§ Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Immigration Appeals (Procedure) Rules 1984 (S.I. 1984, No. 2041), dated 21st December 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th January, be annulled.We have the opportunity for only a short debate on this issue, although immigration is clearly a matter of major interest to many people. The specific point this evening covers only a narrow issue about immigration as, sadly, the prayer does not enable us to criticise or consider the entire Immigration Act 1971 or the immigration rules.
I note that next week the Commission for Racial Equality is expected to publish its report on immigration procedures. It must be a matter of regret that with such an important report shortly to come before us, the Minister has attempted to pre-empt it by laying down these rules before we have had a chance to consider the CRE's report. In passing, I should note that when those procedures were before the House for the first time in 1969, under the Immigration Appeals Act 1969, the Minister voted against the Second Reading, although, as he did not speak in that debate, it is impossible to judge what his views were.
It is clearly unsatisfactory to have such a limited procedure to deal with such complex rules, because even in one hour we can hardly discuss the details adequately and we cannot suggest amendments. It would have been much better had the Minister introduced draft rules which we could have discussed, on the lines of the procedure adopted by the House in recent years of discussing immigration rules in draft form so that amendments suggested by the House can, if the Minister is willing, be incorporated. It is a pity that we do not have the benefit of that approach this evening.
The new rules are the product of a review of immigration appeals that was announced in 1980. In 1981, the Government published a discussion document, and many organisations commented. Sadly, those comments were never published, although the rules are clearly the product of the review. This is the House's first chance thoroughly to examine the procedure for immigration appeals.
It will come as no surprise to the Minister if I contend that the present immigration appeals system is fundamentally unjust, as is the entire immigration system. May I draw to his attention several specific examples of that. First it is almost valueless to tell people that they have a right of appeal provided that they exercise it outside Britain. That is true of people whom the Minister would call illegal entrants, but it is a travesty to say, "Leave this country and appeal from another country." We all know that that does not work.
Secondly, there is no right of appeal for refugees seeking asylum in Britain. Such a right would bring Britain more into line with the international convention and protocol on the status of refugees, of which Britain is a signatory.
A further criticism is that in half the present immigration appeals, the appellant is not present at the hearing.
Another criticism is that adjudicators are appointed by the Home Office, although the Wilson committee 706 recommended that they should be appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Adjudicators sit alone, but I should have thought that it would be preferable to have more than one adjudicator. Furthermore, there is no legal aid, although the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants do good work in helping appellants. Nevertheless, in 1979, the Royal Commission on Legal Services recommended that legal aid should be available for immigration appeals.
There is no right of appeal to the High Court on a point of law, and there is no procedure for the tape recording of immigration interviews and the use of such tapes in immigration appeals. Such tape recording would provide an essential safeguard for many people who feel aggrieved by the present approach. I hope that the Minister will consider introducing tape recording. It was considered by the Select Committee on Home Affairs some years ago, and I was a member of the Race Relations and Immigration Sub-Committee which produced a report. The arguments that we heard from Home Office representatives did not convince most of us that it would not be a good idea to introduce tape recording. One argument was that as an immigration officer or entry certificate officer would be interviewing an applicant, and as an interpreter would be present, tape recording would be confusing as no one would know who was speaking. That is an absurd suggestion, but it was put forward in all seriousness. Our appeals procedure would be significantly improved and made much fairer if there were tape recording, and such tapes were admissible in evidence during appeal proceedings.
Several changes have been made in the immigration rules, but time allows me to discuss only one or two of them. Two rules in particular concern me over and above the others. Under rule 41, all appeals from an appellant to a tribunal can be carried out, if the rules are passed today, only with the leave either of the tribunal or the adjudicator, whereas at present, there is an automatic right of appeal. That is unnecessarily limiting the rights of anybody who wishes to appeal.
§ Mr. Dubs
As my hon. and learned Friend says, it is disgraceful. I can see no justification for the Minister having done this.
The other rule that concerns me particularly is rule 21(c), which gives tribunals additional powers to dispose of appeals without a hearing. Already, there are enough instances of appellants having their futures decided without their presence. Here is an extension of that power. It particularly affects cases where the granting of leave to appeal to a tribunal is mandatory under section 22(5) of the Immigration Act 1971. It particularly affects those people who have applied for entry certificates, been granted one, but, on arrival in the United Kingdom, are refused entry. This is really an attempt to circumvent section 22(5) of the Immigration Act. It certainly goes against the spirit of that Act, and may well go against the letter of it. It is a significant diminution of the rights of the individual when faced with the new rules.
I remind the Minister that the Afia Begum case came roughly into this category. It is true that her tribunal appeal was unfortunately lost, but perhaps the enormous support that she received from all over the country while awaiting the appeal persuaded the Home Office to change the 707 procedure so that in future it could no longer be used. Most hon. Members will be aware of the circumstances, but I shall briefly remind them of the facts. Afia Begum was a 19-year-old woman, who married a man who was settled here, and under the immigration rules required entry clearance. She applied for it, but by the time that she got it and arrived in the country, her husband had died tragically in a fire in his home.
