HL Deb 12 July 1999 vol 604 cc11-80

(" . Amendments to Immigration Rules under the 1971 Act shall be subject to an affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Baroness said: In a long parliamentary career, I have learnt that, although Executives from all parties almost invariably resent the intervention of Parliament in the matters that they put before it, that oversight and that scrutiny are vital in producing the best possible legislation.

This is a long and complex Bill that directly affects people's human rights and the reputation of this country as an outstanding model of the democratic treatment of individuals from wherever they may come and of respect for civil liberties. Therefore, it behoves us all to give the most careful scrutiny possible to the legislation that we are considering today and will consider in the next few days in Committee.

It is crucial to recognise how much the Bill's impact will depend upon the detail of orders and regulations, and even the practice of immigration officers, that is not laid down in the Bill. A feature of the Bill—which does not incur some of the problems that afflicted earlier legislation when very few provisions appeared as primary legislation—is that the Secretary of State has wide and sweeping powers to issue orders and to make regulations of a kind that the House will not be able to supervise directly. In light of the phrase, "The devil is in the detail", we urge careful consideration of those powers of regulation and of the powers to make orders.

A second area of the Bill is more important even than the issues of asylum and the treatment of refugees. The Bill represents a crucial early test of the commitment of Parliament—and, indeed, of the Government—to upholding the European Convention on Human Rights and to incorporating human rights into British law. How we handle the Bill and how we deal with potential conflicts with the European convention and with other international conventions to which this country has put its name, such as the refugee convention, will form an important precedent for legislation on many subjects that will follow over many years.

Therefore, we believe that it is crucial to show that the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and those concerned with the refugee convention and other similar conventions are respected, honoured and upheld in the Bill. The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation has produced a report for which many of us are extremely grateful. That clear and powerful report is the culmination of difficult and detailed work, and it points out that delegated powers can be exercised in ways that are not compatible with convention rights or with the refugee convention.

As many noble Lords will know, much doubt and concern were expressed in another place about this aspect of the Bill. As a consequence, many amendments were put down, insisting that the affirmative resolution procedure was the proper way to deal with many of the regulations and orders made under the Bill. I am delighted to say this afternoon that the Government seem to have considered those amendments and those arguments very carefully.

Nevertheless, a good deal in this Bill will rely upon the immigration rules, which are extremely detailed and extremely long. They provide considerable guidance to immigration officers and others in the pursuit of their duties by suggesting how they should handle claims from asylum seekers and refugees. The rules also refer to persons who are to be removed and deported, to arguments about detention and so on. As those rules are so important, we believe that they should be subject to affirmative resolution. I will give a few examples of how the immigration rules will affect the consideration that we can give to this Bill and how they affected the consideration that it received in another place.

It is worth mentioning that, when similar legislation was considered in 1993 and 1996, draft immigration rules were laid before Parliament at the same time as the primary legislation. In other words, it was recognised that the immigration rules were an integral part of the way in which we deal with the difficult issues surrounding asylum seekers and refugees. We do not have draft immigration rules before us today, and it is not altogether easy to get hold of those very long immigration rules—I know, because I have tried to do so. I believe that it would be helpful if those draft immigration rules, or at least rules that could be changed, could be laid before Parliament. That would make our debates both more effective and more serious.

I will give a few examples of the way in which the immigration rules bite on the issues that we are considering in this legislation. The first issue concerns Clause 10, which refers to the right to send people to third countries that are regarded as safe. The relevant immigration rule, No. 345, is not on the face of the Bill but it raises some extremely important issues of principle. If someone is to be sent to a third country that is deemed safe on the grounds that he is not a national or citizen of that country and that his right to life, liberty and certain kinds of freedom and so on will be respected, one might expect that, at the very least, the Home Office would be responsible for ensuring that that person will be received in that country and not sent into limbo. Immigration rule No. 345 states: Provided that he is satisfied that a case meets these criteria"— that is, a case for sending someone to a third country— the Secretary of State is under no obligation to consult the authorities of the third country or territory before the removal of an asylum applicant to that country or territory". The fact that we have no idea whether a third country will receive the person who is sent on is of sufficient moment to justify discussing the matter in Parliament and in your Lordships' House. It is part of the immigration rules, but we cannot discuss them at present.

Clause 12 refers to the security measures needed to enable someone to visit this country. Those criteria will be laid down not in Committee or in primary legislation but in the immigration rules. Clause 20 provides a third example. It refers to how far "sham marriages"—as they are called—may be entered into in order to avoid immigration rules. However, we cannot discuss that issue seriously in detail unless we know what the immigration rules to be avoided say.

For those reasons, I ask the Minister—we have not yet put down an amendment to this effect—whether the immigration rules can be laid before the Committee and whether the Committee will be able to make suggestions for changing those rules that ride alongside the primary legislation. But more importantly, it is why we seek to ensure that the immigration rules themselves should be subject to affirmative order.

I hope that I have shown that, at least in some instances deeply affecting the passage of the Bill, the immigration rules are as relevant as anything on the face of the Bill itself. However, they must be considered alongside the Bill. If we do not do so, we may find, as was indicated by the Justice report, that secondary legislation and the immigration rules themselves might contradict our commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights and under the refugee convention. For that reason, we need to be able to discuss in more detail changes to the immigration rules that could profoundly affect the civil liberties, rights and standing of those who are seeking asylum or refugee status in this country. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The noble Baroness has raised a number of extremely pertinent issues which touch the very rights of vulnerable people and about which I believe greater clarity is required. The views expressed by the noble Baroness have also been put cogently by Justice in a document which is supported by a well-known silk and others, including UNHCR. Therefore, this matter will demand the most careful consideration and analysis by my noble friend.

That the Government are concerned about these issues has been demonstrated by some concessions that have already been discussed in another place. I believe that we can derive encouragement from that. Furthermore, I am confident that my noble friend will respond to these concerns in his usual constructive way.

I should just like to say by way of preface—but that does not mean that I shall speak at any great length: but all speeches demand a preface and, preferably, a swift conclusion, and this speech shall be one of those—that a large number of matters will be dealt with by way of secondary legislation, and presumably by way of negative resolution. I do not know whether it will be possible to segregate issues of significant importance or whether they will all need to be dealt with by affirmative resolution. No doubt that is a matter on which we shall hear from my noble friend in a few minutes. However, wherever there is a doubt, I hope that the benefit of that doubt will be resolved in favour of the affirmative resolution procedure. The procedure is not much more cumbersome, but I believe that it provides a greater security that matters will be that much mare carefully considered than if we proceed by way of negative resolution.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, in the main these are issues which touch upon the civil liberties of so many people. When Justice made its submission, it stated in paragraph 2.4 of its document dealing with the human rights compliance statement: We consider that the limits of order-making powers should be more precisely defined in statute, to alert those making or amending orders or regulations to human rights compliance issues". Overwhelmingly, that is right. Justice continued: We also consider that secondary legislation with a human rights impact should be certified and should require affirmative resolution of Parliament". The first part is likely to be dealt with, but at present it is the second part that concerns me. For that reason, I believe that the noble Baroness has done the Committee a service by raising the matter.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

From this Bench we must admit that, being working Bishops rather than working Peers, no single Bishop will necessarily be able to be present throughout the passage of the Bill in your Lordships' House. There is a sense of a baton being handed on from one to another. The Second Reading speech was given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, and it may well be that later in the proceedings on the Bill other right reverend Prelates will also play a part. However, I believe that we shall speak with one voice, though embodied in different people.

As one who was present for both the 1993 and the 1996 Bills, there is a curious sense of returning to a familiar scene. The faces that I see on the Liberal Democrat Benches are those that I remember from three years ago. The Government's policies are apparently unchanged and are based upon the idea that all asylum seekers, or at least the majority of them, must be kept at bay rather than given proper access to the justice which they deserve in this country. All that has happened is that the administration has changed.

In 1996 I debated the matter with the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, who is a Scottish mathematician. For the Bill before us, I and others will be debating with the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who is a Welsh lawyer for whom I and many in your Lordships' House have the highest regard. Although I may take issue with him on various matters, I know that my respect for him will only be increased by his handling of the Bill.

I await with interest to see what will be the attitude of noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench. I am confident that they will feel compelled by moral obligation rather than bow to political expediency.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am obliged to the right reverend Prelate for giving way. He will know that I took an active part in the proceedings on the Bill introduced by what is now the Opposition. I believe I am right to say that the response made by the Government in another place has been altogether different in character and principle from that of the then government dealing with that Bill. The Government have made a number of concessions.

While, as I have already indicated, I am still actively critical of some of the provisions of the Bill, is it not a little unfair to castigate the Government in quite the same way as the other administration which deserved castigation?

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I accept the rebuke of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. However, I would make the point that, in broad terms, the Bill before us is seen as one which creates difficulties in very much the same way as previous Bills. We shall wait to see whether at the end of the day the Government produce a Bill which genuinely allows asylum seekers proper access to justice.

The point being made in this amendment, so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, is one that deserves our attention. Clearly, the Government's intention is to reduce the backlog of determinations. That intent is shared with the previous administration. Some of us are not yet convinced that what we have seen will enable that to happen. Nevertheless, the ideal is a short period of determination. Of course there are those who abuse the system. The way to sort out abusers is to put them through the determination process, which will sort out those applications that are genuine and those that are not.

If we are to have a much shorter backlog, it is enormously important that the determination process is operated, and is seen to be operated, with absolute fairness. For that reason, it is right that this new clause should be accepted. It provides a degree of protection and it will mean that both Houses of Parliament will have the opportunity not only to scrutinise primary legislation, but also to scrutinise with great care the way it is carried into operation through secondary legislation. I would just affirm again the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that the successful operation of the Bill will lie in the detail and in the way in which it is operated. For that reason, I believe that the amendment requires very careful consideration.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Renton

I strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. It is grouped with the amendment tabled by my noble friends Lord Cope and Lord Astor which appears after Clause 154. I suggest that that is a better place for such a provision. Amendment No. 1 relates to statutory instruments and it is incongruous to have the provision at the beginning of the Bill. However, Clause 154 deals with regulations and orders, so surely the provision would be better placed as a subsection of Clause 154.

Amendment No. 210 has the same effect as Amendment No. 1 and I do not think that one could take exception to the drafting of either of them, but I suggest that one or other should be placed as a subsection of Clause 154.

Earl Russell

I, too, want to draw the attention of the Committee to the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee which touches precisely on the subject of the amendment. In paragraph 7, the committee states: We do not suggest that the Immigration Rules should be included on the face of the bill. But we do consider that the time has come when the House may wish to consider amending the 1971 Act through an amendment to the present bill to provide that the Immigration Rules, which are of immense importance to asylum seekers, should be made subject to the affirmative resolution procedure". In paragraph 39, the committee states: Related to this is our concern about the arrangements for parliamentary control over the making of Immigration Rules. This has led us to recommend that the House should consider amending the bill to make immigration rules subject to affirmative procedure". That is a strong and positive recommendation from a committee which has generally commanded the confidence of this House—and deservedly so. I shall touch on one more reason why that is the case. The immigration rules are the point at which our international obligations, which I am sure all governments wish to take seriously, bite upon the immigration procedure. That is through Section 2 of the 1993 Act, which was passed under the "Home Secretaryship" of Mr Kenneth Clarke, which seems to me to be a case of distance lending enchantment to the view.

That Act provides that the immigration rules may not contain anything contrary to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. That is a vitally important provision, the interpretation of which may occasionally give rise to dispute, as I am sure that the right reverend Prelate, to whom I listened with great pleasure, was well aware. It is also a great pleasure to me, too, to have him again opposite me in body only but united in spirit. I hope that the Committee will accept the amendment.

Lord Avebury

The instructions to immigration officers, which are equally important, have a bearing on the decisions made by those officers, notwithstanding the fact that they do not form part of the rules. There are two sets of instructions to immigration officers; one which is published and which is available on the Home Office website, and the other which is secret and which perhaps embodies the suspicions of the Home Office which it believes are not fit to be disclosed to an applicant in case avoiding action should be taken. However, the instructions may be vital in determining whether an application is accepted.

I wish to draw particular attention to the cases of family members who do not fall within the degrees of consanguinity permitted by the immigration rules. Those rules have been tightened over the years and are extremely restrictive on all near-relatives except spouses and minor children. The result can be seen in one case which recently came to my attention. It involves an Assyrian Christian who came here accompanied by his wife and two children. Unfortunately, he transited via Oslo and was about to be sent back there by the Home Office because that was his country of first asylum. That was notwithstanding the fact that his wife had two sisters resident in the United Kingdom; that there is an Assyrian church in London; and that there is an Assyrian library and culture infrastructure here which is totally non-existent in Norway. Because the relatives were no more close than the sister, the rule which determines the country of first asylum came into play and the Home Office was going to send the family to Norway, where they had no support.

Fortunately, the family applied for judicial review and during the time it took for the case to come to court the period which is permitted under the Dublin Convention lapsed, and the Norwegians refused to accept the family. So they finished up here anyway. However, the story illustrates the lengths to which one must go to arrive at the commonsense solution that a family with close relatives and many support mechanisms here did not qualify under the rules.

I give another example; that of an Algerian refugee who was undoubtedly well qualified and had no difficulty in obtaining asylum. He was a former professor and had been tortured. He was granted refugee status fairly promptly. That is most unusual, in my experience, because even the best cases may take five or six years. When he left Algeria in a hurry with his wife and five children, the eldest of the family, who was 18, was taking examinations and did not accompany the rest of the family. The Home Office now says that that one child is unable to enter the United Kingdom because he falls to be dealt with under the provisions which demand a separate asylum application for any member of the family who has reached the age of 18.

That illustrates the importance of examining the rules at the same time as examining the Bill. The rules contain many restrictive provisions which violate the principle of family unity and may transgress the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of which the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has signed a certificate.

I warmly support my noble friend's plea that the Bill should provide that all amendments to the immigration rules are dealt with by the affirmative resolution procedure. I believe that while we are debating the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, should lay before the House a copy of the instructions to immigration officers so that we can consider them at the same time.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I am not sure where an English accountant fits into the hierarchy set out by the right revered Prelate, but wherever it is, here I am! I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, my former colleague—I nearly said "former friend" but I hope that he remains so—down the road of comparing different governments. The problems which surround immigration and asylum remain real and the dilemmas which faced the previous government continue to face this Government and have led to this Bill and the issues which surround it.

I support Amendment No. 1. We, too, saw the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and its important recommendation. That and other representations led us to table Amendment No. 210. As my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out, we chose to place it after Clause 154, towards the end of the Bill, rather than at the beginning. With all due respect to my noble friend, that is a secondary point, but the wording is to all intents and purposes identical.

The time has come to give serious consideration to ensuring that any future amendments to the immigration rules come before both Houses of Parliament for the affirmative procedure. It would also be helpful if the proposed changes to the immigration rules were made available to us in good time for our considerations on Report, which will presumably follow after the Recess. That was done for previous Bills a year or two ago.

The case for such scrutiny of changes to the immigration rules rests on the importance of those rules. That case has been well made by others during the debate and I do not need to emphasise the point. The issue also reflects a larger problem facing Parliament: the increasing volume of secondary legislation that is incorporated into all Bills. This is not a party point. Many recent Bills have required a great deal of secondary legislation. The trend is probably increasing, although there was already a heavy volume—getting ever heavier—under the previous government.

We all regret the complexity of modern law, but there is an inevitability about it. Given that complexity and the number of measures requiring secondary legislation, our procedures need to be looked at again. That is a wider point of which the amendment is an example. The immigration rules are of sufficient importance to warrant the affirmative procedure when they are changed. I support the amendment.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend sits down, will he make it clear how he feels about the placing of the amendment or one like it? He wisely placed it after Clause 154, which deals with regulations and orders. It would be incongruous for it to be the first clause of the Bill. Will he stick to his original view that it should go after Clause 154—or, indeed, could be a subsection of it?

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I have not changed my mind. That is a more sensible place for the clause. I shall wait until I have heard further discussion of the issue to decide whether it should be a subsection of Clause 154 or a separate clause. I would be content to leave that to the parliamentary draftsmen. My noble friend has given a lot of sound advice to parliamentary draftsmen over many years, particularly in his report. I shall not quarrel with him about matters of parliamentary drafting.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Dholakia

I support the amendment. We value the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, particularly when we agree with him. In this case, he is right. We are not bothered where the amendment appears in the Bill as long as the Government intend to include it. It precedes the other amendments because it is right and proper to draw attention to an aspect of the Bill on which we feel that discussion could be stifled to an extent because of a lack of information, particularly on rules and regulations.

At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and I drew attention to the problems that the Bill created. We identified clause after clause that provided that the Secretary of State may "make regulations" or, may, by order, make further provision", or do so in, such circumstances as may be specified". The problem has been ably identified by many noble Lords.

