HC Deb 15 May 1969 vol 783 cc1788-91

Lords Amendment: No. 4, in page 6, line 42, leave out subsection (2).

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

We are to discuss at the same time, I understand, Lords Amendments No. 5, in page 7, line 6, after "under" insert "subsection (1) of", and No. 6, in page 7, line 6, at end insert: ( ) If—

  1. (a) in the case of an appeal which is dealt with in accordance with directions given under subsection (1) of this section, the Secretary of State certifies that the disclosure to the appellant of any matters relevant to the case would be contrary to the interests of national security; or
  2. (b) in the case of any appeal under this Part of this Act in which it is alleged that a passport, entry certificate or employment voucher (or any part thereof or entry therein) on which a party relies is a forgery, the adjudicator or Tribunal hearing the appeal determines that the disclosure to that party of any matters relating to the method of detection would be contrary to the public interest,
those matters shall be presented to the adjudicator or Tribunal without being disclosed as aforesaid; and for the purposes of this subsection any part of the proceedings may take place in the absence of the appellant or that party, as the case may be, and of his representatives.

Mr. Rees

The first two Amendments pave the way for the third, which is the one of substance. The first deletes the existing subsection (2) of Clause 9, the second makes a consequential change in the wording of the present subsection (3), which will become subsection (2). The third Amendment adds a new subsection (3) which deals with the circumstances in which the appellate authorities may receive evidence in the absence of the appellant and his representatives.

As to security cases, which are dealt with under subsection (1) by a special panel of members of the Tribunal, and which we have discussed at length on earlier stages, paragraph (a) of the new subsection has the same effect as the present subsection (2). If the Secretary of State certifies that the disclosure to the appellant of any evidence would be contrary to the interests of national security, that evidence must be presented in the absence of the appellant and his representatives. But the new subsection (3) goes beyond the existing subsection (2) in that paragraph (b) deals with cases in which it is alleged that a passport, entry certificate or employment voucher has been falsified.

In such a case, it is proposed that, if the appellate authority decide that it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose to the party relying on the document in question the method by which the alleged forgery was detected, evidence of this method has to be given in the absence of the appellant and his representatives.

Hon. Members may ask why it should be in the public interest to conceal from the appellant the method by which it is alleged that a forgery had been detected, which may be an essential element against him. The simple reason is that the provision of forged documents for would-be immigrants is a highly organised trade in some Commonwealth countries, and the immigration service's success in combating the forgers' efforts depends on the forgers being kept in ignorance of defects in their productions.

If all this information had to be specified in the presence of appellants, the information would be likely to be passed back to the organisers of the trade, and it would not be long before the forgers improved their methods. It would not be sufficient to exclude the Press and public from the hearing, since the appellant might be an agent of the immigration racketeers.

In some instances the detection of a false document or of a forged entry in a genuine document is based on the absence of certain safeguards or recognition signals that have deliberately been incorporated into the design of the authentic version. If the nature of these safeguards had to be disclosed, they would be valueless. There are various ways which the immigration service has of detecting forgeries.

The Amendment was suggested to us by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), on Second Reading, when he dealt with this matter. At that stage, I undertook to consider the issue. There is some reluctance on our part in putting forward this proposal, for the obvious reason that not to provide access to the hearing of evidence in this way, especially to the lawyers, may give rise to certain objections. But we see no other way of dealing with the matter. It is the only way of preventing the appeals system from being turned to the advantage of the racketeers.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

I acknowledge what the hon. Gentleman said and I assure him that we see the need for this change. Indeed, we welcome it.

Those of us who have seen the work at the ports know what the right hon. Gentleman said about the methods which must be employed against forgeries which, in the end, redound greatly against the interests of the immigrants. We appreciate that these methods must be employed and it would be ludicrous if the methods which immigration officers must use to detect forgeries were spelt out in every appeal which is heard at the ports.

I note what the hon. Gentleman said about the Government's reluctance to go as far as this proposal goes in excluding the appellant from what is, in effect, his own appeal. I agree that there is no way round this problem. If anybody was present at such a hearing who was in a position to repeat what he heard, the methods used by immigration officers to detect forgeries would no longer be of use to them and would not do what they are designed to do, namely, to act as a safeguard against future forgeries.

We therefore accept the proposal and we shall note with interest how, in the long term, it works out in practice.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

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