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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I did say that it is not conceivable that the powers could be exercised in a way that resulted in matters not being communicated. On the specific point made by the noble Baroness about reasons for refusal and rights of appeal, the 1971 Act already contains such a provision, which is carried forward in the intricate way that I described.
I am not absolutely positive that we have got it right and that the noble Baroness has got it wrong. I repeat what I said on Second Reading. I am more than happy to have meetings with noble Lords in all parts of the Committee, whether or not they wish to bring advisers, if they want to see me or to see me with officials. If the noble Baroness thinks that it would be helpful as a first step to set out her points of concern in writing, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, officials and I always stand ready to discuss matters further.
Earl Russell: If I heard the Minister correctly, he said in relation to Amendment No. 5 that it was inconceivable that proper reasons would not be given for the rejection of an application. I wonder if that word was just a little imprudent. The Minister is probably familiar with the publication by Asylum Aid, Still No Reason at All. It
I will quote only two examples from that book, which is substantial. The first is a case for which the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, deserves some credit. A torture victim from North Cyprus, bearing a considerable number of scars on his back, medically attested, was told that he had inflicted them on himself, to enhance his claim. In the other case, a person was told that his credibility had been severely damaged by having put in a fraudulent insurance claim since his arrival in the UK--which he had not done. His lawyer drew the attention of the Home Office to the fact that he had not done so, but got back the identical refusal letter minus only the paragraph about the insurance. I believe that we are unwise to use the word "inconceivable" in this area.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Earl is mistaking the point completely. If he will allow me to say so, his two examples demonstrated that reasons were given. The noble Baroness wants to ensure that reasons are given. Therefore, she has fired at one target, but I believe that the noble Earl's aim on this occasion has been defective. If he wants the same as the noble Baroness, my invitation remains open. I understand what has directed the noble Baroness, but the examples given by the noble Earl related to cases where reasons were given but they were the wrong reasons. That is a completely different point from the one made by the noble Baroness.
Viscount Brentford: I should like clarification of a point made by the noble Lord on Amendment No. 5. As I understand it, this amendment would make it necessary for a notice to be given. But, if I heard the noble Lord correctly, he said that the 1971 Act states that the Minister "may" give notice. It may be inconceivable that notice would not be given. However, if I heard the noble Lord correctly, would it not be better for the law to make it necessary rather than just saying that the Minister "may" give notice?
Lord Avebury: I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the use of pro forma refusals in which the wording is in identical terms, with simply the name of the applicant crossed out and replaced by another name; and, indeed, the name of the country being replaced by
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Again, I understand the point, but it is not the point which forms the basis of these amendments. In Amendment No. 5, the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Astor, wanted the following words to be added to Clause 1(2),
Lord Avebury: Nevertheless, does the noble Lord agree that an amendment should be made which would provide that the application has to be properly considered by the immigration officer, and that the reasons given should reflect the consideration of the actual circumstances of the applicant and not be set out in a general pro-forma kind of refusal?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord is confusing two situations. No one can come to a decision which is lawful without putting his mind to the relevant matters. The noble Lord has pointed out that, very often, the answers are given pro forma. That may or may not be so. I do not suggest for one moment that he is not accurate on the basis of his experience. However, that is not the same as whether or not the decision was properly made in the first place.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: On the question of pro-forma statements being given to applicants, given the numbers involved, the fact that in many instances there will be great similarities between the cases and bearing in mind my experience of government departments, it seems to me to be inevitable that they should be pro forma to a certain extent, whether it is obvious on the face of a piece of paper or whether it comes out of a word processor in the form of different paragraphs. My experience of such cases is not as great as that of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, or of other Members of the Committee who have spoken, but I can recollect constituency immigration cases over the years. Indeed, on many occasions, it was extremely difficult to fathom precisely what the legal position was from what the individual or those supporting him said. That is why I have sympathy with the amendment.
I am less immediately happy about the use of biometric parameters, simply because I am not quite sure what they are. I take them to apply to fingerprints or, indeed, other ways of measuring an individual's characteristics. If that is so, and if they can be properly implemented, I think that that might well be developed to the great advantage of both immigrants and asylum seekers, as well as assisting the authorities.
Overall, it seemed to me that the Minister produced some reasons against these amendments which sounded plausible. I do not want that to be seen as a criticism of the way that the Minister put them across, but I should like to study them more carefully before committing myself to being 100 per cent satisfied with them. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
As the noble Earl rightly said, Clause 1(7) enables the Secretary of State to grant or refuse leave to enter. At present, only immigration officers can do this. My advice is that this does not make subsection (7) a Henry VIII power because the requisite provision is on the face of the legislation.