The amendment received the support of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, which took into account my comments and those of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. It is important for us to be able to identify aspects of the Bill that breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

We have a clear statement from the Minister in the Bill. However, we do not know whether the rules to be made under delegated legislation will breach the convention. That can be determined only when the matter comes before your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby and I have tabled several clause-stand-part Motions rather than amendments because that gives us an opportunity to highlight the potential breaches of the convention.

There is a fundamental problem. Some years ago my noble friend Lord Avebury asked for not just the immigration rules but the instructions to immigration officers to be laid before Parliament. We were surprised to discover that they were confidential documents. It is not just the rules that are important, but the way in which immigration officers implement them. We hope to have some sight of that document.

I support the amendment for the reasons that I have stated. It has been supported by all those who have spoken so far. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has always been helpful. I remind him that on Second Reading he said, if there are improvements to be made, I am perfectly happy to look at them with an open mind. Some points strike me as being extremely powerfully made. I shall want to consider them with some care".—[Official Report, 29/6/99; col. 249.] Many speakers have supported the main thrust of the Bill. We seek the support of the Government. I hope that the Minister accepts the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The intention of both amendments is the same. They would make any change to the immigration rules under the Immigration Act 1971 subject to the affirmative procedure. I understand the reasoning, but I think that the concerns are misplaced.

Immigration rules are statements of the practice to be followed in the administration of immigration legislation. By virtue of Section 3(2) of the 1971 Act, they are made by the Secretary of State subject to a special form of negative procedure. He is required to lay a statement of the changes to the rules before Parliament.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, asked about the opportunity for either House to pray against changes made under Section 3(2) of the 1971 Act. If the Secretary of State wishes to make a change, he is obliged to lay before Parliament a statement of the changes in the rules. If the statement is disapproved by resolution of either House within 40 days of being laid, the Secretary of State is obliged to make such changes or further changes as appear to him to be required and such further statement must be laid before Parliament within 40 days of the date of the resolution.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is quite right. Those questions need continuing thought and, as I said to your Lordships on Second Reading, I am perfectly happy to look at those matters between now and Report stage.

I should say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, that it is unlikely that the new rules will be available before Report. The nature of the rules will depend in sensible part on the final shape of the Bill. We want wide consultation outside the Chamber with all interested parties. I cannot think that the appropriate consultation will be complete in the time specified by the noble Lord, Lord Cope.

Lord Avebury

When the Minister says that the new rules will not be available before Report, is he implying that consolidated rules will be published at that time and not simply a statement of the changes?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I cannot give an answer about what the final shape of the new rules will be. That would be offensive to this Committee. We shall want to see the final shape of the Bill. Plainly, at the moment, we are scrutinising the rules, and I hope that that is of benefit not only to the noble Lord in his helpful intervention but also to other Members of the Committee who have spoken. We are currently scrutinising the rules, carrying out an audit of many of the aspects which trouble the Committee; namely, ECHR compliance. As the noble Lord said, I have certified all that I can certify at present, which is that I believe in the convention compliance of the Bill. I am not in a position to give a view on any final forms of rules. In the nature of things, we do not have them. I hope that it is helpful to the Committee to understand that the scrutiny is presently continuing.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

We fully accept that the draft immigration rules will have to be drawn up at the end of the procedures which turn the Bill into an Act. But would it be possible for the draft immigration rules to be laid before this House before we complete the Report stage so that we can consider them and perhaps the noble Lord can consider our comments on them?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Again, that is a perfectly reasonable request. I shall take advice on it. Irrespective of the outcome, the noble Baroness has raised a helpful point.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I suggested that the draft immigration rules, rather than the final ones, may be available. From recollection, I believe that that is what happened on previous occasions in 1993 and 1996 when Parliament was considering the relevant legislation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his correction. I may have misheard him. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis made an extremely important point to which I wish to revert in a moment. These immigration rules are rules of practice and in some areas, they deal with extremely detailed matters such as the length of leave which is normally given to visitors in particular categories. In part, they are guidance for those who must administer the legislation. The Secretary of State and others retain discretion to act outside the rules in exceptional cases. So I emphasise that one is dealing here with extremely detailed matters indeed. Only a small proportion of the rules deals with asylum claims and some of that is arguably simply explanatory of requirements set out elsewhere.

The rules and the arrangements for their making have worked perfectly well. I repeat that if a Member of this House or another place is concerned about the draft rule changes, he has an opportunity to secure a debate and a vote on their approval. However, where there are no such concerns, there is no need for a debate and one need not take place.

Perhaps I may deal with the point expressed most graphically by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. He asked whether or not we should segregate different issues. That is what Clause 154 is intended to achieve. Clause 154(1) states: Any power to make rules, regulations or orders conferred by this Act is exercisable by statutory instrument". Clause 154(2) states: Any such statutory instrument may—

  1. (a) contain such incidental, supplemental, consequential and transitional provision as the person making ii considers appropriate;
  2. 22
  3. (b) make different provision for different cases or descriptions of case; and
  4. (c) make different provision for different areas".
One then comes to my noble friend's segregation point because in subsection (3) one sees that: No order is to be made under", various relevant sections, which I do not read out, unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House". The clause continues: (4) No regulations are to be made…unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House. (5) Any statutory instrument…shall be subject to annulment by a resolution of either House of Parliament". Therefore, the segregation of issues point, which I repeat is a good one, raised by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis is reflected in Clause 154. Whether it is fully reflected is another question. But I believe that my noble friend's theme has already been taken on board.

One or two questions were raised about the publication of instructions. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised that question. We published the instructions. We made them available on the website as a proactive step of our own. Some parts of the instructions are not available for good reasons: because availability would prejudice the control. But only a minority is withheld where there is a real operational risk.

The noble Baroness said that it is sometimes difficult to find the current rules. I sympathise with her. They were published by HMSO as HC395 of 1994 and they should be reasonably widely available.

As regards the certificate which I put on the face of the Bill, when the Act comes into force on 2nd October of next year, on my recollection, the immigration rules will be susceptible to challenge on the basis that they contravene the convention rights.

I return to the working of the rules in the past. I suggest to the Committee that this seems a sensible approach. It ensures that the time of this House or another place is not taken up with debates on straightforward or non-controversial matters. Quite often, there are small, sometimes technical, changes to the rules which are widely accepted, need no further explanation and, indeed, seem to call for no further debate.

There is another category, which I also mentioned. Sometimes we must make changes very quickly indeed; for example, if a new visa requirement is imposed. If a great deal of knowledge and advance notice is given of that, the obvious difficulties follow. The expected consequences arise and sometimes a regime must be imposed when Parliament is not sitting.

I repeat that Clause 154 recognises the point made by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. In respect of some provisions, the positive procedure is appropriate. I repeat that Clause 154 sets out the provision for that.

The right reverend Prelate said that our motive is to keep all asylum seekers at bay. I do not think so. We have introduced a proper judicial intervention with written reasons. There will be the presumption of bail. There will be time limits so that family cases are dealt with within two months of an appeal. We hope to guarantee that the appeal is dealt with within a further four months. We are providing decent accommodation with utilities paid for, and which are furnished, containing pots, pans, linen and so on. We are also providing decent opportunities for support.

Therefore, we are saying to families of asylum seekers that they will not be ignored for three, four or five years; that we shall deal decently, humanely and promptly with their claims within two months; and thereafter that the appeal procedure will be determined in a further four months. That is the proper way in which to deal with asylum seekers in the family context.

4 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Does he not agree that so long as the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act remains in place, the proposals for support of asylum seekers, as outlined, and the proposal to criminalise certain activities of asylum seekers are part of the policy that, overall, has the effect of deterring those who want to apply to this country for asylum?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I developed these themes at Second Reading when I pointed out some of the concerns about criminalisation relating to those who were preying on asylum seekers for the purpose of gain. This is a perfectly proper safeguard which should be introduced.

We want those who have a sustainable claim for asylum to be dealt with in a decent way in terms of time, promptness and presumption of bail. We want them to be dealt with in a proper way so that reasons may be given, and in an appropriate way by providing them with furnished, good quality accommodation, utilities paid for by the state, the opportunity of a grant after six months and a prompt resolution of an outstanding claim.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, raised a specific point about whether the amendment should properly be inserted after Clause 154. I take his point. If it is to appear in the Bill at all, it might well be properly placed after Clause 154. He approaches the amendment on the basis that it should be in the Bill; I take a different view.

Lord Renton

Or as a sub-paragraph within Clause 154.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Lord knows me well enough to know that I will not fall for that either! We take a different view about whether this provision should be a component of the Bill at all.

I repeat that I understand the questions and concerns which underlie these matters. As the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, pointed out, we have tried to segregate. If we have got it wrong, or may have got it wrong—which, after all, is possible, even in the Home Office—I certainly undertake to think about it, without any guarantee of what the conclusion will be.

Earl Russell

I am grateful to the Minister for much of what he said. However, before he sits down, perhaps I may ask for a small point of clarification. He said that when the Bill becomes law, the immigration rules will be open to challenge on the ground that they contravene the convention rights. Did he there refer to the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on Refugees, or to both?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

To the former.

Earl Russell

In that case, perhaps the Minister can explain where challenges should be made on the ground that they contravene the UN Convention on Refugees.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I anticipate that legal challenges may be deployed in a wide variety of different legal proceedings. However, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, rightly asked me what I meant by what I said, and I told him what I meant by what I said.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

I express my gratitude to the Minister for his willingness at least to consider carefully the debate which has taken place on this new clause. I recognise that at present he is not inclined to yield to the appeals which, I am delighted to say, have come from all Benches, including from the Bishops. However, I hope that he will consider them somewhat further.

Perhaps I may briefly underline two points. First, in order not to waste the time of the Committee I gave only a brief example of the area where the immigration rules clearly go beyond simply implementing details and enter into a position in which one might say that primary matters of principle are to be considered. I referred in this case to the return to third countries of people to whom there is no reason to believe that any welcome of any kind will be extended.

Secondly, will the Minister reflect, before Report, on whether a willingness to subject the immigration rules to affirmative resolution might not provide a more complete and satisfactory answer to the charges of those who suggest that the Bill may not be compatible with our commitments under both the European convention and the United Nations covenants? I believe that Parliament will be very good at examining the rules to ensure such compatibility. I fully appreciate that the Minister, for all his extraordinary assiduity and conscientiousness, does not have the time to do everything that this House and the other place could do. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 [Leave to enter]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 11, leave out ("leave") and insert ("permission").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 2 stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Astor. It is suggested in the groupings that we should also discuss two consequential amendments; Amendments Nos. 2 and 4. Had Amendment No. 1 been agreed to, there would have been a vast number of consequential amendments. I did not think it right to fill the groupings list entirely with all such amendments, but merely sufficient to make my point.

This is a "plain English" amendment. At present, the Bill refers many times to "leave to enter" and "leave to remain", as does the existing legislation. The suggestion of the amendment is that the wording should be altered to "permission to enter" and "permission to remain". This may sound a very small point. However, from discussion with British Airways, I realised that about half the cases in which British Airways finishes up with a carrier's liability charge result from passengers arriving in the United Kingdom either without a visa or with one which has been used or is improper in some way. Quite a high percentage of such cases arise from misunderstandings of the various pieces of paper, either by the potential immigrants or by overseas staff of British Airways who handle such documentation.

The word "leave" has a number of different meanings. A little later in the Bill, reference is made to people being asked whether or not they have a "leave stamp". Those of us who had at least a little military experience in the course of National Service will think of a leave stamp as something which enables one to go away rather than to come in. I believe that the word "leave" is therefore the wrong word to be used in these circumstances these days. It is true that years ago that term was quite clear. However, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, no less, opened all our eyes to the possibilities of simplifying legal terms. This seems to come into the same category; hence this rather modest amendment.

I am aware that the Home Office is working hard to try to simplify the documentation. I commend it on such work and hope that it is going well. In moving the amendment, I believe that such work deserves to succeed. I understand that various working parties are involved. Their work is expected to come to some sort of fruition by next April. It would be helpful to know from the Minister whether it is still realistic to suppose that simpler documentation will be available by that date.

This is an important issue. After all, by definition we are dealing with people who are often in difficult personal circumstances, particularly those who are genuinely seeking asylum. Often, their first language is not English; indeed, often they do not speak any English. In addition, they may be dealing with airline officials and others whose first language is not English. This is not a trivial matter, but one of importance. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I appreciate the comments made by my noble friend. However, I hope that I shall not be considered a disloyal Conservative if I say that I have some doubts about his proposal. He referred to the desire of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to simplify legal English. As I understand it, the word "leave" is originally of Anglo-Saxon derivation, whereas the word "permission" is of Latin origin. The word "leave" is a shorter word, and it has several meanings, but most people know that one of its most clearly understood meanings is "permission". If we replace the word "leave" as proposed in the amendment, it will have to be altered throughout the statute book.

I hope that my noble friend does not think that I am teasing him or being difficult, but I notice that in Amendments Nos. 5, 7 and 8 he uses the word "leave".

My most friendly advice, if I dare to give advice to such a noble friend, is not to press the amendment.

Lord Dholakia

I welcome the advice given by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I now understand the Anglo-Saxon explanation. However, as an Indo-Saxon who speaks a number of languages, I think that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, makes a lot of sense. There is a great deal of confusion and many interpretations of the word "leave", and unless the Minister advises that the word "leave" has a legal significance, the word "permission" would make more sense.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I was bemused to hear the noble Lord conclude his speech by asking for leave. Did he mean permission?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: "Leave to enter" and "leave to remain" both have their origins in the Immigration Act 1971 and they are really technical terms, well known to people in this country and abroad because they are applied to circumstances where an individual is subject to immigration control and therefore requires authorisation to enter or to remain. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, is right to say that if we started on this giddy path of change, a vast number of changes would be required not only to the Bill but to all the administrative and legal processes involving changes to the relevant legislation, rules and regulations. People do know what the phrases "leave to enter" and "leave to remain" mean; they have been used for almost 30 years; they are technical terms and well understood.

The noble Lord asked whether we would hope to have completed the work by next April. That is our aim.

We take the noble Lord's point in regard to the stamp. We are reviewing the endorsements and consulting on them. The issue is what is used on the stamp on the endorsement, not the legislation. Not for the first time I think the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, should be followed.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I am certainly not going to enter into a competition with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, as to who is the better Conservative; I am in no doubt that it is the noble Lord. If any disagreement should lead to a split between us, I will yield at once.

On the question of whether to prefer the Anglo-Saxon term or the Latin word, Latin has something to recommend it in this context, simply because it is the basis of many other languages, and "permission" is more readily translated into words of a similar character in other languages which come from the same root. Nevertheless, I accept that there would be great difficulty in making the change. I acknowledge that there would be a large number of consequential amendments, not least to some of my later amendments on the order paper. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor indicated by his actions that these things had become possible, but perhaps, having heard the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that is not entirely the case. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 5.

Page 1, line 20, at end insert— ("provided that the person is given notice of the duration and conditions of any leave granted, or of the reasons for refusal and the rights of appeal against this.").

The noble Lord said: There are a number of amendments to be discussed with Amendment No. 5, some of a similar character moved by these Benches, and some from the Government.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that if leave is granted, the person to whom it is granted understands the necessary conditions and timings, which should be in written form. It is important that people other than the individual concerned should understand what the permission amounts to. Breaking a time limit or condition is a criminal offence, and people should not be in a position where they can inadvertently commit a criminal offence. They should also know when they need to apply for an extension of their stay, where applicable.

It is important that immigration staff and police, for example, should be able to see a piece of paper which clearly states the permission granted, the conditions and the time limit.

This is a sensible amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Dholakia

I support the amendment. It is often difficult to interpret the stamps on people's passports and to see what conditions have been attached to entry into a country.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, has made an important point. It is a criminal offence to break the time limit or condition. It is clear that if people do not understand the provisions in their passports, then they are likely to get into difficulty.

The people who are responsible for implementing the Immigration Act should also clearly understand the conditions attached to an individual's stay in this country. People could be arrested and detained for some time before the precise nature of the condition was discovered. That is a waste of money and time, and there should be no room for misunderstanding.

As we move more and more to computerised records, smart cards and other non-written means of communication, it is very important that people should understand precisely the conditions applying to their stay in this country.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I apologise for not speaking to Amendment No.6, which, although it has a different character to Amendments Nos. 5 and 8, is included in this grouping.

The amendment seeks to insert a new paragraph to ensure that only conditions of a kind which can already be imposed on leave to remain may be prescribed under these provisions. Under Section 3 of the 1971 Act there can be a time limit or a restriction or prohibition in relation to employment, a requirement to register with the police and a requirement not to have recourse to public funds.

It has been suggested to us by the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association that without an amendment of this nature, different conditions could be set by order. I doubt if that is the Government's intention, but it is only right to put the amendment forward in order to probe the matter.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

Before the Minister replies perhaps I may add a few more arguments in relation to this group of amendments.

