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Baroness Blatch: I was not suggesting a concession. I was explaining how the procedure works in practice. If there are good reasons why applicants should not be deported, if there are good reasons why they should he given the normal track rather than the fast track procedure, in practice that is exactly what happens. We are against putting on the face of the Bill a right that a reasonable explanation would have to be considered, which would delay the process. Because this is such an area of abuse, we believe that the genuine cases are caught by the way in which we operate in practice. What the noble Lord is insisting should go on the face of the Bill is tantamount to a licence to delay and thwart deportation in genuine cases.
Baroness Blatch: There is a great deal of recorded evidence of people who have sought asylum on the very point of removal. Students come with permission to stay, and at the end of their course they have to be returned. At the point of returning they seek asylum. Others come for other reasons, overstay, and at the point of removal they suddenly seek asylum. There are those who have been through the 1971 Act immigration procedures and at the point of refusal, where they are deemed to be removed, they then seek asylum. That is the point of abuse, and it is well catalogued.
Earl Russell: But how does the noble Baroness know, before examining the evidence, that that case before her, which is individual, is in point? Perhaps I may remind her of a remark once made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner: that a man apparently lying dead drunk in a gutter may in fact be a diabetic who has run out of insulin.
Baroness Blatch: I can answer that question too. Let me take the example that I gave of the student who completes a course. He is due to return to another country. He refuses to go at the point of deportation and seeks asylum. The proposition in the Bill is that he should be put through the accelerated procedure. The adjudicator hears the case. If in the case put to the adjudicator there is good reason why he should not have received a certificate in the first place, the adjudicator could set the certificate aside. All I am saying is that those applicants will have their case heard. They will have an appeal right. Therefore, if they have good reason, it will be put before the adjudicator.
Lord Avebury: In that case, will the noble Baroness agree to an amendment, tabled perhaps at Report stage, to sub-paragraph (6) which would make it plain that the adjudicator has the power to set the procedure aside? Sub-paragraph (6) states that,
Lord Campbell of Alloway: Perhaps I may suggest to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that this is not a matter of histrionics. It is a matter of a reasoned administration to seek to curtail manifest abuse, on which all parties, all Members of the Committee, would be in agreement. When the noble Earl says that we are pre-empting, prejudging the situation, with respect, is that quite fair? It is the entrant who applies after entry who, by a much delayed judgment, then seeks this accommodation. The noble Earl does not seem to appreciate that we are not seeking to stop or in any way impede genuine asylum seekers. But, broadly speaking, something has to be done to stop what has become a manifest abuse.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that we do examine the evidence. If the evidence supports the application for asylum, asylum is granted. I have given that assurance to the Committee. All we are saying is that Clause 1, the fast track, comes into play only after that decision has been made--in other words, if the view of the substantive consideration and the appeal is that this is not a case for asylum. It is only that point of the procedure that we are discussing. I simply say that it is not an arbitrary or a cursory examination. The case is properly heard.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: I certainly do not want to delay the Committee further. The noble Baroness made the point that there is a real case and I understand that. However, I wonder whether she will consider, possibly on Report, examining further the remarks of my noble friend Lord Avebury, in this sense only. If sub-paragraph (6) in Clause 1 goes through and the further appeal stage is removed, the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and others is simply whether, if circumstances have so far changed, we can be assured that, if the asylum seeker advances a reasonable case--in the sections to which she referred most will not, but there may be exceptions--there is an opportunity for such exceptions to be considered.
Baroness Blatch: I have given the Committee an assurance that if there are good grounds for an application to be considered on the normal track rather than the fast track, in practice that is exactly what will happen. What I cannot do is accede to the amendments. We know that this is an area of abuse. In regard to the accelerated appeals procedure, taking all the Opposition amendments together, including removing Clause 1, it is clear that they do not wish to address some of the worst excesses of the system. Amendments have been tabled to remove Clause 1; amendments have been tabled to remove various parts of Clause 1. I am taking all the amendments together.
We believe that these measures are necessary. There is a particular need for an accelerated procedure. It allows substantive consideration of each case and there is an appeals system. (Those on the normal track then go on to a third stage, a tribunal.) Even at the substantive stage it is possible to decide that the application should go by the normal track rather than the fast track. The case worker makes the decision as to whether Clause 1 is invoked.
We believe the measures are right: first, to address the volume of applicants; secondly, to address abuse; thirdly, for good race relations in this country; and to give proper, and speedier, consideration to genuine asylum seekers. Those are the reasons for including them in the Bill. We know that noble Lords opposite do not wish even to see Clause 1 remain. We believe it is an important part of the Bill.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We cannot let that pass. If we accept the argument that the Minister has just made, there is no point at all in having this House as a revising Chamber. As a revising Chamber, we examine every single part of each clause of a Bill and consider whether we can make helpful amendments. We have a fallback position whereby we can say that if we have not persuaded the House (or Committee) of the justice of individual amendments, we will seek a debate and possibly even a Division on the issue of whether the clause shall stand part. But the Minister cannot simply add together all the amendments on a clause and the debate on clause stand part and say that, taken together, they all add up to root-and-branch opposition to the Bill. That is not the case. The position of the Opposition is, and always has been, that we examine the text of a Bill, treating each part individually and carefully, place by place, and make each argument at the appropriate time. I protest against the attitude that the Minister is now taking to the role of the Opposition and to this House as a revising Chamber.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I return briefly to Amendments Nos. 18, 19 and 20. Nobody condones abuse of the system. The Minister gave examples where the Government would, as it were, try to meet particularly difficult circumstances--for example, if there had been a coup in the country from which an asylum seeker came. Such examples are not on the face of the Bill. There may be concessions that the Secretary of State might make in individual cases, but they are not on the face of the Bill. When we are talking about the rights of individuals, it is proper that those rights should be stated on the face of the legislation.
The rights of individual asylum seekers not to be sent back to face possible torture, imprisonment and death are absolutely paramount. The reason we are concerned with the procedures that determine whether an individual is to be sent back is that they may determine life or death for that individual. I know from my time at the Refugee Council of instances of persons being returned to countries where there was turmoil and