When Afia Begum sought to enter the country, she was refused entry. She appealed and lost the case. Under the suggested new system, she would not have had even that right of appeal. In future, people will be denied such a right. It is disgraceful that the Minister is seeking to weaken existing rights in this way.
A number of rules have not been changed but are still undesirable in their effects. Under rule 4, there is a time limit for appeals, and an appellant in Britain has only 14 days in which to get his appeal in. That 14-day period starts on the day when the Home Office posts the notice of decision. That means that appellants may miss their chance to appeal because by the time that delays in the post have had their effect, there is little time left. If the appellant is not being advised by somebody who knows a lot about the matter, or if he does not know about it and does not speak fluent English, he may lose his chance to appeal to stay. Sometimes people even miss the date when they are advised by solicitors. It is wrong to impose a rigorous time limit.
The time limit of 14 days applies also under rule 15, in an appeal from an appellant to a tribunal. Again, the same objections apply here. Under rule 5, there is no provision for an appeal out of time from an appellant to a tribunal, although there is some provision for this in an appeal to an adjudicator. Under rule 27, appellants have no right to insist that Home Office officials or immigration officers should give oral evidence or present themselves for cross-examination. Again, that is a significant diminution in the right of an individual.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Waddington)
To which rule is the hon. Gentleman referring?
§ Mr. Waddington
Surely, the hon. Gentleman will agree that there has been no alteration in rule 27.
§ Mr. Dubs
I said that this was one of the rules that had not been changed, but nevertheless, with the passage of time, I find it undesirable. If we are presented with a set of rules that incorporate some amendments, it is reasonable to say that we disagree both with some of the amendments and with some of the original rules.
The Minister followed a consultation procedure, but many of the rules have been criticised by organisations and individuals that have made representations in response to the consultation document. It is unfortunate that the Minister has not heeded those representations. It is unfortunate also that he has not explained why, but perhaps we shall hear the reason later this evening. It is against that background that I am arguing that some of the rules that the Minister has not changed are still undesirable. That is part of the Opposition's case.
An appellant has a limited right to demand the production of documents and adjudicators have no general power to order relevant documents to be produced.
708 Indeed, an ajudicator cannot even require an entry clearance officer's notes to be produced as part of a hearing. In the absence of tape recordings a great deal has to be attached to the accuracy of the notes of an entry clearance officer at the time of the interview. The fact that these notes cannot be made available at the time of a hearing weakens the right of the appellant, as a critical part of the evidence is denied to the ajudicator or the tribunal.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
It seems that no other system claims to be judicial in which a hostile witness—the entry clearance officer who has refused someone entry—is required to give the major part of the evidence on which an appeal is heard. Surely this is a defect in the system that can be remedied only by the adoption of tape recording.
§ Mr. Dubs
My hon. Friend is right and I agree fully with the argument that she has advanced.
Rule 23 is concerned with the requirements of bail applications. It is a matter of regret that there is no necessity for the applicant authority to deal speedily with applications for bail when someone is held in custody under the Immigration Act. It can take quite a long time for such a hearing to take place. Someone may be held in custody in the London area for as long as a couple of weeks before, if his bail application is successful, he is released from custody. Surely that is not the right way in which to proceed.
The rules are typified by delays and discrimination. As a result, they assist materially in keeping families apart. The main responsibility rests with the rules and the Act and not the procedures here. However, there is so much discontent with the way in which our immigration procedures operate and the way in which appeals are conducted that there is a great feeling of injustice at the discrimination that takes place in our immigration system, of which the rules are a part.
§ Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
The Minister's staff are invariably courteous when we telephone to deal with immigration cases. Unfortunately, their courtesy is not always matched by the Minister's decisions. I do not wish in any sense to let him off the hook, but all hon. Members are grateful for the speed and infinite patience with which out telephone calls are handled by his private office and for the letters which follow those calls.
Secondly, there has been some improvement in the procedures at Lunar house as a result of our debates. Lunar house now has a human face, but previously it had no face. It was impossible to employ the ears of Lunar house by telephone. It seemed impossible to speak to one of its officials, and very often one felt that the staff were not reading the submissions which had been made. However, the result of criticisms of Lunar house is that officials respond by means of telephone calls. It is possible to make telephone calls to them, although the telephone lines are engaged on some occasions. I hope that the Minister will regard this situation as an improvement in some ways on what was happening previously and not as perfect.
§ Mr. Waddington
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. I am proud of the staff who serve under me. However, I am slightly mystified by his remarks. One must not have too thin a skin in my position, but I do not know what he means when he suggests that I have been 709 discourteous. I have had no personal dealings with him about any immigration case. If he feels that I have been discourteous at third or fourth hand, I wish that he would let me know, and I shall gladly look into the matter.