This group includes also a series of amendments to Schedule 13. Anybody who glances at the series of amendments in the name of the Minister under that schedule, will realise the purport and the great significance for individuals of what we are now discussing. In that set of amendments there are references to the rights of immigration officers to detain people who break the conditions attached to their leave or their right to remain. In many cases that constitutes a criminal offence.

When looking at matters concerning the degree of seriousness that constitute criminality, which in many cases would bar somebody from seeking to try to re-enter this country or enter any other country that could offer them safe refuge, we are looking at issues that concern imprisonment and matters of that kind. Something that becomes very clear when one visits detention centres, as my noble friend Lord Dholakia and I have done on more than one occasion, is how totally confused many of the inmates are in such places. They are confused because they do not understand the language; because they have no concept of their rights under the law; and because they are uncertain of the system in this country. In addition, many are desperately traumatised, unsure of their position and often full of apprehension.

The laws are so complicated that most of us in this Chamber find them difficult to follow. With regard to the access to information point, my noble friend Lord Avebury has just been to the Printed Paper Office to try to get hold of a copy of HC 395, and found that it is not available. So the information we hoped to have is currently not available. How much more true is that for somebody who is a refugee seeking asylum? At the moment information is extremely hard to come by; the most they can normally hope for is the right to make a 'phone call or two, perhaps to the IAS or the Refugee Council, to try to find out what their rights are. They do so under great pressure because they do not have easy access to the money they need to make those telephone calls.

In that situation, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, suggested, it is critical that they should have a full statement as to what their rights are; what are their rights of appeal; how they might contact those who can help them and so forth. Without that we are in effect disempowering them, and they are people who perhaps more than any other group in the world need to be empowered.

But it is more than that. If we accept the reasonable plea on the part of the Minister to accept the good faith of the Home Office, it can only be on the basis that those with whom we are dealing have at least some share in the information that affects their future destiny. For example, the Home Office has our support—as the Minister knows—in terms of trying to stop what one might describe as "rogue lawyers" battling on with the desperate plight of refugees and asylum seekers. But if the asylum seeker has no ability to consider his position, he is a walking victim for the services of those who allege that they can help him. He is not even in a position to make a judgment about his rights and access to appeals.

I strongly underline, therefore, not only in the case of new information technology which we would welcome, but also in the case of existing structures, that we need a much fuller statement than we have at present of the situation that affects the individuals concerned. Finally, in the event that there is no longer access in writing in the future if we move towards a heavily computerised system—I understand that the Home Office may feel twice bitten on that point—can the Minister assure us as to the means to be used to make the asylum seeker fully aware of his rights and obligations so that he can avoid committing a criminal offence that he may never have intended, but which may be the result of ignorance?

The Earl of Sandwich

Perhaps I may briefly follow the noble Baroness. It is confusing in Committee to know under which heading to flag up any specific concern. My concern is that the pre-entry controls which come under this clause, such as a visa regime, can militate against torture victims.

It is worth saying at this point that the White Paper categorically refers to the Government's commitment to help torture victims and to see the whole Bill from their point of view—Sections 9.1 and 9.8. But a lot of evidence has gone through the special standing committee from organisations like Asylum Aid, the Refugee Legal Centre and the Medical Foundation, which indicates that evidence of torture is routinely discounted. There is an anxiety about pre-entry control in that regard. However. I only flag up that issue because in this amendment it may be seen as a rather tangential matter.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

This is a large grouping and it may be helpful for me to recite the amendments to be taken together: Amendments Nos. 5 to 8, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, indicated, and then Amendments Nos. 212 to 216, 218 and 219.

In relation to the opposition amendments, new Section 3A of the 1971 Act, inserted by Clause 1 of the Bill, enables the Secretary of State to make provision for new ways of, giving, refusing or varying of leave to enter the United Kingdom", and new Section 3B of that Act, inserted by Clause 2, enables the Secretary of State to, make provision with respect to the giving, refusing or varying of leave to remain in the United Kingdom". The effect of Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 to insert into new Sections 3A and 3B respectively the same requirements for the person to be given notice of the duration and conditions of any leave given or reasons for refusal and the right of appeal. I understand and sympathise with that intention. Our advice is that the amendments are not necessary because it is inconceivable that the powers could be exercised in a way which resulted in these matters not being communicated.

As regards giving a person notice of reasons for refusal and the rights of appeal against that, the 1971 Act already makes provision which is carried forward in this Bill. Section 18(1) of the 1971 Act provides that, The Secretary of State may by regulations provide—for written notice to be given to a person of any such decision … appealable", under that Act—that is, for refusal of leave to enter or remain—and, for any such notice to include a statement of the reasons for the decision", as well as particulars of the right of appeal available. That was given effect to in the Immigration Appeals (Notices) Regulations 1984 and is re-enacted in the current Bill in Schedule 4, Part I. Therefore I understand the sentiments behind the amendments, but hope that I have successfully demonstrated that they are not necessary.

Clause 2 of the Bill inserts a new Section 3B into the 1971 Act. It provides for an order-making power to enable the Secretary of State to, make further provision with respect to the giving, refusing or varying of leave to remain in the United Kingdom". Amendment No. 6 wishes to change that to, further provision with respect to the method of giving, refusing or varying". The main focus of Clause 2 is the method of giving leave to remain and so forth. As with Clause 1, we want the flexibility to change the methodologies employed—a question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby—to make use of emerging technologies; for instance, biometric systems of control, smartcards, and more generally therefore to operate immigration control in a more flexible manner.

However, as Clause 2(2) makes clear, the order-making power which it seeks to create is intended to go wider than that. In particular, under Clause 2(2)(c), it is intended that we should be able to make provision for leave to remain in some circumstances, not to lapse on his leaving the common travel area". At the moment, any leave lapses if the person concerned leaves the common travel area, which is the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland. We do not believe that that fits modern circumstances. Those with leave to remain in the UK might quite often, validly, wish to leave the common travel area (which is defined quite tightly) for example, for business or holiday reasons. We want to have carefully selected circumstances in which we would be able to remove the stipulation that leave would lapse on leaving the common travel area. That is a benefit rather than a disbenefit to those who presently have leave to remain. On return, the person concerned could be examined by an immigration officer for change of circumstances but there would be no need for the conduct of the full inquiry leading to the grant of leave to remain.

Amendment No. 6 would insert an unnecessary and unhelpful constriction upon the order-making power and in consequence upon the extent to which we could adapt the immigration control to make it more flexible, responsive and efficient. Subsection (6) of the new Section 3B inserted by Clause 2 provides that any order made under the provisions of Clause 2 is subject to an affirmative resolution, and therefore I invite the Committee to resist that amendment.

Subsection (2)(b) of the new Section 3B inserted in the 1971 Act by Clause 2 enables an order under subsection (1) to provide for the imposition of conditions. That is linked with subsection (2)(a), which provides for the order to specify the form or manner in which leave may be given, refused or varied. We anticipate adopting new technology, so it would have to be a condition of the grant, refusal or variation of leave in such circumstances that the person concerned conforms to the requirements imposed by technology—for example, that they swipe their smartcard at the immigration control or present themselves in the way required for the operation of a control using biometric parameters.

Such conditions are not conditions, of a kind that could be imposed on leave to remain given under section 3", to quote the language of the amendment. While the conditions concerned would include those conditions, others will have to apply if flexibility is to work properly. I stress that this is a benefit to those persons who may be unduly restricted at present. Amendment No. 7 would impose a restriction whose effect would be to undermine much of the rationale of Clause 2.

As to the government amendments to Schedules 13 and 15, paragraph 26(1) of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 requires carriers to have the approval of the Secretary of State before they may disembark certain categories of passengers at a port other than a designated port of entry. The categories of passengers are those who may not enter the United Kingdom without leave and who have not been given such leave. We want to amend that provision so that the carrier also requires approval to disembark passengers who have been granted leave to enter in advance of their arrival.

Without the amendment to paragraph 26(1), carriers would be entitled to disembark passengers benefiting from the flexibility provisions of new Section 3A at any port in the United Kingdom without the approval of the Secretary of State. Such passengers would not be examined by an immigration officer, as the Immigration Service would be unaware of their arrival. The amendment will allow examination of such passengers for the purpose of establishing whether a change of circumstances has removed the basis of their leave to enter. Amendment No. 219 to Schedule 15 is consequential.

It may be appropriate in some circumstances for the Secretary of State to provide for exemption from the requirements of paragraph 26(1) in relation to certain categories of passenger. Sub-paragraph 1A provides an order-making power that will enable the Secretary of State to make such an exemption subject to the negative resolution procedure.

The 1971 Act makes provision in Schedule 2 for persons who are delayed for further questioning on arrival under paragraph 2 of that schedule to be detained—or alternatively, given temporary admission or bail if the further inquiries cannot be completed quickly. The vast majority of persons in that situation are granted temporary admission.

We have made new provision in the Bill for the Secretary of State to provide by order for certain categories of person to be given leave to enter in advance of arriving at UK immigration control. There is provision for an order to be made providing for leave to enter or remain not to lapse on embarkation. Persons who benefit from those provisions will not require further leave to enter from an immigration officer on arrival and any checks conducted will be to establish that the person presenting the document is the rightful holder.

There may be some occasions where an immigration officer sees a need to examine such persons in more depth—for instance, where the leave to enter may have been obtained by deception. Paragraph 51 of Schedule 13 to the Bill accordingly introduces a new sub-paragraph 2A into Schedule 2 and provides for leave already obtained to be suspended while any further inquiries are made.

As with further inquiries conducted under the current paragraph 2 of Schedule 2, there will be occasion when those dealt with under Schedule 2A cannot be completed quickly—for instance, when the visa officer abroad has to be contacted outside office hours. Where that is necessary, we want to provide the immigration officer with the same powers as he has in paragraph 2 for further examination cases, so that he can grant temporary admission, bail or detain pending the conclusion.

Paragraph 24(1)(a) of Schedule 2 provides that persons subject to examination under paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 who abscond from temporary admission are to be treated as though their examination has been concluded. It also provides an exemption from paragraph 6 of Schedule 2, which requires that a notice of refusal must be served within 24 hours of the conclusion of the examination. It is right to extend those provisions to persons subject to examination under new sub-paragraph 2A who abscond.

On the basis of those explanations, I invite the Committee in due time to accept the government amendments and to reject Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

Before the Minister sits down, he told the Committee in relation to Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 that people were informed of the duration, conditions and so on of the leave granted—or in the case of the right to remain, of the conditions attached. Given the extreme risk to which persons might be exposed if they misunderstood the leave conditions—which could involve a criminal act in the eyes of the state—is the Minister absolutely satisfied that at present, asylum seekers, whether in detention or elsewhere, are fully aware of the conditions attached to any leave granted or any rights of appeal that they may have?

I am bound to repeat the experience of many noble Lords who have been closely involved in the work of non-governmental organisations for refugees and asylum seekers. A large number of them are completely confused about refugees' rights, the conditions attached to leave and so on. Will the Minister consider—to avoid detention, imprisonment, deportation and the like—whether he is totally satisfied with the official advice that he has received? Have any representations been made to him about the many cases that appear to be in conflict with that professional advice?

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 rests on a quotation from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, that if reasons are unintelligible, that amounts to giving no reason at all.

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 Ear] 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 Williams of Mostyn

I said that Section 18(1) of the 1971 Act says: The Secretary of State may by regulations provide … for written notice to be given … [and] for any such notice to include a statement of the reasons for the decision". So the "may" there does not relate to "may give reasons", it relates to "may provide for regulations" which. in turn, provide for reasons to be given. I am sure that it was my fault, but I believe that the noble Viscount has taken the two steps as if they were one. I went on to say that that statutory provision was indeed given effect to in the Immigration Appeals Notices Regulations 1984 and it is re-enacted in the present Bill under Part I of Schedule 4.

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 another. How can one say that an application has been properly considered and notice properly given when such things happen regularly?

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), provided that the person is given notice of the duration and conditions of any leave granted, or of the reasons for refusal and the rights of appeal against this". That does not bite on whether or not the reasons are given on a pro forma, or whether they are individually hand-written; it relates to, notice of the duration and conditions of any leave granted, or of the reasons for refusal and the rights of appeal". That is not the same point as the one raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. If I may say so without disrespect, the point has been identified by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and revisited by the noble Baroness. Although the other points may be of some interest, they do not relate to this amendment.

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.

4.45 p.m.

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 do not seek to limit the ability of the Home Office to develop the use of smartcards, which, if properly used, would be most helpful. However, in view of what has happened with other great technological projects, I think that the Home Office should be cautious and take its time about such developments. Nevertheless, a move in that direction will be desirable in time.

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.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Earl Russell

I have one question for the Minister at this point. I apologise for not giving him notice of it before, but Sunday afternoon was not a good time to do so—

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I should tell the noble Earl that I have received the notice.

Earl Russell

I am very glad to hear that. My question relates to Clause 1(7), which reads: The Secretary of State may, in such circumstances as may be prescribed in an order made by him, give or refuse leave to enter the United Kingdom". I simply want to know whether this subsection confers Henry VIII powers.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am most obliged to the noble Earl; I received notice of his question as we were about to begin today's proceedings on the Bill.

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.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Leave to remain]:

[Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Continuation of leave pending decision]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 3, leave out lines 32 to 37.

The noble Lord said: This is, essentially, a probing amendment. It deals with Clause 3 of the Bill which inserts a new Section 3C into the 1971 Act. The new section relates to someone who has had limited leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom but who, before his permission expires, applies for it to be varied—presumably by having it extended, as is the case in the vast majority of cases. However, at the time the date is reached no decision has been taken on the application. This is. of course, by no means an unusual circumstance. Many people wait for a long time to obtain a decision from the Home Office. We all wish that did not happen but it does.

My amendment seeks to delete the proposed new Section 3C(3) and (4). These proposed new subsections contain extremely complicated wording. I am not at all sure what the intention of those proposed new subsections is. Is it intended that someone should not be able to seek leave to remain on a different basis, even if his or her circumstances have changed during the period of their permitted residence here? If that is the case, that seems unduly hard as people's circumstances change, particularly over the period of a year or two and they ought to be able to make an application on a different basis if their circumstances change. Further, it is suggested that the measure seeks to ensure that any new application made during the waiting period would not, if refused, attract a right of appeal. I believe that at least in some circumstances a right of appeal would be entirely justified.

The proposed new subsection (4) states that, the variation of an application mentioned in subsection (1)", is still permitted. I find it difficult to ascertain the difference between a new application and a variation of an application. If a person's circumstances have changed presumably it is only a question of how the application is drafted that determines whether it is a wholly new application on a different basis as opposed to a variation; for example, if it contains details of a subsequent marriage, or children or other change of circumstance other than the mere passage of time. Yet a great deal seems to hinge on the distinction between a new application or a variation of an existing one. As I hope I have made apparent, what I seek is an explanation of what these two proposed new subsections seek to achieve. That will enable us to consider whether we should support them.

These are complicated legal points but they are underpinned by extremely practical consequences for the individuals concerned. They are not just niceties to he discussed in Parliament or in a court of law. They have real effects on the ground in terms of the effects of this legislation and how it is understood by advisers, or by individuals whose whole lives can hinge on decisions that are made under the provisions of these proposed new subsections. I beg to move.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

I support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. I seek further clarification on this matter. I believe it would be helpful to all of us if the Minister could mention the number of people who are already seeking continuation of leave pending a decision. That would help us to put the importance of this clause into perspective. In the course of, for example, a year, how many people would normally seek this kind of provision?

The Minister will know that not only do individuals' circumstances change, but there are changes in the countries which people have left. The deteriorating political circumstances and human rights situations in those countries may well render it unsafe for people to return to those countries even though they may have been relatively safe 'when asylum in the United Kingdom was first sought. When considering the applications we are discussing, do the Minister and his officials take into account extenuating personal circumstances? If someone's health has radically deteriorated or if family or other pressures have been placed on a person, would those circumstances be taken into account before arriving at a conclusion?

Lord Avebury

I experience the same difficulties as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in understanding the purport of the clause. I hope that the Minister will explain why the period allowed under rules made under paragraph 3 to Schedule 4 for bringing an appeal is relevant to the case we are discussing. The time during which a person who has limited leave to enter or remain and is to be treated as continuing to have that liberty to leave or remain seems to be a fixed period that could be embodied in this proposed new section rather than dealt with by reference to Schedule 4 to the Bill which covers a completely different point.

What happens when the period that is mentioned expires? Can the Minister give the Committee some idea of what the length of time during which the leave to remain continues is likely to be because one cannot tell that from the wording as it stands? What happens when that comes to an end? Let us suppose that a person enters the country for a period of six months as a visitor and at the end of the fifth month he applies to have that period extended. That is a perfectly normal procedure. One can have a six-month visit extended to 12 months. At the end of five months the person asks for an extension of six months. However, by the end of the first period of his leave to remain the Home Office has not yet replied and therefore his leave to remain is treated as continuing for the period that is mentioned in the proposed new Section 3C(2).

