anxieties.

The provision regarding categories does not wholly alleviate the anxieties I expressed in relation to what happened over UN Security Council Resolution 1132. That plainly applied to travel restrictions on members of the Sierra Leone junta.

The power to impose the restrictions was delegated to a sanctions committee. The committee promulgated a list, which was an exact replica of suggestions made to it by the president of Sierra Leone, President Kabbah, and contained the names of many of his political opponents. When that list was enforced without the knowledge of those named on it--the list was never published--they were subject to travel restrictions in the United Kingdom. It could then have been said that they were part of the category of "named persons" because everybody thought that the persons on the list were members of the Sierra Leone junta despite the fact that many of them were not and the government subsequently agreed that they had been wrongly included in the list.

If we automatically impose travel bans, provided for in the UN resolution, the details of which may be delegated to a subsidiary body which may act at the behest of a government who are ill disposed towards some of its citizens, we are in danger of committing some injustices.

Even in the Sudanese example that the Minister gave in respect of UN Security Council Resolution 1054, is there not a list of members of the Sudanese

2 Nov 1999 : Column 746

Government to whom such restrictions apply? How do we know who the members of the Sudanese Government are? How do we know that, in a similar fashion, a list containing the names of individuals who have nothing to do with the NIF regime will not be supplied to immigration officers? I therefore believe that we need certain further safeguards before we allow this provision to take its place on the statute book.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, says. I thought that I had made clear in my response that we felt that we had taken significant cognisance of the points he made at an earlier stage. We believe that we have to approach this matter from the perspective of giving effect to our international obligations. If we are in that position, I believe that we must go along with other UN member states and that we are obliged to exclude. However, we shall take great care in negotiations to ensure that our obligations are appropriate. It is the question of appropriateness on which we must focus our attention.

With the caveats that we have put into place, with the assurance that we shall treat these matters with great care and with the assurance that we shall clearly monitor the situation and continue to keep it under very careful review in ensuring that the legislation is put in place, I invite your Lordships to support this amendment.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he reassure me about the point I raised at the last stage of this Bill; namely, that when lists are drawn up, they will be published in this country so that everybody may know what the position is?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord again raises a very important and valuable point. I can give an assurance that, whenever possible, we will do that. I am quite happy to give that undertaking to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 8 [Treatment of certain overstayers]:

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 5:


Page 5, leave out lines 22 and 23 and insert ("not less than three years after the coming into force of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7. We on these Benches persevere with this set of amendments because many lawyers and voluntary organisations in the area are pressing us so to do. I believe there is an important point of principle to be considered here. The principle is that Parliament should remove or diminish an existing right of appeal only in exceptional circumstances. We do not believe that there are exceptional circumstances warranting the provisions in this case.

When we debated comparable amendments on 18th October, I endeavoured to explain, at col. 763 of Hansard, the history of the right of overstayers to appeal. I do not propose to repeat that. We believe that the structure of the Bill is broadly sound, subject to the

2 Nov 1999 : Column 747

points we are discussing tonight. These ensure that, from the coming into force of the Bill, the new time-limited, one-stop appeal system will prevail and will achieve the Government's purposes.

However, the amendment refers to a group of finite individuals who are already here. There is no need for the reduction in their right to appeal under the existing law. That is why we suggest two particular amendments: one amendment to extend the appeal period to three years; and the other to give a right of appeal outside the three-year period where there is "reasonable excuse". That is the language that the Government utilise in Clause 73(3)(b) of the Bill.

When this matter was last debated, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, responded to these concerns by saying that the Government and the officials concerned are getting to grips with the problems. We do not disagree that there are major problems; equally, we are quite sure that the Government and the officials are getting to grips with them. We support those efforts. But that does not address the fact that many individuals will be unjustly dealt with if this clause goes through.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that there will not really be a problem because there will be considerable advertising of the new arrangements and the new regularisation period. He said that,


    "we intend to use extensively the ethnic minority press. Given the level of interest in the Bill and these particular clauses, I have little doubt that much attention will be drawn to the matter in the press generally".--[Official Report, 18/10/99; col. 765.]

That may be right; it may be wrong. But justice must be done in small as well as in large particulars. There is no doubt that many of those who will be unfairly dealt with by these provisions will not see the ethnic minority press. Many have been here for years and will no longer be taking ethnic minority papers, having moved to parts of the United Kingdom where such papers are not available. Advertising in the ethnic minority press is not an answer. That is why we ask the Government to extend the period for appeal and include a reasonable excuse provision.

Perhaps I may read a letter I received this morning from the chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service on this very point. He said:


    "Only recently, a Turkish family came to see me who had applied for an extension of their leave, had placed their affairs in the hands of someone claiming to be a solicitor, had paid £3,000 on the assurance that their status would be regularised and had discovered that they were overstayers only when the pretended solicitor died--they have still not been able to reclaim their passports and other documents. They are typical"--

that is the word he uses--and this is the Government's own service--


    "of many persons who come to us who have remained in this country leading economically and socially active lives in the belief that their affairs are in order or are being rendered so but for whom, under the Bill as drafted by the Government, will lose any right of appeal against removal--however long they have been in the UK. Redressing this wrong is not favouring queue-jumpers or illegal entrants but maintaining a route for justice for those who have entered legally but then overstayed, as has been preserved by both previous Governments".

2 Nov 1999 : Column 748

That puts the matter rather well.

There is an important principle here. The issue should not be dealt with by publicity because the information will not reach all the people concerned. The amendments would not give rise to additional cases because they deal with a finite group. They would not give rise to extra administration because the same number of appeals are in prospect either way--indeed, they might actually improve the situation and help officials by spreading appeals. They would involve no extra public expense; they would lead to a just, fair and proportionate response to the difficulty faced; and they would be a great improvement to the legislation. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page