§ Mr. Fraser
I have not made myself clear. I intended to say that the courtesy of the Minister's private office was not always matched by the welcomeness of the Minister's decisions. I acquit him of any discourtesy and did not intend to imply that there was any.
One requirement of immigration rules and procedure is that the substance of the rules should be fair. That cannot be said of them at the moment. The rules remain sexist in the extreme, and have not been helped by a recent decision of the Divisional court that the husband of a United Kingdom citizen will not be allowed to stay if one purpose of the marriage was to enable that person to remain in Britain.
The procedure ought to be fair. It ought not to be full of booby traps. Immigration appeal rules that create tripwires are unjust and create a grave sense of injustice and unfairness among those who have to operate them. I should like the Minister to give special attention to the way in which he has changed rule 6 so that there is no longer a prescribed form of appeal against the decision of an entry clearance officer or an immigration officer. The procedure is full of traps, not least because the time limit of 14 days in which to make an appeal does not commence when the decision is received by the applicant but when the decision is made.
If a decision is made and posted on a Friday during the Christmas period, it might not arrive until Tuesday because of delays. Moreover, the applicant might not be able to read English or understand the decision and will therefore want to get advice. It is therefore easy for 14 days to elapse between getting the decision and lodging an appeal, and thus to lose appeal rights. That is redeemed at the moment by the Home Office's practice of sending out an appeal form which states the particulars that the new rule 6 requires — name, address, date of birth, nationality, the decision that is being appealed against, the grounds of appeal, whether an oral hearing is sought and whether the appellant is appealing against the country to which he is being removed.
If people cannot read English, those to whom they go for advice or for a translation can see what must be done and where the form must be sent. The likelihood of mistakes is minimised by the form. As soon as the Home Office departs from that practice of sending out a prescribed appeal form, mistakes will be made. People will leave out details of the decision, their date of birth or their nationality. In other words, the form of appeal will be invalidated, not on the merits of the case but on a technicality. It is in the interests of the Home Office and the Minister for appeals to be made through the prescribed form or a letter, delivered to the Home Office, that gives particulars that are as nearly as possible the same as those given in the prescribed form.
If the Home Office drops the prescribed form, it will result in a sense of injustice and a great deal of delay. It will create the suspicion that the Home Office intends to introduce rules with which it will be difficult to comply. An example is the substantive immigration rules. One cannot change one's status from that of a visitor to a 710 business man unless one is out of the country. It is very difficult to acquire a business when one is out of the country. On this rule alone I implore the Minister to think again for the sake of the immigrant, the Home Office and good race relations in this country.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)
Already there is a very profound sense of injustice among all immigrant communities concerning the operation of the current immigration procedures that come within the Acts. These new rules do absolutely nothing to change that sense of injustice. Indeed, they make matters worse. Not only is injustice manifestly felt to be done, but further steps are now to be taken to remove existing rights. Speaking, as I know I do, on behalf of a vast number of Asian citizens who feel that the discrimination against them at ports of entry by immigration officers under the current rules is wicked and rampant, I beg the Government to reconsider whether or not they could produce rules——
§ Mr. Janner
No, I will not. Every Opposition Member who is in the House wishes to speak and I do not intend to take up their time.
There is no question but that immigration officers are believed and, in my view, frequently correctly believed to discriminate against people because they are Asians. Under the present rules, there is an automatic method under which a person who wishes to appeal against the refusal of entry clearance is given a blank appeal form with which to instigate his appeal. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) in begging the Government not to require people whose knowledge of the system is non-existent; who arrive in this country frightened and often in a state of deep insecurity; who do not speak the language and who often have come here entirely legitimately, to fill in special forms that will not automatically be given to them, or to require them to instigate appeals by writing to the authorities. This change will undoubtedly affect——
§ Mr. Budgen
The hon. and learned Member speaks of the great sense of injustice that is felt by many of his constituents. I have a very large Asian community in my constituency and I have received no letters or representations about this issue. It is all too easy for hon. Members to express their personal views and to pretend that they are supported by a large body of opinion. Will the hon. Member please give us further and better particulars of this strong sense of injustice that is being put to him?
§ Mr. Janner
With the greatest of pleasure. Before the Minister leaves the House, as he is apparently doing at this moment, I shall ask him to be kind enough, when he is outside the House, to produce the vast file of letters that I have written to him over past years denouncing precisely these injustices. Day after day, week after week, my Asian constituents bring complaints to me. That the constituents of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) bring no complaints to him should be no surprise to any hon. Member of this House, knowing the way in which the hon. Member would be likely to deal with them.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
Would not the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West 711 accept that in a way the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-West (Mr. Budgen) has a point? The point that many hon. Members on this side of the House would argue is that people have a great deal of difficulty in writing these letters and that that is why it is so odious that there is to be a change in the rules by removing a form that is so easy to fill in and insisting instead that people should send letters.