Let us say for the sake of argument that a period of two months is allowed for the appeal under Schedule 4. After seven months the person may still not have had a reply from Lunar House—that is the normal state of affairs as staff there do not reply within two months to any kind of an application arid they will probably have lost the file anyway—and his leave is no longer treated as continuing. Presumably it expires and therefore from the end of the seventh month his presence is illegal, notwithstanding the fact that he lodged the application for an extension of stay and he wishes to remain here for 12 months. What does such a person do in those circumstances?

Lord Dholakia

The two proposed new subsections that we are discussing have given rise to much confusion. As I understand the position, if one is admitted to this country with a limit on one's stay, one cannot apply to vary that decision. However, if a decision has not been taken in relation to a person's application, I believe that he has the opportunity to apply for a variation of his leave. Am I right in my understanding of the position?

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

I am grateful for the opportunity to try to explain the clause. The points that have been made merit an explanation. If someone has a limited leave to enter and he applies to vary that leave before his leave expires but his case is not dealt with before the leave expires, the proposed new Section 3C(2) ensures that he is treated as being lawfully in the country until the application is determined and he is given the chance to appeal. Therefore his lawful leave is extended until the time for appealing expires. So it is not just until the resolution of stage one, but also to give him an opportunity to appeal.

We do not want that system to be abused, so subsection (3) prevents people, after their first application has been refused, from putting in another application; thereby once again triggering subsection (2); thereby extending the time and starting the whole process again; thereby permitting an applicant to, in effect, stay for ever in this country simply by putting in new applications in the period between the rejection of the first application and the time for appeal expiring.

However, as noble Lords have pointed out, what if circumstances change? What then is the position? That is dealt with by subsection (4). Nothing in subsection (3) prevents the variation of an application made under subsection (1). If circumstances change, that can be reflected in an amendment to the application made by the applicant. The noble Lords, Lord Cope of Berkeley, Lord Avebury and Lord Alton of Liverpool, asked about that.

That scheme ensures that a person can stay while his case is properly heard and gives the right of the appeal; it also ensures that changes of circumstances can he taken into account; and it ensures that the situation is not abused by people making multiple applications simply to take advantage of the fact that as long as an application is made before leave is expired, or it has been extended because an application is being made, the time is simply pushed forward and forward.

The clause effectively incorporates the Immigration (Variation of Leave) Order 1976 into the body of its parent Act. It goes slightly further. While the order likewise prevents a person from remaining indefinitely by virtue of a series of applications, it allows concurrent applications on different bases to attract separate rights of appeal. This Bill allows only one appeal, thereby preventing multiple applications and multiple appeals.

I hope that I have explained the issue clearly enough. I think it meets all the objections that have been made.

5 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

I asked in my earlier intervention whether the Minister could give the Committee an estimate of the number of people who seek variations in the course of an average year so that we can get some idea of the scale of the problem.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The noble Lord did ask that. I cannot give an answer off the top of my head. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord in relation to that matter.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I am grateful for the noble and learned Lord's explanation. It was clear and, as far as I am concerned, sounded acceptable. I am still a little confused about what is a "variation" as opposed to a new application. I give an example. A female student may come here on that basis to study, and has leave for a certain time. During that time she marries her British boyfriend and the couple decide that they want to go on living in this country. In that case, she needs not only a variation, as it were, but permission on a new basis. She is now applying as a married woman, or a potentially married woman, to stay on account of her marriage and not because of anything to do with her student application, which would obviously be temporary. I understand that she would have to fill in different application forms; she would have to fill in application form FLRM for permission to stay as a married woman, whereas she would have previously filled in FLRS, which is a student application. That sounds to me like a new application but, from what the noble and learned Lord said, it would be treated as a variation. I should be grateful for a little more enlightenment on that matter.

Lord Avebury

Perhaps the Minister will at the same time deal with a case of a female student who, rather than getting married, wishes to continue to study for a PhD. Having first of all applied to come here to study for a degree, of course, she would have signed a declaration that she undertook to leave at the end of the course of studies. But she does extremely well at university, she looks like getting a first-class degree; her tutors recommend her to go on and study for a PhD, so she puts in an application to vary her leave to remain so that she can stay at the university for another two years. Is that a new application, or is it a variation of leave to remain for educational purposes?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

In all of these cases, it is quite difficult to identify where the line is to be drawn. I am wary of setting out in an answer to these particular examples precisely where the line is to be drawn. Where one is putting forward completely new grounds for wanting to stay, I expect that it would normally be a new application. Perhaps I may study what both noble Lord s have said and write to them in order to give a considered answer.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

We are happy to give leave for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Charges]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 4, line 4, at beginning insert ("If a fee is prescribed in connection with an application of a particular kind,").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 10 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 11, 18, 43 and 54. All of them are drafting amendments.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 reinforce subsection (4) of Clause 4 and reflect the fact that there will not be prescribed fees for applications which are to be free of charge. As to Amendment No. 18, it is considered that the definition in subsection (6) is not required. With regard to Amendment No. 43, as Clause 23 stands at present it is not on its face clear whether the offence under Section 25(1)(b) of the 1971 Act is disapplied where a person meets both paragraphs (a) and (b) of the new subsection (1A) or whether it is meant to be an "either/or". Amendment No. 43 simply makes clear that it is an "or".

Amendment No. 54 is an example of the benefit of examination in Committee since it derives from an amendment proposed in another place which the Minister, Mr O'Brien, agreed to consider. New Section 25A of the Immigration Act 1971, inserted by Clause 31, provides the power to detain a relevant ship, aircraft or vehicle when a person has been arrested for an offence under Section 25(1) of the Immigration Act 1971. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Section 25A(1) allow detention to continue, barring any intervention from the court, until a decision is made whether or not to charge the arrested person or, if charged, until he is acquitted or convicted, until the court decides whether or not to order forfeiture of the ship, aircraft or vehicle.

As currently drafted, Clause 31 makes no provision for the eventuality that the charges are withdrawn or dismissed. Amendment No. 54 provides for that outcome. I commend all the amendments to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkley

They seem a rather motley collection of drafting amendments. Nevertheless, each one seems acceptable.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

I shall be a little more critical than the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. It is very hard to understand in any lay sense that Amendment No. 10 satisfies the requirements that have been pressed very hard, and to which the Government have committed themselves, with regard to respect for the European Convention on Human Rights and for the Geneva Convention 1951. It may be that that phrase satisfactorily indicates that no fees will be charged in these cases, but the reason my colleagues and I will be bringing forward Amendment No. 13 is because it is very unclear to us that Amendment No. 10 achieves that end. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will be kind enough to explain.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The only effect of Amendment No. 10 is that there will not be prescribed fees for applications which are to be free of charge. As a matter of drafting, it makes the point that if it is free, it is free. When we get to Amendment No. 13 we will discuss the matter. As to the ECHR point, the amendment is indicating that there will he certain that are free. It does no more than say that if they are free, there will be no prescribed charge.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

I wish to be sure I am not confused. Is the noble and learned Lord saying that, in effect, this does not indicate that clearly in those categories there will be no fee; it just gives the right to charge no fee in certain cases?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

What it says is that there will be no prescribed fee for applications which are to be free of charge, although it leaves it open as to the particular kind of application. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 4, line 5, leave out ("prescribed").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 4, line 7, at end insert ("where, without prejudice to the foregoing generality, the applicant has—

  1. (a) insufficient means to pay any prescribed charges; or
  2. (b) the applicant is below the age of 16 years; or
  3. (c) the applicant is in receipt of any benefit").

The noble Lord said: If the noble and learned Lord is to respond to this amendment as well, I have high hopes, as it was suggested to me by the Law Society of Scotland. Hence my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon was also prepared to support it. It is suggested that we should discuss with it Amendment No. 13, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and Amendments Nos. 14, 15 and 16.

All these amendments refer to the question of fees and charges being made. Amendment No. 12 attempts to ensure that those who do not have access to the necessary money to pay such fees are not prejudiced in their rights to apply for leave to remain, variation. or whatever. Access to those rights should not be restricted to those who have the ability to pay. That is the bottom line of the case, and it has strong moral backing. We all agree that genuine asylum seekers, for example, should be able to come to this country. The proposal has, in addition, the backing of the 1951 convention. Our international obligations seem to suggest that we should not try to keep people out merely because they cannot pay the fees. I shall leave the noble Baroness to speak to Amendment No. 13, which would have a similar effect.

Amendment No. 14 suggests that no fee should be payable by those granted leave to enter or remain as students. It is an important provision. This country has a long tradition of admitting people from abroad to institutions of higher learning. It has been of great benefit—not only to the countries from which such students come, but also to this country—that they have received an important part of their education here. Many go on to become leaders in their own countries and retain a sympathy for this country and its views as a result of time spent at university here or otherwise studying. A very good case in point is that of King Hussein, whose memorial service I attended last week in St Paul's cathedral. He retained a sympathy for this country throughout his life as a result of having attended Sandhurst. That is an extreme example, but there are many others at a lower level.

Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 both flow from the report that we discussed earlier of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. That committee—which is rightly held in high esteem in this House—accepted the argument as regards the general wording of the clause. However, the committee considered that the exemption from fees of asylum seekers under the 1951 refugee convention and those claiming Article 3 ECHR protection should be placed on the face of the Bill. There is a good argument for that.

The committee referred to a suggestion in the Home Office's explanatory memorandum to the Bill that there should, for example, be no fee where the application has been occasioned by a mistake of the Secretary of State. I take that to mean the Secretary of State or one of his officials. That seems exactly right. Rather than leaving it merely to the charity, as it were, of the Secretary of State to relieve an applicant of the fee in that case, the committee believed that it would be manifestly unjust for a fee to be paid in those circumstances and that that proviso should also to be on the face of the Bill. That argument seemed to me to carry weight; therefore, I tabled Amendment No. 16. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

First, I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, in moving his Amendment No. 12. We on these Benches fully agree with its attempt to limit the effects of any fees that may be charged in such a way that income does not become the criterion of whether one has the right to enter this country. That is surely a principle with which the present Government would not wish to be associated. Having indicated our strong support for Amendment No. 12, I want to underline the reasons why we believe it to be inconceivable that the Government should not accept Amendment No. 13.

In Committee in another place, the Minister said: I can give a clear and categorical assurance that no fee will be levied on applications under article 3 of the ECHR or under the 1951 convention for granting refugee status". That was confirmed in a letter from the Minister to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davies, which stated: Let me assure you that the Government is fully committed to ensuring that the United Kingdom continues scrupulously to observe its obligations to refugees under the 1951 Geneva Convention". Both of those points were then taken up by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. The committee strongly advised as follows: We consider, however that Clause 4 should be amended to place on the face of the Bill the exemption from fees of asylum seekers under the 1951 refugee convention and those claiming Article 3 ECHR protection". So there is a clear commitment, stated on more than one occasion, by Her Majesty's Government.

Secondly, there is a clear statement by the Select Committee on delegated legislation that this provision should properly be on the face of the Bill, and not simply be buried in a series of commitments that will be carried out over the years in orders and regulations. Thirdly, it is completely clear that both the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights make it plain that any charging of a fee would be seen to be effectively in derogation from those conventions and commitments. Indeed, I note that Justice went as far as to claim that this would be ultra vires of those commitments. Not being a lawyer, I am not in a position to say whether that is correct.

In relation to Amendment No. 13, I strongly urge the Government to state specifically on the face of the Bill that they will carry out those commitments in full, and will do so by making it plain that no fee of any kind should be charged to those who seek entry to this country under the terms of Article 3 of the European Convention or the refugee convention.

There are two other parts to the amendment. The first concerns family members. I accept that they do not come under the terms of the European convention or the refugee convention as such. Nevertheless, it has always been the policy of this and previous governments to accept family unification as a very desirable objective. It must be remembered that family members seeking to join others who are already settled in this country will already, under present arrangements, have paid a fairly hefty visa fee amounting to £240 per person. If they have been given the normal one year's leave to remain and they must pay all over again for the right to stay as family members—it having been accepted in principle that they should be allowed to do so—that is a very heavy fine on the reunification of families.

In the case of many families a fee of £240 per head will already be a very difficult charge to meet. If on top of that a further fee is charged for family members, that may well present a barrier to the reunification of families, which I am sure cannot be the intention of the Government.

Many of those who are settled here already are not particularly well off and do not command high wages. They may have to pay substantial sums for the cost of bringing family members to this country legally, possibly from southern Asia, Africa or other parts of the world. Therefore, I hope that the Minister can make a clear statement that those family members who have already been charged for visa applications—he may want to set a period; for example, within the previous 24 months—should not be made to pay a further fee to enable their families to be reunited.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, referred to students who form the last group referred to in my amendment. That part of the amendment is concerned with those who seek the right to remain here to continue their studies. It is worth saying that higher and further education have become two of the most successful and economically advanced sectors of our economy that provide substantial employment to a large number of people. Therefore, it would be wise not to charge fees to those who seek to pursue bona fide studies in this country.

I conclude with a question. In the Explanatory Notes relating to this clause the Home Office says that the full cost of processing may be the basis on which fees are charged. It would be very helpful if the Minister could give the Committee some indication of the basis on which fees will be charged. If the full cost of running the immigration department is shared out among those fees in such a way as to cover a substantial part of that cost. it would be, to say the least, extremely unfair that those who attempt to reach this country as asylum seekers or refugees should meet the costs of the mistakes relating to computers. While I fully accept that those mistakes are not the responsibility of any one government, it would be unfair and unjust that refugees and asylum seekers should have to pay for those very large costs. Perhaps the Minister can let us know his intentions and say whether he is able to accept at least the first part of this amendment in line with the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. It is entirely right that those who fall into these categories should not be prevented by lack of means from making application, and I am sure that that is a principle that we all accept. As to Amendment No. 13 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, I am in some confusion as to why fees are being charged. The noble Baroness suggested that it was in order to meet the costs of running the system, which may be the case. But I presume that there is a motive other than simply swelling the coffers of the Treasury. Is one possible motive for charging fees to prevent applications without foundation clogging up the system? I recognise that that may be a proper motivation. Clearly, frivolous applications should be discouraged, and if payment of a fee has that effect clearly that is right. But if that is so the four categories spelt out in Amendment No. 13 will always he ones in which matters of, great significance are being considered and, therefore, are never frivolous.

The noble Baroness has already argued the case for applications for asylum and applications made under any international instrument to which the UK has given its signature on the basis of conformity with the human rights legislation. However, those two categories and the other two that she mentioned—application to remain with family members for settlement and applications for further leave to remain to continue studies—will always be significant applications and should never be regarded as frivolous. Therefore, I hope that they will not be regarded as applications that require a fee.

Lord Dholakia

I add my support to my noble friend Lady Williams. She gave the interesting example of the extent to which fees have been charged for visas to people who have already entered this country. I have been able to gather some figures to give an indication as to the trend of passing on the cost of immigration control to those who are least able to pay. One is talking of family members of ethnic minority communities who are already settled here. Of the 44,360 family members granted settlement in 1997, 12,000 were from the countries of the Indian subcontinent, 5,760 from the remainder of Asia and 10,050 from Africa. One believes that they should not have to pay twice for the same family unity.

We tend to forget that people who come here to live, particularly adults who have been educated and trained elsewhere, represent a saving to the United Kingdom and make a valuable contribution to society here. I cite the example of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. It is not clear whether the fees are now in surplus, but certainly some time ago the total of the fees charged for nationality applications was far in excess of the costs incurred. The last thing that one wants to do, in view of the backlog of passport and immigration and asylum applications, is to impose a further restriction and charge fees that create another administrative procedure which will provide a less efficient and effective service to those who require that particular help.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The common thread running through all these amendments is that they seek to relieve certain categories of applicant from paying fees for after entry applications. Amendment No. 12 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, would mean that certain children and young persons and those who are less well off should not be required to pay fees. We have already matte clear that some types of application will not attract a fee. Asylum seekers will probably be the largest category. But it is not our intention to remit fees because of the personal circumstances of individuals. In general, the immigration rules specify that applicants who seek entry or further leave to remain here can be supported without recourse to public funds and, in many cases, without working. The rules also contain a list of social benefits, recourse to which is incompatible with the grant of leave to enter or remain.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, does not define the terms "insufficient means" or "any benefit" and I cannot accept it on that ground alone. But it would be difficult to compile a list of benefits which was not covered in part at least by those set out in the immigration rules. The amendment makes provision for applications to be considered free of charge if the applicant is said to be unable to pay the fee, when the reason for the inability to pay would, in many cases, be inconsistent with the requirements of the rules and would lead inevitably to a refusal of the application. I suggest that it is not right for the Home Office to incur costs in considering a gratis application which is likely to fail in such circumstances.

On a more practical level, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is keen to ensure that the staff of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in Croydon should apply their expertise to considering the relevant immigration law requirements in individual cases without being distracted on issues of whether individual applicants are required to pay a fee. Indeed, the extra time in doing so would increase costs and fee levels. That is in no one's interests.

