HC Deb 17 July 2001 vol 372 cc145-6
30. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

How he plans to deal with the backlog of immigration appeals; and if he will make a statement. [2609]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Ms Rosie Winterton)

Immigration appeals have benefited from the significant resources that the Government have invested in improving the appeals process. Waiting times in the Immigration Appellate Authority have reduced considerably from more than 40 weeks at the end of March 2000 to less than 20 weeks at the same point this year.

Officials from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, the IAA and the Lord Chancellor's Department continue to work closely together to ensure that there are no undue delays in dealing with immigration appeals.

Fiona Mactaggart

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and welcome her to her new post.

I am pleased to hear the extent to which the processing of immigration appeals is being speeded up. However, the same cannot be said about asylum appeals. What progress is being made in dealing with the 65,000 asylum cases that are being moved into the appeals system?

Ms Winterton

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind remarks. She is right that immigration and asylum appeals should be tackled as quickly as possible, and that immigration work should not suffer through increased asylum appeals. The latest assessment shows that in approximately 52,000 asylum cases, an appeal has been lodged with the IND, but they remain in the appeals system. In the past year, we have taken several steps to tackle that problem and ensure that asylum and immigration appeals move through the system quickly.

First, we have increased the number of courtrooms. Secondly, we have more than doubled the number of asylum adjudicator sitting days. We have also increased the number of staff in the IND who prepare and present appeals, and the number of interpreters.

I hope that my hon. Friend will welcome the fact that those measures mean that average waiting times for asylum and immigration appeals have more than halved in the past year. However, I assure her that we shall continue to consider all options for tackling appeals quickly.