§ Mr. Janner
I fully accept that point. On the other hand, in constituencies such as mine the Asian community knows that their Asian Labour councillors and their Labour Member of Parliament are working for them and with them. With surgeries every week and availability every day, and very often every hour of the day, there is no shortage of complaints, and the Minister knows it.
The question is whether the procedures are fair now — in my view they are not—and whether the revised procedures will make them any fairer. On the contrary, they will do damage. They will harm good race relations and good will. They will not improve procedures. Even now, the Minister should think again and withdraw the procedures, wait for the CRE report and then introduce procedures that are fair, decent and honourable.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) rightly said that it was a shame that the debate was taking place only a few days before a valuable report is to be produced which will highlight many of the deficiencies in the rules. Not only is it discourteous to have the debate in advance of that report being produced, but it is clearly an attempt to preempt some of the criticisms that will probably be contained in it.
The hon. Member for Battersea also said that the present system was fundamentally unjust and that there was a need for more than one adjudicator. He said that there was a need for legal aid—in a sense, a more judicial system than the one that we have. I wholeheartedly endorse that. He said that there was a need for tape recordings of interviews and talked about the admissibility of interviews when deciding on the issues. He talked about the disposal of appeals about hearings. They were valuable points, all of which I would happily endorse.
The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) talked about the courtesy which Home Office staff in the private office show, and I found that to be the case as well. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) talked of the examples that he has experienced in his constituency of people having difficulty understanding the gobbledegook of many of the Home Office rules and regulations. My city has a large immigrant community with considerable illiteracy and frequently people have enormous problems in understanding complicated rules and regulations.
The rules before the House tonight have been dissected by many of the influential immigrant organisations such as the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the United Kingdom immigrants advisory service. I do not intend to detail their criticisms, which will be well known to the Minister and which have widespread support on these Benches, but I shall ask him not to ignore those well-thought-out representations.
Those groups and many others took the trouble to make detailed comments on the discussion document of April 712 1981. Their comments have never been published by the Minister. The rule changes are the only product of the review announced in 1980 and bear little relation to informed opinion or comment now or then. That cavalier disregard for the view of representative organisations concerns me, but my major concern tonight is how little relationship the rules bear to any form of humanity, opportunity or real justice.
§ Mr. Derek Spencer (Leicester, South)
How can it be an injustice when rule 6(4) says:The grounds of an appeal particularised in a notice of appeal may be varied or amplifed at any time during the course of the appeal"?Surely that leaves the matter wide open. What is the matter with that? Surely it is much better than having a formal notice?
§ Mr. Alton
It all rather depends on whether the grounds exist in the first place. As the hon. and learned Gentleman well knows, the grounds may not appear to exist in the eyes of the Minister. It may depend on the information which is sent back. It may be that the adjudicator does not agree with the grounds submitted. All those factors will apply. The changes in the rules tonight will only make matters worse. They must be seen in the context of many other changes which have taken place in the past nearly six years. There have been a frightening number of infringements.
§ Mr. Waddington
It is important that people should not be misled. The hon. Gentleman is surely not trying to give the impression that no heed was paid to the representations made by the JCWI. He knows perfectly will if he has read the draft rules that the opposite is the case. He knows perfectly well that the most minimal changes have been made in the rules. We stuck more or less to what was the situation when the Labour Government were in power simply because we did heed the representations of bodies such as the JCWI. The hon. Gentleman must not mislead the House and give the impression that we have flown in the face of representations made to us. We have heeded virtually every one.
§ Mr. Alton
The Minister knows that the JCWI takes a dim view of the regulations, Indeed, it says:The limp product of a review initiated nearly five years ago does nothing to challenge the fundamental injustices of the immigration appeals system.The council sets out a number of complaints about the way in which the system works.
The rules must be seen against the background of a number of infringements that have occurred against the immigrant community and others over the past six years. There has been the infringement of the right to movement, the infringement of the right to form relationships, the infringement of the right to live together as a family unit and, in particular, the infringement of the right of all women to equal treatment under the law. All those rights are in the United Nations declaration of which the United Kingdom was founder signatory.
It is no surprise to find tonight that other rights are jeopardised. It is a tragedy that the Government should be so dedicated to undermining the personal liberties of our people as well as the aims of institutions such as the United Nations. But that is part of the pattern that we have come to expect over the past five or six years. The Government's 713 poor record on overseas aid and provision for overseas students, and our record on the rights of immigrants and the treatment of foreign visitors on arrival in the United Kingdom all damage the proud reputation that this country once enjoyed around the world.