The amendment also includes a proposal that all applicants below 16 should not be charged for their applications. Whether or not such young persons are in this country as part of a family unit or in their own right, I see no reason why the normal policy should not be applied and the costs of processing the applications be recovered.

I now turn to the first amendment on this clause, Amendment No. 14, in the joint names of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. Amendment No. 14 would relieve students of the requirement to pay fees. The burden of the amendment is supported in effect by Amendment No. 13 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby.

Paragraph 58 of the immigration rules empowers an immigration officer to admit a person for the length of his course of study if the requirements of paragraph 57 of the rules are met. This provision is to the benefit of all genuine students and relieves them of the need to make an application to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office. So, they would not incur any fees under this clause. It has been suggested that immigration officers do not fully apply this paragraph in the rules. I assure Members of the Committee that the vast majority of students experience no difficulty, but there are bound to be exceptions.

Decisions made by immigration officers reflect the particular circumstances of individual passengers and there could be any number of reasons why students are not given leave for the full period of their course. It may be that, for example, the immigration officer is not fully satisfied that the requirements of the immigration rules have been met perhaps because of a lack of full documentary evidence but is not so dissatisfied that an applicant should be refused leave to enter. Leave may accordingly be granted for a period shorter than the period of the course. I assume that Members of the Committee would prefer that course to be taken rather than the student being refused leave to enter or being detained pending further inquiries. In such a situation, it is right and proper that, before any extension of stay is granted, the Secretary of State is satisfied that the full requirements of the rules are met in the context of an application for leave to remain. Surely it is right that, having been given the benefit of the doubt on entry into this country, individual students should meet the additional costs involved in their satisfying the Secretary of State that they qualify for an extension of stay. There is a cost to the taxpayer in that and I see no reason why students should be exempt from the general proposal that they should meet the cost of their application. I emphasise that that is in the context that most students make their application not through the IND but otherwise, and have leave to stay for the whole of the course which costs them nothing. I am talking only about students who, having arrived, need to apply for variation.

There are other circumstances in which the original grant of leave to enter is not an issue. Some applicants seek to switch into student status after being admitted in another category; some students decide to change their course, and some pursue a series of short courses. Under the terms of the amendment, such applicants would not have to pay. But such applications arise out of choices made by the applicants and I am not persuaded that they should not meet the cost of processing their applications. For all those reasons, I regret that I cannot commend to the Committee the amendment relating to students.

I now turn to the second of the amendments to this clause, Amendment No. 15, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, which provides that it should be stated on the face of the Bill that no fee should be paid by asylum seekers or those claiming protection under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, also by implication covers the point. She was explicit that that was one of the matters she expressly seeks to be covered. As she forcefully said, the thrust of this amendment was also recommended by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation and in the memorandum prepared by Justice, which many of noble Lords will have seen. Let me say at the outset that the Government's policy is fully consistent with the burden of this amendment. We have consistently made it clear that we do not propose to charge a fee for considering applications from asylum seekers or those claiming protection under Article 3 of the ECHR. I should make clear that that is consistent with the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. When an identical amendment was considered in another place, it was not pressed to a vote. But I am pleased to be able to tell the Committee that I am now in a position to accept the principle behind the amendment that the matter should be included on the face of the Bill. The Government would, however, like to consider further the exact drafting of the addition to the Bill and I undertake to bring a government amendment back to your Lordships' House. With that assurance, I hope that the noble Lords will be able to withdraw the amendment.

I move now to Amendment No. 16 which asks for the Bill to include a statement to the effect that no fee will be payable if an application has been occasioned by a mistake of the Secretary of State. This amendment follows from a suggestion made in the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. I think that it will be clear from the memorandum the Government laid before the Select Committee that we are seized of the possibility that errors may occur and that applicants should not incur additional costs as a result of that. If an application needs to be made purely as a result of an error by, or on behalf of, my right honourable friend, we shall not exact a fee for that application. That is only fair and just. But I do not want noble Lords to think there is a large problem here. Clause 4(3) of the Bill already provides power for no fee to be prescribed in certain circumstances. I do not believe that it is necessary for such a provision to be included on the face of the Bill. This is not generally done. I have made our policy position clear and I should make it clear that the Home Office has no monopoly within the public or the private sector with regard to making an occasional error. We shall ensure that when fee regulations are made, appropriate provision is made to deal with errors which may occur. This would substantially comply with the suggestion from the Select Committee that applicants should not lose out through an official error. I hope that the Committee feels able to accept this assurance from me.

Lastly, I turn to Amendment No. 13 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. I have already addressed some parts of this in the context of other amendments. The facets not already covered involve the suggestion that applications made under any international agreement which the United Kingdom has signed should not incur a charge and that applications from family members should likewise be free of charge. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness has particular international agreements in mind, but our position on those normally involving immigration—the refugee convention and the ECHR—is abundantly clear. For an Act of Parliament to guarantee a service without charge for applications under any international agreement to be signed in the future is, I think, going too far and I do not think that the Committee would wish to legislate along those lines. I submit that it is better for the matter to be left to secondary legislation.

On the question of dependants, this could apply to minors or adults. The general position in the immigration rules is that those seeking settlement as dependants have to be supported and accommodated by their sponsors. One must suppose that there is to be a benefit to both the applicants and their families in their being allowed to stay in this country. If part of the cost of the family members staying here is the immigration application fee, that, I suggest, is a cost which legitimately falls to the family rather than the taxpayer. More importantly, however, noble Lords will want to bear in mind that people who wish to come to this country to settle need an entry clearance for that purpose. Dependants with entry clearances will be granted indefinite leave on arrival and should not need to apply for further leave. So no costs under this clause would apply. It is important not to encourage any circumvention of this requirement by allowing applicants to come to this country in another capacity without entry clearance and then seeking to settle without paying an appropriate fee.

I am corrected by officials in relation to one point. In relation to those students who apply in advance, I said that most students pay nothing. They pay nothing on entry, but some will have paid for an entry clearance either voluntarily or because they are visa nationals and require one. So I should correct myself on that point.

I was asked what the charges will be and whether the full cost of the service will be recovered. It was suggested that it is quite wrong, as a matter principle, that entrants should pay for computer contracts that go wrong, for example. I do not know the answers to those questions, so I will write to the noble Lord.

I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. I invite the Committee to reject it as the Government will introduce an amendment to place on the face of the Bill the principle that fees will not be required when considering applications from asylum seekers or those claiming protection under Article 3 of the ECHR.

Lord Avebury

Perhaps I may pick up on the noble and learned Lord's comments about students who come to this country to undertake a four-year course of study and who are not permitted entry for the whole of the four years because there is presumably some doubt about their applications, despite the fact that those students have been accepted by recognised institutions of higher or further education.

Let us say that a student comes to this country to undertake a four-year course of study and is admitted for only three years in the first instance because the Secretary of State has some doubts about whether he is a bona fide student and is capable of benefiting from the course, in spite of the fact that he has been accepted by a recognised institution of higher education. Let us assume also that, after three years, that student applies to stay in this country for a fourth year and submits a report from the university to the effect that he has performed reasonably and is expected to get a lower second-class degree or whatever. In those circumstances, has not the Secretary of State made a mistake and should not the fee be remitted for that reason?

Why should the student have to pay when he is doing reasonably well at university and will complete his course as originally intended? The doubts that the Secretary of State had that caused him to admit that student for only three-quarters of the time that the student required to complete his degree have not been satisfied and the student has performed as expected at university. Why should that student have to pay a fee for an application that allows him to complete his course because the Secretary of State made a mistake in his initial assessment?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

It would be inappropriate to comment about the facts of a particular case. We are considering whether student applications should always be free. The circumstances in which students will need to make another application after arriving in this country will vary from individual case to individual case. We believe that it is wrong that such applications should be free.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

In view of the fact that the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, bridge my amendments, I ask the Minister to allow me to discuss Amendment No. 13 before the noble Lord turns to Amendment No. 12 and subsequent amendments. I thank the Minister warmly for his concession that the provision will go on the face of the Bill. That will be appreciated in both Houses of Parliament.

I turn to two matters that were left somewhat open in the Minister's helpful reply. The first concerns the loose wording of my amendment—namely, the phrase: applications made under any international instrument". It is fair to say that one instrument I had in mind was the convention against torture. I understand fully that, in most cases, there will be a close correlation between those who try to enter this country under the refugee convention and those who might try to enter under the convention against torture. Many noble Lords are extremely concerned about the victims of torture, who have a prima facie case for being treated as honest and genuine sufferers of persecution. That is the particular international convention that I had in mind.

As to the second point about families, I ask the Minister to consider—he may be kind enough to write to me—the family reunification cases that emerge when a relative is given only a limited right to remain in this country. I understand from legal bodies in the field that many relatives who receive permission to join someone who has settled in this country are granted only a relatively brief period of leave, with the matter to be considered later. If those relatives pay a visa fee and are allowed to remain in this country for only a short time—perhaps a year, for example—should they have to pay a further fee for an application to settle in this country? Would the Minister consider that one charge might be sufficient?

That is a technical point about which the Minister may want to write to me. However, I believe that it is separate from the issues with which the Minister dealt so fully and helpfully in his closing remarks.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

As far as concerns the torture convention, it is implicit in the noble Baroness's comments that such people seek to come to this country because they fear persecution abroad. That would make them asylum seekers and, as such, they would not be charged a fee for the reasons that I have outlined.

I will write to the noble Baroness about her second question concerning the visa fee and the separate application fee. My initial reaction is that they are two entirely different things. Therefore, there is no reason for not imposing a fee in relation to the leave-to-enter application. Nevertheless, I will consider the matter properly and write to the noble Baroness about it.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

The noble and learned Lord the Minister has granted one concession—if that is the appropriate word—on the face of the Bill and another by means of regulation. Therefore, an element of gratitude is obviously appropriate, and I am delighted to record it.

I and others have argued that many students come to this country to undertake genuine courses of study and stay for the length of their courses. However, other students come to this country and, for whatever reason, do not complete their courses. In some cases, there are suspicions from the outset that that might occur. I accept the Minister's explanation that that is a slightly more difficult case. In view of his comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 13 to 16 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 4, line 9, at end insert— ("() Any regulations made under this section shall prescribe the time within which any application is to be processed and prescribe that any fee paid is to be refunded if the application to which it relates is not dealt with in the prescribed time.").

The noble Lord said: This side of the Committee is traditionally thought to be more in favour of offering financial incentives than the other side. This amendment seeks to ensure that, if the Home Office takes too long to process an application, any fee that has been paid is refunded. We believe that that would help to concentrate the minds of Home Office officers and would ensure that these matters are dealt with speedily—a point that is emphasised constantly by Ministers.

This amendment was suggested to us by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, so it has very good parentage. Apart from any prejudices that might be thought to lie with us in seeking to introduce financial incentives, I believe that the matter is well worth considering. I beg to move.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

The question of expediency—how quickly the applications can be processed—goes to the heart of the Government's "fairer and faster" proposals. Therefore, I suppose that this is an appropriate moment to ask the Minister some questions that pick up on his remarks to the Committee a few moments ago, which we all welcome.

If the amendment were successful, can the Minister tell us what number of cases would be likely to fall outside the times prescribed in the White Paper and draft process manuals of two months for an initial decision and six months for completion of the appeal stage? If this amendment were successful, what would it cost the Exchequer should the number of appeals currently failing to meet those targets continue not to meet those targets?

Would the Minister also be good enough to say something about the ways in which the department is trying to speed up the process with practical measures? I understand that there has been a problem with the scanning-in of information onto the computer systems in the department. It is not scheduled to begin until late this year and will take some years to implement. Can he tell us whether that process is now under way and what kind of timetable he is placing on it?

Furthermore, will he respond to a point made by the Immigration Appeals Appellate Authority; namely, that "one-stop" appeals will take longer to hear than do asylum appeals in their current form? If that is the case, can he tell the Committee what additional time will be taken over the norms that have applied so far? At Second Reading a number of noble Lords expressed concern that the 300 or more staff who will be required to implement the voucher system might better be used to speed up this process. If it is true that they could handle up to around 50,000 applications a year, would not that act as a far better deterrent to many people seeking to come to the United Kingdom if they thought their appeal would be dealt with much more rapidly than if they thought they had the chance to come here and stay for quite a long time until the necessary procedures had been gone through?

I know that the medical foundation for those who have suffered from torture has stated, We have become accustomed, although not hardened, to the exchanges of wry smiles when the issue of the two and six-month time limits are raised in official meetings and to the mocking laughter when they are discussed in other fora". It is certainly the foundation's view and that of others who have looked at the issues that the harshness of the support proposals contained elsewhere in the Bill has been justified only on the basis that the process will be speeded up and that more expeditious arrangements will be put in place. In that respect, the amendment, which could be regarded as an opportunity to probe the Government on these questions, is a welcome one and is helpful to the Committee.

Lord Avebury

As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has again raised the question of timing, perhaps I may repeat a question that I put to the Minister at Second Reading concerning the delivery of the casework system, which is being provided by Siemens and on which, as the Committee will be aware, there have been considerable delays. It had been said that the system would be delivered for preliminary tests by IND on 15th June and that it would be operational in April 2000. I asked the Minister whether the testing had indeed begun on 15th June. That would be a good way to tell whether the commissioning date of April 2000 is likely to be met. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can deal with that point.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

I wish to commend the amendment and to say how strongly we support it. It is a most enjoyable amendment. It has the quality of bringing forward joined-up government, competitive government, modern government, efficient government and government responsive to the customer. Those are all principles which I believe Her Majesty's Government hold deeply dear.

I hope the Government will give the amendment careful consideration. The prescribed time gives them a certain amount of flexibility as to the objectives that they set. It is of course right and proper that government departments should deliver within the prescribed times that they themselves set. There is the great attraction of setting a substantial incentive to Home Office civil servants to complete their work on time, and for Ministers to do the same thing. Finally, the amendment has the advantage of being compassionate, because it will enable those affected to be dealt with quickly, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. have implied.

I commend both noble Lords on the Conservative Benches on the far-sighted vision of this amendment and I hope that it will appeal to the Minister.

Lord Hylton

At this early stage of the Bill. perhaps I may re-emphasise a point that I was trying to make at Second Reading that speed, although desirable, is not the only element that is necessary. We also expect a high quality of decisions in all asylum and immigration matters. If that can be achieved—I hope that it will be—it will be bound to reduce the number of appeals and thus the overall time taken. I hope that can be taken on board.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Perhaps I may make a preparatory remark. Clause 4 concerns in-country applications for leave to remain on the basis of variation of leave to enter. It does not deal with asylum seekers. I have undertaken to exclude from the clause applications for leave from asylum seekers. Therefore, this clause will not affect process times for asylum applicants, whether in-country or at port. I suspect that that is what the pertinent questions of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on that other aspect were aimed at. The noble Lord is nodding helpfully. Perhaps I may therefore pass on his well-judged questions because they do not deal with this part of the Bill.

The amendment would require the refund of fees if particular applications were not determined within a period to be prescribed. I fully accept that the service of the Immigration and Nationality Department at Croydon is providing just now is less good than it ought to be, to put it quite mildly. Nevertheless, many callers to the public caller unit still have their applications determined on the day that they make them. The Government and the Home Office have a commitment to public service and we are determined that the service levels in Croydon and Liverpool will improve. But that will take a little time.

I do not believe, in any event, that it is appropriate for service levels of this nature to be set out in legislation. There could be any number of reasons beyond the control of the Home Office affecting turnaround times, including, for example, the time taken by applicants to respond to inquiries. When services tandards are to be published, this should be done administratively and in a way in which they can be amended quickly if required.

Even when a service standard is set, it does not follow that failure to meet the standard means that the full fee should be refunded. That does not happen in the private sector and there is no reason why it should happen in the public sector. Even when private sector undertakings provide compensation for poor service delivery, it falls far short of the price paid by the customer.

The essential reason for this clause is to reduce the costs which currently fall on the Exchequer. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, would either reduce receipts to the Exchequer or increase the fees which other applicants have to pay. I have no doubt that noble Lords on all sides of the Committee would wish to give every encouragement to IND to process cases more quickly. My right honourable friend in another place fully supports that. But I do not believe that this amendment would assist. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Earl Russell

Perhaps the Minister will take this point on board. Were the amendment in place, I would have to write to his noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn, and his honourable friend, Mr O'Brien, a good many fewer letters than I do at present. Although those letters are processed with quite exemplary expedition, generosity and success, it might be nice for all of us if we could be spared the trouble.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I should be interested in the response that the noble Earl receives to his letters. If he always has success, he will encourage a great many more letters.

Earl Russell

I did not say "always".

