HC Deb 18 January 1999 vol 323 cc549-50
2. Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston)

What plans he has to regulate immigration advisers. [64346]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

The Government have a manifesto commitment to control unscrupulous immigration advisers. We intend to implement it and will include provisions in a new asylum and immigration Bill in a few weeks' time.

Maria Eagle

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Some welcome action is imminent, which can only be good. As one hears ever more lurid stories of so-called immigration advisers indulging in what can only be described as sometimes criminal behaviour, does he agree that it is vital that those who are entitled to immigration advice should be able to rely on its accuracy and on the integrity of those providing it? Will he ensure that those who seek advice about their immigration status can rely on its quality; that, wherever malpractice is found—in solicitors offices or other organisations that purport to be able to give legal advice—it will be dealt with; and that there will be a crackdown on advisers who do little more than make money out of the vulnerable?

Mr. O'Brien

The activities of unscrupulous advisers are a major scandal that must be dealt with firmly and comprehensively. We shall introduce the necessary measures in legislation during this Session. We have already created a dedicated unit in the immigration and nationality directorate to investigate advisers who may be abusing our current immigration laws. The previous Administration did nothing, but we shall take the necessary action.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

How can the hon. Gentleman possibly take on the regulation of the so-called advisers when his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary admitted only moments ago that the number of employees in the immigration service was being reduced?

Mr. O'Brien

The hon. Gentleman seems not to have heard my right hon. Friend clearly. There has been a movement towards computerisation of the IND, which may affect some clerical staff. However, the extra money that we shall be able to direct towards immigration control and the effective control of the asylum system as a result of the comprehensive spending review will enable us to target resources on having the employees that we need where we need them so that we can deliver effective immigration controls and an asylum system that works, which the previous Administration failed to deliver.