The new rules are littered with examples of how the state's powers are increased at the expense of the individual. For example, rule 6(1) removes the Home Office's responsibility for providing simple, straightforward forms to give notice of appeal. Appellants will be told in future that they must write a letter to the Minister. I wholeheartedly endorse the view of the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service that the change can lead only to uncertainty among those considering an appeal. It will undoubtedly create further confusion and frustration among those who are already confused and frustrated by a complicated system.
Yet the change will also create more work for civil servants, burdening them with reading letters often written by people who are not well versed in the English language. The change is the exact opposite of the stated aim of the review, which was that it should be aconsideration of ways to reduce delays and create more efficient use of resources".In an area so afflicted by bureaucracy, it is strange to see the Government creating yet more work for their civil servants. But, of course, the Government's motives are patently obvious — to place as many obstacles as possible in the path of the appellant, to create a tangled web of bureaucratic controls and to impose every possible burden on the shoulders of those seeking refuge, and all in the hope of deterring appeals and making life as difficult as possible for people who are often frightened, vulnerable and greatly at risk.
The Government should not replace the mandatory provision of appeal forms by a requirement on appellants to write a letter. Similarly, it is wrong to specify in advance that if certain particulars are omitted, an appeal will be deemed to be disallowed. Nor should grounds of appeal have to be submitted at the time of giving notice of appeal. What if crucial information is inadvertently missed out? What if the immigrant is not aware of what is relevant and what is not?
Similarly, under rule 14, access to the tribunal against an adjudicator's decision will be possible only by leave. That erodes the right of appeal provided for in the 1971 Act and will make it difficult to challenge an adjudicator's decision before the tribunal. Once again, the Home Office is trying to reduce the rights of the appellant and this time the change in the rules will mean that some people who currently have the right to remain in the United Kingdom will in future be deprived of that right.
Time does not permit me to go through all the examples, but my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) has told me about someone who was made to wait for about four years before a decision was made. A Nigerian constituent of mine has been ordered home to Nigeria. The Minister wrote to me on 1 February saying that she would be able to exercise her right to appeal to an independent adjudicator against the decision to refuse her entry. That is a terrible way to treat people. They are sent back whence they came and they cannot get advice or make appeals.
714 I remember the case of a young Bangladeshi boy, Gias Uddin, who had been educated in this country, but who was sent back to Bangladesh and told to prove that that was where he came from. He had to prove, through some sort of certification, that he was born in that country to people who had the right to live in this country — and all because he could not produce a piece of paper. He was unable to appeal from Bangladesh because he was not able to produce the necessary documents. That is a hallmark of this Government. Another example of the inhumanity of our immigration legislation, which these proposals will compound——
§ Mr. Alton
I have already given way, and I am sure that the House will understand if I press on.
Another example of the inhumanity of our immigration legislation, which these proposals will compound, is the process that a British woman must go through in order to bring her fiancé into this country. She must prove that she met him before his interview for settlement, with the state acting as some sort of voyeur. She must prove that the marriagewill not be undertaken mainly in order for him to settle in the UK",with the state acting as prosecution, judge, jury and appeal court for the crime of love. She must prove that he will not rely on supplementary benefit or any other public funds. He may then have to undergo a medical examination, and the couple may also be ordered to reveal letters or private correspondence between them. One wonders whether civil servants in the Home Office do not have better things to do. It is a degrading, dehumanising and often disgusting process to have to go through.
These rule changes will place even more aces up the Home Secretary's sleeve. They will increase the odds yet more against an appellant. In some cases a pathetic 14 days is given in which to give notice of appeal. At the same time, the amount of documentation that the appellant must gather appears to increase substantially.
These people will often be abroad, illiterate or not English speakers. The rules may make a difficult task near to impossible. That could, of course, be the Government's intention. It is certainly the view of many people that that is the Government's aim.
My party will oppose the new rules tonight, because we believe that they will substantially erode good race relations in this country and that they will make life much more difficult for immigrants who have already suffered quite enough under this Government's pernicious policies.
§ 11.6 pm
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Perhaps I should declare an interest as I am the chairman of the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service. Which I hasten to add, is an unpaid position.
I believe that the more strictly immigration is controlled, the more important it is that the appeal system is fair and just, and seen to be so by those appealing. It is important to bear in mind that not only immigration is at issue. Many people who want to come to Britain to visit or study are refused permission to do so and then are given the right to lodge an appeal. When the Wilson committee recommended in the late 1960s that the appeal system be set up, it was stressed that those who were refused either 715 here or abroad should be in a position to put their cases to an adjudicator with the necessary advice and representation.
Some of the changes are disturbing. Earlier, the Minister said that he had more or less agreed with the representations made by the JCWI, but it is important to remember that like the UKAIS, the JCWI has objected to several of the proposed changes. I also re-emphasise the need for forms to be supplied to those refused. I am not suggesting that only the form should be the basis of any appeal. But many of those refused are on the Indian subcontinent and may have great difficulty in composing a letter once refused. It is feared that agents will be used. As the Minister knows, when they are involved in India or Pakistan they often confuse the position, worsen the appellant's situation and make his chances of winning that much less. If an application is turned down, a form should be sent, as has been the position until now.