Lord Cope of Berkeley

It sounded rather like that. However, be that as it may, in the light of the earlier agreement to alter the Bill, under this amendment we are in danger of giving the Home Office an incentive to process asylum seekers more slowly in order to speed up those covered by the amendment, which of course is not what we would wish to do. The noble and learned Lord made some good points in the sense of wishing to speed up the process, which is what we are trying to achieve. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 4, line 13, leave out subsection (6).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Members of missions other than diplomatic agents]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 4, line 23, leave out from ("member") to end of line 24.

The noble Lord said: This is a small amendment probing the meaning of the clause. Under Clause 5, a member of a diplomatic mission is rightly exempt from immigration control. However, the wording of the Bill implies that if someone is offered such a post but ceased to be a member of the mission before taking it up, he would still be exempt from immigration control. If he is offered a post but ceases to be a member of the mission after taking it up, he ceases to be exempt. Perhaps we are not reading the Bill correctly, but the situation seems unclear. However, on the face of it, that is what is stated and I doubt whether the Government intend it to state that and it is not what it should state. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

As ever, the noble Lord is spot on the point. Perhaps I may explain what we are trying to do. Clause 5 is intended to prevent foreign nationals taking a job in a diplomatic mission in an attempt to evade immigration control.

Before 1988 any foreign national who worked at a diplomatic mission, regardless of immigration status prior to being engaged, was exempt from immigration control. However, it was discovered that people subject to enforcement action were using such employment to benefit from exemption from control and thus avoid being removed from the UK.

Section 8(3A) of the 1971 Act was introduced to allow for locally engaged staff—that is, any foreign national offered a position at a diplomatic mission here while in the UK—to remain subject to immigration control. The current wording of that section means that foreign nationals already in the United Kingdom who are offered a job in a diplomatic mission remain subject to control so long as they remain in this country. However, if they travel abroad and then return to the UK, the current drafting of Section 8(3A) means that they become exempt simply because they have entered the United Kingdom as a member of a diplomatic mission. This means that once again any person attempting to avoid removal could do so quite easily. In other words, one is subject to immigration control; one joins a diplomatic mission, still subject to control; one goes abroad on a day trip to France; and on return one has sprung free from all immigration control.

Clause 5 closes the loophole by providing exemption only if the person was resident outside the United Kingdom, and was not present in the United Kingdom, when offered his post. Furthermore, the exemption will be lost if the person concerned ceases to be a member of the mission after taking up the post, unless he is re-employed under circumstances which again satisfy the requirements of the clause.

The effect of subsection 3A(b) is to prevent abuse when a person leaves his exempt employment and is then locally engaged as a member of the same mission. This subsection prevents such an individual from relying on a previous exempt status, to which he is no longer entitled, to evade immigration control. The effect of Amendment No. 19 would be to remove this second requirement, which obviously defeats the object of the clause.

In the light of my explanation, I urge the Committee to reject the amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I shall study carefully what the noble and learned Lord said. It sounded sensible enough and, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Persons ceasing to be exempt]:

[Amendment No. 20 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Removal of certain persons unlawfully in the United Kingdom]:

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 20A:

Page 5, line 25, at end insert— ("() Directions may not be given under subsection (1) unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that all relevant factors listed in the immigration rules have been considered.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of Amendment No. 20A is to ensure that all a person's personal circumstances, as well as his immigration status, are fully considered before an order for removal is made. Under the current immigration rules, the Secretary of State must consider all a person's circumstances before making a decision to make a deportation order. These circumstances include factors such as age; length of residence; connections with the United Kingdom; domestic circumstances; personal history; compassionate circumstances; and representations received on a person's behalf. Those facts are then balanced against the public interest to be served in deporting a person.

They do not have to be considered where someone is to be removed as an illegal entrant under current legislation. To preserve the consideration where someone is to be removed for being in breach of the condition of stay will make the proposed changes less harsh and less open to obvious injustice. In order properly to achieve that, the changes should also include a review of the Secretary of State's discretion in such cases other than when a person is to be removed as an illegal entrant. I beg to move.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My noble friend Lord Dholakia has touched on the nub of the amendment. However, some members of the Committee might not be aware that as recently as 1988—if that is recent in legislative terms—the seven-year rule covered by the amendment was introduced. Prior to that, after the 1971 Act brought in the regime of immigration law, there was no such limitation. All persons subject to a deportation order had a right of appeal to the adjudicator, to the independent appellate authority, which was an enormous safeguard and of enormous value to the whole process of deportation, given the grave step which that is to those affected. With the 1971 regime came the merits rules referred to by my noble friend Lord Dholakia.

In 1988, that considerable protection for those being deported was massively reduced by saying that only those whose last leave to enter was more than seven years ago could make such an independent appeal to the adjudicator. It is well to remember that when that restriction on the rights of those being deported was imposed by the previous government, the present Government were extremely forceful—nay, vocal—in resisting the limit on appeal which that represented. Those of us on these Benches do not understand why the Government believe it necessary at this time to take away that right altogether. The clause does not protect so-called illegal immigrants—those who practice deception and so forth—but it takes away that crucial right in a relatively small number of cases where by definition those concerned have established a way of life here, often with families and in good jobs.

We believe that the Government should think again either by accepting the amendment or, as I would suggest, by removing the clause altogether because it is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. What is more, it is a sledgehammer that may damage the Government. It is unsafe to leave to an immigration officer the sole decision over such a crucial matter for families or individuals who have been here for at least seven years. As the current case of a gentleman in the City shows. the Government risk incurring extreme public displeasure about the perceived—or real—injustice of the circumstances.

I am sure that we are not alone in being strongly lobbied on the issue by the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, Justice and the Law Society. The Government should think again and at least allow the amendment. Deportations resulting from an unfair or unwise decision of an immigration officer can cause considerable ill will and hardship. Given the importance of the matter, there should be a right of appeal to an independent adjudicator who can sit back and look at all the circumstances. Like all other judges of merit, immigration officers will make mistakes sometimes. In those cases, the adjudicator would say, "This must not pass", and would allow an appeal.

Earl Russell

My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury is correct to link Amendment No. 20A with Amendment No. 22. The length of time that somebody has been here is a material circumstance that can reasonably be taken into account when deciding whether to enforce a deportation order. There is a necessary link between those matters.

Deportation is a stringent power. It also entails considerable costs to public funds. If public funds are to be prudently managed, the power should not be employed with too much freedom. I am not certain how wide the powers of deportation conferred by Clause 8 are. We have to probe that a little to understand the need for the amendment. Under Clause 8(1)(b), somebody may be deported if, he has obtained leave to remain by deception". I understand the concern about deception in immigration law. In asylum law, it is a different matter and often people can operate only by deception.

If somebody obtained leave to remain by deception as a student on a course that they did not want to follow and then claimed asylum very shortly afterwards, would they come within the operation of Clause 8 in such a way that their asylum claim could not be heard'? That would be a material circumstance. It would be unfortunate if that were the effect of the clause. That would introduce a further draconian power in a form in which not many people might notice it.

I wonder whether it does this country quite as much harm as is supposed to have a few people in it, such as the gentleman from the City whom my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury mentioned, whose reasons for being here may be in some ways irregular, but who are doing no harm to this country and are living as virtuous citizens and making a considerable contribution to the country's welfare. I wonder whether the provisions are a proportionate use of government powers.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I intend to speak on the clause-stand-part Motion rather than on the amendments in particular, but I should like to know whether the provisions of Amendment No. 22, which relates to people who have been here for seven years or more, would include those who had managed to extend their time to seven years by appeal after appeal and had finally exhausted all their appeals.

The Earl of Sandwich

As I understand it, it has been Labour Party policy that all asylum seekers have a proper right of appeal. In the Special Standing Committee in another place the junior Minister appeared to give a commitment that there would be changes in immigration rules to that effect. I refer to cols. 584 and 585 of the relevant Hansard. On the sledgehammer theory, has not the chief adjudicator said that the measure will cause no more than a negligible reduction in the backlog?

6.15 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

I shall leave it to the Minister to respond on the main points in the amendments. New Labour seems to have changed its mind in our direction since the passage of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996. With all the enthusiasm of converts, the Government have gone a little further. I find it difficult to object to that in principle, but I shall be interested to hear the Minster's response to the main points.

I should like to say a word or two about Amendment No. 25, standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Astor, which is intended to ensure that the clause does not inadvertently introduce retrospective invalidation of expired leave. I hope that it is only a drafting error or an error on my part in reading the clause and trying to fathom its meaning. We all dislike retrospective legislation. However, without the amendment, the clause could be used retrospectively. I understand that the point was raised in Committee in another place, but the Minister did not have an opportunity to respond because of the large number of points being made at the time. It is a valid point, if small in comparison with the main thrust of the amendments.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

As some link has sensibly been made between Amendment No. 20 and the subsequent amendments, particularly Amendments Nos. 21 and 22, perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I address Amendment No. 22 briefly.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Perhaps the noble Baroness has not realised that they are linked on the groupings list.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

On my list, Amendment No. 20 stands on its own, followed by Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 and the others.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

Amendment No. 20 was not moved. The noble Baroness is talking about Amendment No. 20A.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

Amendment No. 20A has now been brought into the discussion on Amendment No. 22.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

It might be helpful if I recite what is in the group. It comprises Amendments Nos. 20A, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 26A.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

I apologise. My list is approximately one and a half hours out of date and does not include Amendment No. 20A in that group.

I reinforce what my noble friends Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Lord Russell have said about those who have been here for seven years or more. I ask the Government carefully to consider excluding those who have been here for seven years or more from the possibility of being deported because their position when they came to this country was not fully regular.

There are two arguments for that. First, the Government have a large backlog to deal with and it would be sensible to deal with some cases relatively rapidly. The second reason is perhaps much more important; that is, that it seems to me probable that if the Government engage in a fairly wide-scale deportation of people who have been here for more than seven years, there will be a great strain on relations within that community. Some years ago, in 1988, the right of appeal for those who had been living here for less than seven years was removed. Alun Michael said that it would harm people who had humanitarian reasons for wanting to remain in the UK. Those people may have families here; they may have been here for many years and have no links overseas; or they may be doing valuable jobs in the community.

The Minister will be aware that on several occasions when people who have been resident in this country for many years have been identified for deportation, they have been often followed by pleas from the community to make an exception in those cases. In some instances their children have been largely educated in this country; their friends, their comrades and associates are all here. In other cases, the parents themselves have become crucial and helpful members of the community. In the minds of many communities no clear distinction will be made between those who happen to be Britons of either Caribbean or Asian origin, and those who have been here for long enough to seem to be a full and stable part of the community. I am not arguing that people who deliberately break immigration rules should be treated in any particularly kindly fashion. However, I believe that those who came a long time ago, who were allowed into this country and who then settled down and in some cases are "aware overstayers" have, in a sense, established their bona fides partly by the contribution which they have made to this country.

In many cases, the cruellest part would be the inclusion of family members in any act of deportation. In some cases, those family members have in no way been responsible for any aberration in terms of immigration rules. They may be under the age of 16 and therefore legally have no responsibility for the situation. In some cases, they may be spouses who have no relationship at all to the country to which they are being deported. Therefore, I ask the Minister to look carefully at this amendment, which would exclude from the provisions for deportation people who have stayed more than seven years.

Referring back to Clause 7, perhaps I may simply add that a good deal depends on the length of time which would be given under Clause 7. One of our concerns is that a relatively short length of time would be difficult to publicise. People may be unaware of their rights and of the short interim period.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. I shall speak to a matter which may be slightly peripheral to it, but which nevertheless seems to me to be at the heart of Clause 8; that is, the seriousness of the British Government in intending to remove from the United Kingdom illegal immigrants or others who should not be here.

Perhaps I may tell a story to make my point. Some years ago I set up an exchange of young people between my diocese and the two dioceses in Sri Lanka. Eight young people from Sri Lanka came to Yorkshire and spent a month there. At the end of that period they moved down to London before finally flying back from Heathrow. On the last night, one of the eight, who was a Tamil, left the hotel at which the group was staying and did not return. He did not turn up for his flight. He was quite clearly an illegal immigrant, and it seemed to us that from the moment that he became part of the group he had always intended to take that step.

I was placed in a position of considerable embarrassment. The Minister concerned wrote to me with a sharp rebuke in the light of the fact that I had guaranteed that they would return. Some months later, I found the address of this person. I passed the address to the Home Office Minister concerned. I was surprised then to find that no action was taken. Removal did not in fact take place, although the address was known and the circumstances were perfectly clear.

When I asked why that was, the answer I received from a number of people was simple: "It is not that we want to remove all such people; it is simply that we want the power to remove in order to make it clear that such people are not welcome and to send the message that they should not attempt such action". Therefore, I ask how serious the Government are in the implementation of Clause 8.

By contrast to that story, if we take the circumstances of someone in the position outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, it seems to me that, despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, said, there is a total difference between the two sets of circumstance. By whatever means a person has managed to remain here for seven years, it is undoubtedly the case that strong links are built up in the local community. There may be family links and young people who are being educated. For all sorts of reasons, there may be a presumption that such a person has, in some way or another, become part of the community. It therefore seems to me to be right that under the provisions of Clause 8, it should not be possible to remove summarily a person in those circumstances who has been here for more than seven years.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I remind the Committee that we are dealing with Amendments Nos. 20A, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 26A.

I understand that a number of concerns have been expressed. I believe that some of them may have been based on a misunderstanding and a misapprehension of, first, what happens now, and, secondly, what is intended here.

I shall deal with the amendments in what seems to be a sensible order. First, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for his explanation. During the discussions in Committee in another place, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State gave an undertaking that the immigration rules would be amended to specify that those factors which are currently taken into account when deciding whether or not to make a deportation order would have to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to remove someone under the powers contained in Clause 8. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, would require only that the Secretary of State should be satisfied that that has in fact been done. If the requirements of the immigration rules have not been complied with, any decision to remove is not lawful. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, may have achieved his purpose in my reiterating that undertaking given in another place. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, having achieved his objective, will accept my reassurance that his amendment would not add any additional safeguards.

Looking ahead, I also hope that I may say at this stage that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, which seeks to insert a new clause after Clause 8, is not necessary for the same reason.

The first of the amendments in my name relates to Clause 7, which we considered earlier. It makes provision for a scheme under which someone who has overstayed their limited leave to enter or remain will be able to regularise immigration status by applying for leave to remain. Successful applicants will be granted leave. Unsuccessful applicants will retain their current appeal rights against a decision to deport.

I turn to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. Clause 7 specifies that the regularisation period must be not less than three months, and that Clause 8 comes into force on the day after it ends. To take the noble Baroness's point further, an application can be made at any time during that period. That means that there will almost certainly be some cases which will not have been decided when the regularisation period ends and Clause 8 comes into force.

Subsection (2) of Clause 8 protects overstayers who have applied under the scheme from administrative removal under the new powers contained in subsection (1). As currently drafted, the clause suggests that that protection will last only as long as the application remains outstanding. Once an application has been decided, anyone whose application has been refused will be liable to removal as an overstayer if Clause 8 is enforced at that stage. That is not what was intended. Paragraph 5(2) of Schedule 14 makes it clear that the deportation procedure and the right of appeal will continue to operate for those whose applications under Clause 7 are unsuccessful. When someone applies under the Clause 7 arrangements, the exception of removal under Clause 8 powers continues beyond the initial decision and through the hearing of any appeal. Someone whose appeal is dismissed will then be deported rather than removed. Those who choose not to exercise their preserved right of appeal will also be deported.

The amendment tabled in the name of noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, seeks to amend Clause 8(2), I believe to preserve what she would see as the more generous right of appeal against deportation currently enjoyed by someone who last entered the United Kingdom more than seven years before the date of a decision to make a deportation against him.

This amendment will not achieve that. That would require further amendments preserving Sections 3(5)(a) and 3(5)(aa) of the 1971 Act and Sections 15 and 17 of that Act. Some provision would need to be made so that a person who entered with leave more than seven years before commencement and who then had a comprehensive one-stop appeal under Part IV of the Bill (at which the issue of removal was considered) would then get a further right of appeal against the decision to make a deportation order.

At present, we are considering Amendment No. 22 which, in isolation, would mean that there would be no power under immigration law to remove from the United Kingdom someone who had entered more than seven years before the commencement of the Bill except on conducive grounds or following a court recommendation that they should be deported. The Bill, as drafted, repeals the present powers under which overstayers are removed. Accepting Amendment No. 22 would mean that the new powers in Clause 8 could not be used against them either.

I cannot accept the amendments, therefore. I repeat: the effect of Clause 7, taken with paragraph 5(2) of Schedule 14, is that the present rights of appeal against deportation are preserved for any overstayer who applies for leave to remain under the arrangements provided for by Clause 7. We specifically introduced that provision because the Secretary of State was responding to concerns in the course of discussions in another place. We see them as sufficient safeguards. As I have said, if someone has overstayed and wants to preserve his present right of appeal against deportation, he needs to apply under the Clause 7 arrangements.

I turn to one or two specific matters. The right reverend Prelate asked how serious we are about the removal of those who have no claim to remain here. We try to deal with every claim according to its individual circumstances. I have already indicated that we shall be considering the immigration rules in the general context of the Bill.