It is wrong to say, as rule 6.3 does, that an appellant should have to give grounds for an appeal at the time that an appeal is lodged. Often it is impossible to give adequate grounds, because the wording of the refusal is such that it provides little basis on which to lodge an appeal. When the explanatory statement is finally issued giving all the reasons for the application being turned down, there is some substance upon which to submit the grounds. The Minister should, therefore, reconsider that point.
Some people apply to stay here because they fear that if they return they will face possible persecution. If the appeal is turned down by an adjudicator and an application for leave is made to the tribunal it can succeed only if the tribunal is satisfied that the fears of persecution are genuine. This is not a technical matter. It is important. The application for leave for the case to be heard by the tribunal will be determined before the appeal is heard, if permission is granted.
Rule 14(2)(b)provides that the tribunal has to be satisfied on the basis of the written submission that there are genuine fears for the person to return to his own country. The person has to make the point in writing on the basis that if the application for leave to appeal succeeds he will seek to prove his case at a full hearing of the tribunal. That will cause anxiety to people who believe that they have genuine difficulties and genuine reasons to fear persecution, and worse, if they are forced to leave the country.
It is unfortunate that this debate is limited to one hour. This is a matter of great concern to many of our constituents and their relatives. I see no reason why it should be confined to such a short time. It shows, I think the lack of respect by the Government for issues of justice.
If we are to have such a rigid system of immigration control we must ensure that those who are refused, whether they want to live here, study or visit, must genuinely believe that if they lodge an appeal it will be heard in the proper spirit and that they have the right to put their case to an independent adjudicator or tribunal. It is up to the Minister to satisfy those people that they will have that right. Most people do not believe that they stand much chance of having their case heard in this way.
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)
I pay tribute to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister responsible for immigration and to the caring way in which he looks after 716 the ethnic community. Despite what Opposition Members said, his Private Office has performend well when I have contacted it.
There is a much larger ethnic community in my constituency than there is in the constituency of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). Out of my 19,500 ethnic constituents, not one has made a representation to me about being unhappy with the new immigration appeals procedure.
The procedure as detailed in the new rules, especially 6 and 16, makes it easier for members of the ethnic community to accept the rules as they are. The rules are fairer. The grounds for refusal, for applying and appealing are made very clear and they provide an easier way of handling all types of appeals.
The people involved need care to be shown to them. I believe that they are shown care in the way that I would show care, unlike some Opposition Members. The rights that they seek are being dealt with in a much more humane manner. I cannot understand why the Opposition parties find it necessary to complain about the appeals. I deal regularly with immigration appeal procedures—between five and 10 times a day — so I know more about immigration procedures than most other hon. Members.
Let us remember that those who come here and then appeal, having been told it is time for them to go, cannot yet be called "our people." Indeed, having been allowed to come on a visit, they are being unfair to those who wish to come here permanently and who are patiently waiting under a quota arrangement to be allowed to come. We should aim to ensure the continuation of the humane way in which my hon. and learned Friend has dealt with these matters in the past. The sort of criticism that we have heard tonight from Opposition Members does nothing to make for the harmonious conditions that now exist in Leicester in particular and in Britain in general. I commend the appeals procedure.
§ The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. David Waddington)
The hon Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) complained about the limited time available for this debate. The Opposition tabled the prayer—they had every right to do so—and many will have been surprised at their having done so.
I say that because anybody who had read the instrument with care — which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley (Mr. Alton) had not—would have recognised that, far from us ignoring all the points made by the JCWI in its comments on the consultation document, we have heeded what it had said, and therefore the rules include only the minimum number of changes.
The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) was less than fair. He was wrong to say that the Wilson committee had recommended that adjudicators should be appointed by the Lord Chancellor. In fact, the Wilson committee recommended precisely the reverse—that they should not be appointed by the Lord Chancellor — and the Labour Government of the day followed the recommendations of that committee.
Nor did the hon. Member for Battersea tell the whole stary about the tape recording of interviews. The chief adjudicator had the opportunity recently of assessing how helpful the tape recording of interviews might be by investigating results of experiments conducted in the Indian sub-continent, and he unhesitatingly concluded that 717 it would not be helpful to have tape recordings. That does not mean that I have closed my mind entirely to the possibility in the future. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that the Government are not being obdurate in this matter. The chief adjudicator's view was that it would not help.
§ Mr. Waddington
That is a ridiculous observation, and the hon. Lady may wish that I had not heard her remark, for she is saying, in effect, that because adjudicators are appointed by the Home Office — in accordance with the recommendations of the Wilson committee—nobody should have respect for the work being done by the adjudicators. That is a wicked thing to say. I hope that, on reflection, the hon. Lady will withdraw her remark, because those who are appointed adjudicators are people of great probity and who carry out an extremely difficult task with great skill.
§ Mr. Waddington
I hope that the hon. Lady will reflect on what she said, and I give way to her in the hope that she will withdraw her remark.
§ Ms. Short
The Minister distorted what I said. I said that the chief adjudicator, who is appointed by the Minister, took the same view on the tape recording of evidence as did the Minister and that that might not have been a total coincidence. I did not make any comment about the general performance of adjudicators—which I consider to be patchy; some are good and some are extremely bad. The whole system would be better if adjudicators were appointed by a body independent of the Home Office.
§ Mr. Waddington
The House now has the opportunity to judge what the hon. Lady was getting at. I do not think that I was entirely unfair in concluding that she was making a gross attack. She now says in mitigation that the attack was not on all adjudicators but only on the chief adjudicator. I should have called that a plea in aggravation rather than a plea in mitigation.
§ Mr. Waddington
No, I have a great deal of material to cover.
The hon. Member for Mossley Hill advanced a most extraordinary proposition. Like most of the propositions that he advanced it had absolutely nothing to do with the rules before us. Nevertheless, as he mentioned this ridiculous proposition I suppose that I had better take it up. He took the view—presumably it is also the view of the Liberal party — that anyone who arrives at a port of entry in this country and is refused entry should be able to stay here until such time as his appeal is heard. I ask the hon. Gentleman to address his mind to the practicalities of the matter. In those circumstances either one has to fill the gaols and detention centres with people whose appeals are being prepared or one gives the person what he wanted in the first place — access to this country, to which the immigration officer has found that he is not entitled.
§ Mr. Alton
As the Minister seems to have adopted a new strategy today of attacking the person rather than the argument, I am grateful to him for giving way. I cited the example of a Nigerian widow who arrived in this country with her daughter, having lived here for many years. She was returning to stay with a doctor with whom she had worked. The Minister wrote to me about this on 1 February so I am sure that he has read the details of the case. Surely he is not saying that a person in that situation should simply be shipped back without any chance of staying to lodge an appeal and that four years should elapse before the appeal is heard.
§ Mr. Waddington
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what I am saying. If a person is refused entry at the port of entry we operate a most generous system of entry as a result of the intervention of a Member of Parliament. There is not one Member here today who has not benefited from the more liberal regime now operated by the Home Office. We are far more willing to grant temporary admission than the Labour Government were. It it is one thing to allow temporary admission while the Minister looks into the case, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to reconsider his proposition that the person should have not just temporary admission but permission to remain here until his or her appeal is heard before an adjudicator, presumably for however long it may take for the legal machinery to be put into action. I repeat that that is the most arrant rubbish.
The Opposition have tabled this prayer, but there is virtually nothing to complain about in the rules. That is why they have so often talked about entirely different matters. In fact, we are leaving things much as they were before and therefore much as they were when the appeals system was set up in 1970 under the Immigration Appeals Act passed by the Labour Government in 1969.
§ Mr. Budgen
Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that the Asian community, in particular, is very well organised and has many representative bodies? How many representations of complaint has he received from those bodies? There is a very large Asian community in my constituency, but I have received no complaints at all about this procedure.
§ Mr. Waddington
I can tell my hon. Friend that we listened with great attention to the representations that were made to us by a number of bodies. As a result, we have not carried out any of the radical changes canvassed in the consultation document. That is why it is so extraordinary that the Opposition are making such a fuss today. I remind them of the propositions canvassed in the consultation document. It suggested combining the right of appeal against a refusal to vary leave with the right to appeal against a decision to deport. We have not done that. The document suggested removing the right of a short-term visitor to appeal against the refusal of his application to have his stay extended or, alternatively, making that right of appeal exercisable only from abroad—we have not done that. The document suggested removing the right of entry clearance and work permit holders to be given leave to appeal from an adjudicator to the immigration appeal tribunal, and abolishing the right of appeal against 719 a refusal to revoke a deportation order. At the same time, the possibility of the introduction of two additional rights of appeal was mentioned: a right of appeal from the tribunal to the High Court on a point of law, and a right of appeal before removal for illegal entrants.
As to the procedure rules, several changes, including an extension of the powers of adjudicators to determine appeals without a hearing, were suggested in the document. Comments on the discussion document were received from the appellate authorities, the Council on Tribunals and from many individuals and organisations interested, including UKIAS and JCWI. Those commenting were generally opposed to suggestions aimed at removing or reducing rights of appeal or an appellant's right to an oral hearing of his case, and most of those commenting were in favour of introducing a right of appeal before removal for illegal entrants.