I repeat that we shall consider the circumstances of an individual before removal under Clause 8, as we do at present before deportation and as we do with illegal entrants, even though there is no requirement under the rules. The relevant rule is Rule 364 of the immigration rules. That will be amended to cover those who will be caught by Clause 8. The rule requires that factors such as age, length of residence, and so on, must be taken into account.

A person will always have an in-country right of appeal by virtue of Clauses 55 and 59. Perhaps I may just touch on that point briefly as it is one about which the noble Earl asked me earlier. Clause 55 provides that acts made unlawful by Section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 found the basis of an appeal; I put this generally. Clause 59 provides that: A person who is refused leave to enter the United Kingdom under the 1971 Act may appeal against the refusal to an adjudicator on the ground that his removal in consequence of the refusal would be contrary to the Convention". I anticipate the question from the noble Earl about the exact convention to which I am at present referring. Clause 59(6) makes particular reference to, the United Kingdom's obligations under the Refugee Convention", so those safeguards still remain.

As noble Lords will see from the side rubric, Clause 8 deals with removal, not deportation. I repeat that a person who claims asylum will always have an in-country right of appeal.

I should focus on another particular question before I continue further with my own amendments. The noble Earl asked about a student who may obtain leave by deception. A student who obtains leave by deception and then makes a claim for asylum will still have his asylum claim considered, and will have a right of appeal to an adjudicator if he fails. I hope that it was helpful to say that. I quite understand that if one is looking at Clause 8, it is perhaps easy to overlook the difference between "removal" and "deportation".

I turn to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 tabled in my name. One cannot work without the other, and I shall, if I may, deal with them together. Under Clause 8, an immigration officer will have the power to direct that someone should be removed from the United Kingdom. However, on removal, that person will not go on foot, but by some form of transport. We concluded that it would be desirable to make provision on the face of the Bill for directions to be given to those classes of people who are likely to be involved in effecting the removals I described.

I shall proceed in numerical order. Amendment No. 25 is tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. The wording of the subsection which this amendment seeks to amend mirrors that of the deportation provisions in Section 5(1) of the 1971 Act which currently apply to these cases and which will continue to apply to cases for which deportation is being retained.

The wording has not presented any difficulties in the past. I do not believe it is likely to do so in the future. Therefore, we do not believe that Amendment No. 25 is necessary. As presently drafted, directions given under this section for a person's removal invalidate any leave that was given before the directions were given and any given while the removal directions are in force. Thus, if the family member of someone who is to be removed makes an application for further leave to remain as a student, then has directions given for removal on "family member" grounds and then, after that, because the relationship has not been picked up by the person dealing with the student application or because it was not picked up quickly enough and the application is granted, the effect of subsection (8) is that the subsequent grant of leave is invalidated.

Amendment No. 25 would limit the effect of subsection (8) to any leave which is extant at the time when removal directions are given. As far as leave given before removal directions is concerned, this is not a problem, but leave which has not yet been granted at the time the removal directions are given is not "extant leave"; it is future leave. Adding the word inserted by Amendment No. 25 would mean that any leave granted in the circumstances I have described would not be invalidated, and we would be in the illogical position of removing—or trying to remove—someone who had valid leave to be here.

The last amendment in this grouping is Amendment No. 26 tabled in my name. Clause 8 makes provision for the removal of various categories of person, all of whom, when they originally arrived at the port or airport, qualified for and were granted leave to enter. At the moment, when those persons are removed, the cost is borne by the Secretary of State. The amendment makes clear, on the face of the Bill, that that will continue to be the case in future.

There was a necessity to answer in a little more detail than is perhaps always necessary. I recognise that there may still he questions outstanding. I mentioned, with reference to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that I was always ready for a meeting. I have been reminded that a meeting has already been arranged for Thursday of this week. If any noble Lords are presently dissatisfied or are still concerned, I am more than happy to look again at the points of detail. However, I believe that some of the points of detail have alarmed people because the distinction has not always been drawn in the mind between the Clause 8 arrangements and what is presently "deportation".

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

Before the noble Lord sits down, in the interests of making the Bill clear to the meanest of intelligence, I wonder whether he could explain to this particular person of mean intelligence the practical difference between "deportation" and "removal".

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I take the point raised by the right reverend Prelate. It still means that one would have to leave the jurisdiction. We propose, under Clauses 7 and 8, that those who have been in this country a long time in the circumstances specified can apply, should they wish, by virtue of Clause 7, to have the arrangements regularised. If those arrangements are not regularised, there can be an administrative removal. So, we shall have a scheme of administrative removal, but I stress that those in the circumstances posited by the noble Earl retain their rights to appeal.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his response to Amendment No. 22. I sometimes understand better than I usually do why people in his profession are so highly paid; it takes an extraordinarily brilliant mind to grasp some of the language which he used in response. I shall have to ponder it further for much longer than he requires. However, if I have interpreted it rightly, we shall carefully consider the possibility of putting in an amendment at Report which more satisfactorily meets the problems that he has rightly outlined.

Lord Dholakia

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. He does not normally give anything at all, but makes you feel that you have scored a victory; and that seems to be the case here. I shall look at Hansard to see whether I can tie him up at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 20A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 21

Page 5, line 28, leave out ("which has not been determined").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 23 and 24:

Page 5, line 40, leave out ("given").

Page 5, line 40, after ("section") insert ("— () may be given only to persons falling within a prescribed class;").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 6, line 3, at end insert— ("() The costs of complying with a direction given under this section (so far as reasonably incurred) must be met by the Secretary of State.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, whether Clause 8 (as amended) stand part of the Bill.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I hesitate to use the word "bamboozle" but some of the explanations come close to the use of that word. For example, the right reverend Prelate asked about the difference between administrative removal and deportation. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, might agree that in common parlance "there ain't no difference"; if you are chucked out of the country, it does not matter whether it is called deportation or administrative removal; it comes to the same grievous outcome.

In all its complexity there is one simple unrelieved truth about the change that is being made, and that is that whereas at present those who have been here for more than seven years had a right of independent appeal, that right is removed, and the only right that replaces it is for those who make their appeal within six months of their overstay. Many noble Lords will understand that while that sounds fine and dandy, the reality for immigrants and the extraordinarily unsatisfactory circumstances in which many of them find themselves, is that they will not be able to exercise that right of appeal within that time. There will be very many hard and unfair cases. I remain dissatisfied and disappointed that the Government appear to be making no concession on the central point.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My views on Clause 8 differ from those of the noble Lord. The explanatory notes state: In parallel with the reform of the immigration and asylum appeals system, the White Paper announced that in future, anyone who had been lawfully in the United Kingdom but who no longer had any entitlement to remain would normally be subject to administrative removal rather than deportation. I understood that administrative removal was a fairly simple matter and that it did not require a court procedure and subsequent deportation. Can the Minister say whether I am correct in that view?

I have received a letter from the Minister which appeared to answer the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. It dealt with the issue of how people who have been here for a long time might miss out on their right of appeal. I understood the Minister to be saying that there would be a well-publicised time period given to people who had been here longer in which they could appeal. The answer in the letter was very satisfactory, and Clause 7 does cover that point, but I would welcome clarification.

My concern about Clause 8 is that there seemed to be some confusion in the debate on the recent amendments. Clause 8 does not relate specifically to asylum seekers because they already have rights of appeal. Various local authorities have asked me to inquire about the people who have gone through every stage of every appeal and yet are still being funded by the local authorities. Those authorities are reimbursed by the Government at a different rate, and therefore the council tax payers are paying for it. Many of these people are still occupying council accommodation that is desperately needed for other new applicants.

I do not understand where those people fit in, especially those who have been through all the appeal procedures, possibly over many years. That is why I asked the following question, which the Minister did not answer. If someone has been here for eight or 10 years over the seven year period referred to in Amendment No. 22, would that cover them, even though their appeals had failed and they had been adjudged not to be entitled to remain in this country? Are those people classified as overstayers? Why are the Government not addressing those circumstances?

Lord Renton

I have listened patiently to the discussions on Clauses 7 and 8. I am very surprised that the noble Lord should wish to omit Clause 8.

We should bear in mind that in the 12 months ending 31st May, over 80,000 people have been granted leave to remain here as immigrants or been granted asylum. The exact figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, in answer to a question I tabled for written answer, provided the detail: 67,900 have been granted indefinite leave to remain; those recognised as refugees and granted asylum were 5,560; those who were refused asylum but granted exceptional leave to remain were 3,220; and then there was a backlog of 3,910. That is a total of over 80,000 people in 12 months.

I ask the noble Lords, whom I respect for their humanitarian and Christian aims that we all share, to bear in mind that we owe it to the people already in this country to be very careful about this matter. The more people we have here, the more unemployment and poverty there will be. The more people we have here, the lower will be the average standard of living, and the greater strain on our social services and greater congestion in urban areas.

We should not overlook those facts when we are debating these matters. Bearing those factors in mind, I hope that Clause 8 will be allowed to stand as part of the Bill. I could make the same speech in relation to the next two clauses but do not propose to do so.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for giving way. With the greatest possible respect to him—I have the highest admiration for him—does he not accept that many of those who receive asylum in this country, far from being people who finish up in the inner cities, are among the highly intelligent members of our community? Far from being a drain on our economic resources, they will prove to be considerable assets to them.

Lord Renton

That is a matter of opinion and must vary from person to person. But we know that many of those who come to this country cannot even speak our language.

The world has become an even more distressing place for people to live and the pressures upon the Government of this country, whatever their complexion, to receive more asylum seekers has grown and may continue to grow. But our first duty is to the people of this country. We must use a sensible discretion in that regard. The Government should be supported in their efforts to amend the law in ways which achieve justice and we must not press them to relax the law to such an extent that people—for example, those covered by Clauses 7 and 8—are allowed in when they perhaps should not be.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, reminded us of our first duty, but it is not our only duty. We have a duty to ensure that whatever legal arrangements we introduce are fair and do not discriminate.

We also have a duty to reflect on the overall contribution which immigrants and asylum seekers have made and continue to make to this country over many generations. Though it is true that some people will abuse the system, that is also true of our nationals. To make too much of this argument could almost lead to the scapegoating of immigrants and asylum seekers. Having represented an inner city community for 25 years at one level or another, I was conscious of the positive contribution which many immigrants and asylum seekers made to that community, not least in the creation of employment for many of our nationals. It is also interesting that the last time I looked, more people left the United Kingdom than came into it. So we should not over-exaggerate this point. It could lead to some people taking out of context the comments made quite rightly by the noble Lord in Committee, and using them against those communities.

Lord Renton

Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. If we take in 80,000 in l2 months, that is a generous absorption of people who are said to be suffering and who come to this country. It is a generous absorption on the part of the Government and the people of this country.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My point is that more people leave this country in the course of a year than come here. In the context of the many millions of people living in this country, we should see the contribution that immigrants and asylum seekers have made in the overall pattern of things. We cannot put shutters up around our nation. Indeed, if others put up shutters to prevent British nationals from settling or moving elsewhere, it would lead to a frustrated and claustrophobic world.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, put clown a marker not to remove Clause 8, but to give us the opportunity to debate whether or not it should stand part of the Bill in its present form. If the amendments which he and his noble friends have been moving to this clause are accepted at Report stage, no doubt the clause will remain in the Bill.

The noble Lord is right to remind us that there are problems with the clause and I hope that when the Minister replies he will address some of those problems, not least the discriminatory nature of the appeals procedure. As I understand it, under Clause 55 the one-stop arrangements that will be made available to others will not be made available to overstayers. It will be far better if in the legislation we have one coherent set of criteria so that those who are not legitimately in this country may be seen to be dealt with fairly and justly under the arrangements.

I hope also that we will not discount the arguments about the need to show some sense of understanding of the individual circumstances of those who will be applying under the appeals procedure. Whether people are removed abruptly, arbitrarily, or whether they are removed after a relatively short procedure being invoked, if they have been here for more than seven years they will have many familial ties. They will have many ties connected with personal history which should be properly placed upon the record and properly adjudicated upon before any decisions are made on that person's behalf.

I will be interested to hear from the Minister when he replies to this debate how many people he estimates will he caught by the new arrangements. Are we dealing with hundreds of thousands, 80,000—the figure the noble Lord introduced into the debate a few minutes ago—hundreds of people or just handfuls of people? It would help us to get some appreciation of the numbers involved. If those numbers are small, it may be that a better way of dealing with this issue is through some form of amnesty rather than grinding the whole process once again to a halt, over-exaggerating the problem and then not being able to deal with the cases which the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, reminded us are still in the system and which still need to he dealt with expeditiously.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I have some sympathy with the arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. What underlies this issue is whether we have a reputation for equitable and fair dealing when it comes to difficult matters. We have a situation where most people, whether or not they are ultimately found to be entitled to be here, are faced with a real dilemma. We need to be compassionate in the way in which we deal with people who face such a situation, even those who ultimately fail to satisfy the requirements of the law. That is the reputation of this country. When we are dealing with such situations it is folly to act capriciously.

That reputation has not always existed. I make a great generalisation. My grandparents and those who came to this country with them were not always treated with that degree of equity and fair dealing. The very first Committee in which I was involved was the asylum Bill of 1970. I looked up the debates that took place in 1905. There was not a reputation for fair dealing at that time. Some people sought to take advantage of the situation in which these people found themselves. They whipped up prejudice and so forth.

I know the noble Lord, Lord Renton, extremely well. I hope that he shares the view that everybody is entitled, in the consideration of the case that they seek to present, to a measure of understanding about that; and that they should have every opportunity to present that case. He is not there to scapegoat people. He is not there to take advantage of a situation by a capricious government. Serious arguments are being presented to the Committee as we deal with this issue of principle.

When I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, my overwhelming view was that he would rather that asylum seekers do not come at all. That is to disregard the individual cases of a large number of people. They may not necessarily satisfy the requirement of the law, but it would be unjust to say that they have no right to come here and to act towards them with that degree of prejudice that I know the noble Lord would not want to adopt in relation to the application of the law in general—a law of whose reputation he is very jealous, having been involved in it for so long and served it with such distinction.

7 p.m.

Earl Russell

We were bound to raise this general issue at some stage and I am most grateful to the tight reverend Prelate for doing so. I agree with everything that he said.

There is strong disagreement on this matter. I am sorry to dismay the noble Lord, Lord Renton, with whom I often agree with great passion, but this does not happen to be one of those occasions. He said that it was a matter of opinion whether refugees as a community tend to be of above-average ability. I am not sure that is so. A large body of opinion suggests that in escaping from a persecuting regime, one observes the survival of the fittest.

It was my privilege when I was in the United States to serve in a department, 25 per cent of whose members were refugees from Hitler. Those people were of extraordinary ability. The United States was extremely lucky to have them; so was my university and my department.

There is a considerable body of evidence—some of it addressed by my former tutor, Professor John Roberts, in his History of the World—that some of the most successful civilisations have been those that had within them a considerable mixture of races and cultures. The United States is an outstanding example. Our country is also an example, although not to the same extent. I would be sorry if it ceased to be so.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, introduced the concept of "our own people". Especially in this partly hereditary House, that is a difficult concept. A small proportion of hereditary peers are hereditary English. Some of them came over with William the Conqueror. My own ancestors came in 1393 from Gascony. My first known ancestor was a Stephen Gascoigne, alias Russell. I admit to being relieved that I am not called Gascoigne. My ancestors left Bordeaux believing that it was about to be sold out by the English at the next peace treaty—a Hong Kong situation. They happened to be 60 years ahead of the game, but their foresight was correct.

When we think about who actually are "our own people", one realises that it is not as simple as one might think. Many of us have ancestors who arrived here unable to speak our language, just like the people mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. That is no evidence of ability. It is evidence of upbringing. Many of our most distinguished people arrived here unable to speak our language. They have certainly made up for it since.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, recalled us to the real purpose of the Bill. We are dealing with individual applications. Justice is blind, so the question of whether or not an applicant's claim is just does not depend on our views on the general question. I testify to those views because I hold them with pride and conviction, but were they all wrong, the blindness of justice would remain a necessity—and ultimately our views would not be material to what the Bill should say.

Lord Renton

Before the noble Earl sits down, I have been trying to follow his argument. At one stage he seemed to be indicating that there should be no limit on the numbers, whatever the increase in the demand for immigration may be. Is the noble Earl saying that anyone should be allowed to come here as of right?

Earl Russell

No. I am saying the same as the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. If one compares the number of people who enter this country each year with the number who leave—the figures of net immigration and net emigration—one realises that they do not at present indicate a considerable problem. It might assist our debates if the Minister were to provide at the next sitting of the Committee accurate figures on that topic. I admit that my statistics are not absolutely up to date for this year. If those figures were accurately before us, that might help to lower the temperature of the debate.

Lord Renton

The figures that I gave were provided by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, in a Written Answer.