The comments on the discussion document and suggestions made by interested parties for other reforms of the appeals system have been very carefully considered, and the Government's proposals formulated in the light of the changing situation within the appeals system. The proposals in the discussion document were aimed at reducing delays in the system, but since the review was carried out, a concerted attempt by both the Home Office and the appellate authorities to reduce delays has been successful to the extent that at the end of November last year, the number of appeals awaiting a hearing was approximately 9,500 compared with 16,350 at the end of 1979, while the average delay at the appeal hearing centres has been reduced over the same period from 14 months to three to four months. One might have expected Opposition Members to congratulate the Government on having produced a much more satisfactory situation than that which existed when they were in power, instead of cavilling during the past hour.
In the light of that improvement in the overall position, it has been decided that amendments of the 1971 Act limiting rights of appeal are not necessary at this time. At the same time, we do not propose at present to extend the appeal rights of illegal immigrants.
I know that concern has been expressed about illegal immigrants not having a right of appeal before removal, but it must by remembered that their position at present is exactly the same as that of persons not holding entry clearances or work permits who are refused entry at the ports, and we see no justification for treating more favourably someone who has deliberately managed to enter clandestinely or has obtained leave to enter by deceiving an immigration officer, than someone who has been honest about his intentions and has been refused entry as a result. That would be to reward dishonesty over honesty.
The hon. Member for Battersea mentioned only one of the rules — rule 6. I was surprised that Opposition Members made a fuss about that. Rule 6 now embodies the particulars that must be contained in a notice of appeal. This will enable notice of appeal to be given by letter, for instance — that is, far less formally than at present. However, there will also be a gain in administrative convenience. The intention is to continue to issue appeal forms, but the fact that they do not have to be statutorily prescribed means that changes to the forms that might subsequently become desirable can be achieved without having to amend the statutory instrument. That seems to me to be wholly desirable.
720 As I have said, I am extremely surprised at the Opposition's attitude. I can only assume that, like the hon. Member for Mossley Hill, they have not taken the trouble to compare the representations made by JCWI with the new regulations. They will find that a number of representations were made to us, and we were asked to drop all the radical proposals in our consultation document.
I took the view that as a result of the magnificent efforts of our staff and the fact that we have got rid of so many of the delays in the appeals system which existed under Labour, it was not necessary to carry out these radical changes that were canvassed in the discussion document. If Opposition Members——
§ It being half-past Eleven o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4 (Prayers against statutory instruments, &c. (negative procedure)).
§ The House divided: Ayes 49, Noes 146.721
|Division No. 89]||[11.30 pm|
|Alton, David||Loyden, Edward|
|Barron, Kevin||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Beith, A. J.||McGuire, Michael|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||McWilliam, John|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Madden, Max|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Maxton, John|
|Clay, Robert||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Nellist, David|
|Cohen, Harry||Parry, Robert|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Patchett, Terry|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Pike, Peter|
|Craigen, J. M.||Prescott, John|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Robertson, George|
|Dewar, Donald||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Skinner, Dennis|
|Eadie, Alex||Snape, Peter|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Fatchett, Derek||Wallace, James|
|Foulkes, George||Welsh, Michael|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Wilson, Gordon|
|Freud, Clement||Winnick, David|
|Haynes, Frank||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Mr. Greville Janner.|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Ancram, Michael||Forth, Eric|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fox, Marcus|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Freeman, Roger|
|Brinton, Tim||Gale, Roger|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Galley, Roy|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Gow, Ian|
|Budgen, Nick||Gregory, Conal|
|Butcher, John||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Cash, William||Ground, Patrick|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Cope, John||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Harris, David|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Harvey, Robert|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Dover, Den||Hayes, J.|
|Durant, Tony||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Hayward, Robert|
|Fallon, Michael||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Heddle, John|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Key, Robert||Rowe, Andrew|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Knowles, Michael||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Latham, Michael||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Speed, Keith|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Speller, Tony|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Spencer, Derek|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Lester, Jim||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Stern, Michael|
|Lightbown, David||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Lord, Michael||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|MacGregor, John||Sumberg, David|
|Maclean, David John||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Major, John||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Malins, Humfrey||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Malone, Gerald||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Maples, John||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Marland, Paul||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Marlow, Antony||Thurnham, Peter|
|Mates, Michael||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Mather, Carol||Tracey, Richard|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Trotter, Neville|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Merchant, Piers||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Viggers, Peter|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Waddington, David|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Walden, George|
|Moore, John||Waller, Gary|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Watson, John|
|Murphy, Christopher||Watts, John|
|Newton, Tony||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Normanton, Tom||Wheeler, John|
|Norris, Steven||Whitfield, John|
|Ottaway, Richard||Whitney, Raymond|
|Page, Sir John (Harrow W)||Wilkinson, John|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Wood, Timothy|
|Powley, John||Woodcock, Michael|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Raffan, Keith||Mr. Michael Neubert and|
|Renton, Tim||Mr. Ian Lang.|
§ Question accordingly negatived