Earl Russell

The Minister gave no figures for emigration.

Lord Hylton

Later in the Bill, we shall come to the word "deception", but I notice that it occurs at line 22 of Clause 8. Can the Minister assure me that it must be serious or material deception and that the nature of the deception must be decided by either an adjudicator or a court before that part bites?

I note that under subsection (4), notices from the Secretary of State must be sent by first-class post—and that is all—to be valid. We all know that the general population move around frequently. People who have been immigrants or who have possibly overstayed probably circulate faster than the general population. It would be an improvement if the Bill stipulated the use of recorded delivery mail as a means of delivering notices.

Lord Avebury

The figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, have nothing to do with Clause 8. He talked about people who have been given leave to remain. Of the 80,000 persons who were granted leave to remain in one form or another in the year in question, 67,900 were given indefinite leave to remain. Clause 8 refers to persons who have only limited leave to enter or remain. None of the persons the noble Lord was talking about would be in any way affected by the clause.

I take issue with the noble Lord when he says that the majority of persons who come here as refugees create unemployment and poverty. That is utterly false. The noble Lord has no evidence for that assertion. If he has, I shall gladly give way to him. I know of no evidence to show that persons who apply for asylum are more likely to be unemployed and to live on the poverty line than the settled population. Such people may initially receive assistance from the taxpayer because most of them flee here from repressive regimes.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Does the noble Lord agree that a substantial number of people who were regarded as refugees initially have done a great deal over the years to augment employment opportunities in this country?

Lord Avebury

I absolutely agree with the noble Lord. I know many people who have come here from repressive countries and ultimately played a very important role in our community—I do not just mean those who came here before the war, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Russell. I have in mind people who have come to this country very much more recently than that from places like Iran, Sudan or Sri. Lanka, many of whom are already playing an extremely important role. Indeed, one friend of mine came from Iraq. He is a distinguished consultant in neurology.

Another friend of mine came from Sri Lanka with his three daughters, who were all in the middle of their education at the time, but he had to leave his country under threat of being murdered. However, all three daughters have now finished their education: one is a doctor, one is a lawyer and one is a very competent computer scientist. So, not only the refugee himself but also his three daughters, who have now finished their education, are now making a significant contribution to our economic life.

The latter example illustrates another point about refugees; namely, that they are more likely to be of the age when they can contribute through earning to the economy. They are less likely to be very young or very old and, therefore, a burden on taxpayers. If they are economically active, obviously they represent a more significant contribution to our country than if they were fully representative of the settled population in this country. So what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said is utterly false and should not be allowed to stand without challenge.

Lord Renton

The noble Lord has accused me of falsehood, which is something that you do not normally do in this Chamber—

Lord Avebury

It was unintentional; indeed, what the noble Lord said is wrong. You can accuse someone of saying something that is wrong. No doubt it is misapprehension on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I am saying that he made that assertion without a shred of evidence to back it up.

Lord Renton

If I may say so, to be accused of falsehood in these circumstances is utterly wrong. The noble Lord, and others, said quite accurately that some of these immigrants and asylum seekers have a positive contribution to make in this country. But the noble Lord cannot say what proportion of them do so. I should have said that it was a minority. Of course, one cannot say how small a minority but it will certainly not be the case that, in general, they can all make a contribution. As I said, many of them cannot even speak our language.

Earl Russell

I believe my noble friend Lord Avebury was accusing the noble Lord, Lord Renton, simply of error. That accusation is, I think, common currency in this Chamber. I hope that it will be taken in good part on both sides.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I should hate Members of the Committee to descend to mutual back-slapping; but., nevertheless, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and to the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Clinton-Davis for what they said. Much of what has been said seems to be based on anecdotal evidence; indeed, we could all produce such evidence.

However, I believe that I am right in saying that some research was conducted on the matter in a Home Office study some years ago. The research showed that, of those who were granted refugee status from among those who applied for asylum, the majority had come from a broadly professional background. It seems to me that that is what we are arguing. Therefore, it is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of research. If I were to accuse the noble Lord, Lord Renton, of anything—I certainly would not dream of doing such a thing—I might, perhaps, gently suggest to him that his only fault has been inattention to the evidence.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I seem, inadvertently, to have opened Pandora's Box in seeking to oppose the Question that Clause 8 should stand part of the Bill. This is not in any respects a debate on a clause which discusses the merits and the numbers of those seeking refuge in this country. It is a simple legal point; namely, whether the proposals in Clause 8 reduce the rights of appeal of those whom immigration officers have said must go. That is the simple point that we are debating. I urge Members of the Committee to return to the clause itself—

Lord Alton of Liverpool

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, would also reflect on the possibility that this will give rise to many more applicants seeking judicial review, unless similar procedures are made available to those contained in Clause 55.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for raising that point because it is a reasonable expectation that it will do just that; and, indeed, that it may, conceivably, give rise to more applications under the Human Rights Act when it comes into effect. That was one of the points to which I sought to make indirect reference when suggesting to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that to review the effect of this clause would, far from doing damage to the Bill, actually give strength to it and to the future prospects of public "rumpi" when individuals are—as the public might think—unfairly dealt with, without right of appeal.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, strongly advised us that this clause stand part argument was essentially based on a legal issue. Indeed, the fact that the debate spread more widely was beyond his control. I should like to say a few words about that slightly wider debate before we conclude.

I remember with great clarity what to me was an act of extraordinary courage by a Conservative Minister. I refer to Mr Iain Macleod who, in the 1960s, gave a promise to the people of Uganda and Tanzania that, if they were to be expelled from their country, they would be allowed to come to this country and would be recognised as British citizens, as they had opted to be so rather than be citizens of the newly-independent countries of East Africa.

In 1972, when the matter became the centre of an acute storm about immigration—about whether there should be any immigrants, about race relations in this country and about the whole question of whether immigrants brought to this country any substantial gifts and assets—it was the noble Lord, Lord Carr (I remember this and will always respect it throughout my life) who stood up in the face of huge pressures from his own party at its annual conference and said that Mr Iain Macleod had given his word and that he, as Home Secretary (Robert Carr), intended to keep that word. Indeed, he kept that word and several thousands of Ugandans and subsequently other East African Asians came to this country over a relatively short period of time; in fact, 26,000 of them.

The right reverend Prelate referred to research and not assertions. There is clear evidence that that particular community has been among the most successful communities that have come to this country since the war. It has done a great deal to create employment and to build up enterprise and assets in this country. Of course, one could say the same of earlier immigrations, but let us say clearly and strongly that Mr Iain Macleod was right; that the noble Lord, Lord Can of Hadley, was right; and that both of them represent a powerful refutation as regards those who say that refugees bring to this country nothing that is of very much use to us.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkley

At the start of our debates this afternoon, I referred in passing to the dilemmas which face this Government and which faced many of their predecessors. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the tributes that she just paid to my noble friend Lord Carr and to the late Iain Macleod.

We all want to deal fairly with those who deserve asylum; as, indeed, my noble friend Lord Renton would agree. But the problems arise as regards those in the asylum context who do not deserve asylum. As we know, and as the Minister said, many of them are put up to it by unscrupulous people seeking to make money out of other people's difficulties. For my own part, I believe that we have gained a great deal from many immigrants over the centuries. Indeed, that is obvious by just looking around the Committee. I was about to mention the noble Earl, but he seems to have slipped out of the Chamber.

However, it is also true that it is no part of the assessment of an asylum seeker, or, for that matter, any other immigrant, to look at his or her prospective contribution to this country. They are assessed on whether or not they are genuine asylum seekers, not on whether they will make a contribution. If they make a contribution—as some do—that is a bonus, as it were.

My noble friend Lord Renton is entirely right to say that numbers are relevant, as is the perception of numbers. We all know about the pressures that can be caused, and it is, quite frankly, no way to diminish the prejudice, the problems and the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to in connection with his grandparents, if the numbers are too great.

All these matters have arisen during discussion of whether this clause should stand part of the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said, the debate has already gone a good deal wider than he anticipated when he gave notice of his intention to oppose the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill. Clause-stand-part debates are a useful adjunct to discussion. They are more common in another place. In another place, all clauses can potentially be subject to clause-stand-part debates. However, in this Chamber one has to table a specific Motion to that effect. If the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, were to press this Question, I would vote for the clause to stand part but I doubt whether he will.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

A little while ago the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said that on occasions an injection of fact tended to lower the temperature—I see that he is not present at the moment—but if he had hoped that, I think that he would be sadly disappointed.

I do not think that there is any useful point to be served in challenging motives. I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, did not mean to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, had said anything improper. I understood him to say that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Renton, had misunderstood the consequence of the figures which he accurately presented to the Committee.

The noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Phillips of Sudbury, were quite right to say that a good deal of ground has been covered on Clauses 7 and 8. I hope that I may indicate what Clauses 7 and 8 mean. Clause 7 offers those who have no lawful right to be in this country the opportunity to regularise their status. Far from being draconian, it is an offer to them—if they wish to take it up—to make their status lawful and settled. The idea that their status may be settled and lawful is extremely important. The new provision in Clause 7 gives overstayers who have no lawful right to be in this country an opportunity to make things right. However, if we make them that offer, we expect them to behave properly and to come forward—sometimes after a period of many years—to take advantage of a scheme which exists for their consideration.

I repeat the undertakings which I have already mentioned in the context of the amendments spoken to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. Clause 8 changes the procedure by which those who do not comply with the terms of their leave, or who obtain leave to remain by deception, are removed. At present someone who overstays their leave, or fails to observe a condition of leave, such as taking employment when the terms of leave do not allow it, or who has obtained leave by deception, is liable to deportation. Members of their immediate family, defined in the Act of 1971 as their spouse and any minor dependent children, are likewise liable for deportation. If someone is identified as an overstayer, or is working when not supposed to, the case is considered and then a decision is taken as to whether deportation is appropriate. The person concerned then has a right of appeal and it is only when any appeal has been dismissed that the deportation is made.

I hope that I may allow one fact to assist us. Over 80 per cent of the appeals are dismissed. I do not want to get into the argument of whether we call a claim which is dismissed bogus or abusive. As I say, the fact is that over 80 per cent of appeals are dismissed. It is notoriously well known to any human creature who has not lived the past 10 years in an igloo without a telephone that it is easy to manipulate the system. I have said time and again that I understand the motives of people who do that. I said on Second Reading that if I lived in a poor country and had children and wanted the opportunity to better myself, I should of course wish to take it. However, that begs the question of what the policy of this country is now, has been in the past, or is ever likely to be in the future.

It is rightly said that we do not make these decisions on the basis of whether or not there is a certain class—as it was put earlier—of middle-class professionals who might benefit our economy. I turn that argument on its head. Is it to be said that those who have legitimate grounds to seek asylum from, let us say, Kosovo in the past six months, ought to be turned away because they are not middle-class professionals and do not have a medical or legal degree? However, that is not a point I turn against the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I turn it against those who will not attend to the fact that we must have a regime of control, the characteristics of which ought to be decency, certainty, efficiency, promptness and, above all, a decent fairness to those who find themselves in the situation we are discussing. That is what we are trying to achieve in Clauses 7 and 8. I believe that we are well on the way to delivering that. I have said—I repeat this—that if there is a possibility of genuine improvement to Clauses 7 and 8, I am willing to consider it.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes—I believe that my letter to her was correct on this matter—that speedy appeals and removals are addressed in Part IV of the Bill which it will be our delight to discuss on a future occasion, I think! We know perfectly well that the system at the moment is being abused. I do not accuse the individual who manipulates the system of particular wrongdoing. Such people are encouraged to abuse the system because of our systems and structures. They are often encouraged to abuse the system by those who want to prey on them. Of course, there is always the opportunity for judicial review in any system. However, I believe that the provisions of Clauses 7 and 8 are capable of reducing these appeals and attempts at judicial review. On an earlier occasion I told the noble Baroness that there would be an obligation on the Secretary of State to advertise and publicise the scheme under Clauses 7 and 8. That statutory duty is mentioned in Clause 7(4).

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton—in connection with Clause 8(4)—that of course people move around, but it is the obligation of someone who is applying for leave to remain to inform IND of his or her movements and whereabouts. I do not regard that as unusually harsh. If a person is applying for leave to remain, it is perfectly reasonable for the host country to ask that person to notify it of his or her whereabouts.

The noble Lord asked whether deception meant material deception. I confirm that it does because the key point is that leave has to have been obtained by deception and if it were trivial or not material, the leave would not have been obtained by deception, in exactly the same way as the ordinary offence of obtaining property by deception depends on a degree of materiality; otherwise the deception is not operative.

I do not have any precise figures to give the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I do not know how many people will apply under the terms of Clause 7 and I do not know what the consequences of Clause 8 will be. However, I am certain that a large number of people are living in this country irregularly. However, they are being given the opportunity to have certainty in their lives. This measure does not intend to scapegoat anyone. I believe that we are giving people ample opportunity to put their lives in order.

I have tried to explain—but obviously I have failed—the difference between deportation and removal. Deportation normally has the consequence that a person cannot return while the deportation order is in force. As many of your Lordships will know, that is a minimum normally of three years. Deportation differs because it gives right to an in-country right of appeal; removal will allow only an out-country right of appeal unless there are other claims for asylum under the ECHR, which I mentioned earlier.

We are requiring people to conform—I am not putting it brutally—to a regime which is there to serve a number of different purposes, including the purposes of those who may well be allowed to remain here. Those who are genuine—and are found to be genuine—should not suffer. They do so deeply at the moment because of the delays that are brought about in our system, significantly because other people's appeals prove to be unfounded and block up the system.

I believe that Clauses 8 and 7 cannot be looked at separately. I have tried to explain that, if one looks at them together, if one looks at the systems available and sees the benefits of speed, certainty and proper behaviour, I have no doubt at all—to echo the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley—one will conclude that Clause 8 should stand part of the Bill. It is linked inevitably and irretrievably to Clause 7. Both of them are a significant advance on the arrangements—or lack of them—that we have at the moment.

Lord Renton

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for the courteous and sensible way in which he has handled this matter. I hoped I was being helpful when I gave some of the background in the way of what has already been done in the 12 months ending 31st May. I never expected that the comments that I made would be distorted in the one or two ways that they have been. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has heard in the debate, he may not wish to press the Committee to omit Clause 8.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Before the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, replies, perhaps the Minister would return to a question that I put to him during my remarks, and to which he alluded in his reply. The question concerned the linkage between regularising the situation of an asylum seeker or an immigrant in Britain with the issue of deportation. If those questions are linked too much in the minds of those to whom the Minister is appealing to regularise the situation, is not there a danger that people simply will not come forward? I asked the Minister earlier—perhaps he would take a moment to explain to the Committee—the kind of circumstances he sees as relevant to a successful outcome for someone seeking the right to remain; in other words, what kind of compassionate grounds, family histories and personal circumstances will be taken into account in allowing someone an amnesty and the right to remain?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

One needs to focus on the differences that I have identified. There is no question of muddling up terms, I agree, between deportation, amnesty and the removal requirement. I have made it plain that deportation is a sanction which is graver than the removal sanction; it normally applies for a minimum of three years. We are retaining it for serious areas, on conducive grounds or on court deportation grounds, both of which are legitimate weapons in the armoury of any country's defence.

I have said on a number of occasions—for instance, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell—that we shall look at the kind of questions identified by the noble Lord. They are perfectly reasonable matters to be put forward. No one who approaches these matters on an individualised basis will be able to say that in circumstance "X" he will inevitably succeed. We are saying to people, "This is an opportunity for you to be free of uncertainty; for you to be free of the fear of the knock on the door; for you to know where you are; and, if you have got children, to be able to plan your lives". I think that is a proper way to behave.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Perhaps I may clarify the answer that the Minister gave me. What is the position at present in respect of those people who have exhausted all appeals and who are currently being supported by local authorities, at considerable expense, and occupying local authority accommodation? How will it be changed under this Bill? Is the Minister saying that nothing will happen to help local authorities in those situations until after the Bill is enacted? Is he saying that we will be discussing the matter under Part IV?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Part IV is a relevant matter for the noble Baroness's considerations. As to her question about what happens at the moment, I think that she and I will agree: very little at all, far too slowly.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I am extremely grateful for those who have taken part in the debate. My own view is significantly affected by the fact that my firm does a lot of work for people caught up in the trammels of the legislation that we are discussing. There are cases where the new law will deny individuals the opportunity of an appeal. That is the nub of the complaint of all those who have spoken against Clause 8 as it stands. I have taken great comfort—as I am sure have others of your Lordships—from the extremely conciliatory tone of the Minister's remarks when he said that he will listen and listen again to any suggestions from those who are still unhappy about the arrangements as they stand. I, for my part, will seek to take him up on that offer. For the time being I am happy to withdraw my opposition to Clause 8 standing part of the Bill.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Burlison

I beg to move that the House be now resumed. In moving the Motion, may I suggest that the Committee stage of the Bill begin again not before 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.