HL Deb 06 July 2004 vol 663 cc764-88

  1. Where a person's statutory rights of appeal have been exhausted with respect to an immigration decision, and where that person subsequently makes an application to the Secretary of State for his deportation to be stayed on the grounds that there has been a change of circumstances, if the Secretary of State decides that there has been no change in circumstances or accepts that there has been a change of circumstances but decides that they do not justify a stay of deportation, the applicant within 10 days of the decision may apply to a High Court judge or a judge of the Court of Session to review the decision.
  2. The review shall be conducted on the papers save in exceptional circumstances.
  3. The decision of the High Court judge or the judge of the Court of Session is final."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as I explained on Report when I promoted the same amendment, its purpose is to exclude the necessity for judicial review in the system of asylum appeals. Since Report, I have been fortunate enough to have a conversation with an extremely able member of the Minister's staff in the Home Office. I am most grateful for that. If I do not, entirely, accept the advice that she gave me, I apologise in advance for what I am about to say.

A legitimate criticism of my amendment is that it does not make sufficiently clear the difference between three situations. The first one is when a new set of circumstances arise, following the completion of the appeal procedure, that are unforeseeable. The second is when such new circumstances arise in a situation where they would have been foreseeable. The third is when, although there is an assertion of new circumstances, it is, in effect, unsustainable.

I also understand the criticism that it is not clear from the terms of the amendment what the judge can actually do if he decides in favour of the application. Does he stay deportation indefinitely; or might circumstances arise that would entitle him to reverse his order and subject the applicant to immediate deportation?

Although I accept that those details might need the attention of the parliamentary draftsman, I do not accept that the amendment is unnecessary. The Government claimed at the outset of the Bill that they wanted to establish a situation in which the whole of the asylum appeal system would be dealt with by statute. However, we are faced with something like the Maginot Line, we have a statutory system that reaches the Belgium border and goes no further. By that I mean that the statutory system under the Bill does not deal with individuals who seek to stay a deportation order. They are, however, entitled to apply for judicial review.

Unlike my amendment, which introduces a time limit of 10 days, the time limit on judicial review is three months. Unlike my amendment, which focuses attention on a judge who is likely to specialise in asylum matters, a judicial review case can come up in front of any administrative judge, irrespective of his skills. Put that way, in my submission, there is no contest between the Government's solution and my own. I shall be most interested to hear what the Minister has to say in response. I beg to move.

Lord Filkin

My Lords, with that challenge I shall do my best, without much hope. We start by sharing the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, about spurious last-minute delays to removal when there is no merit or substance to them. In that sense, he is exploring similar territory to ours throughout this Bill: our objective is to uphold access to justice where appropriate, but not in ways that worsen the system. However, we do not believe the clause would be an effective solution, or one that is necessary, essentially because a process already exists for dealing with new representations made after appeal rights have been exhausted. Let me try to set it out.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, built on the one-stop appeal process first introduced in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. That process provides for, on application, one decision and one appeal, and it has worked. For example, an asylum seeker who makes a claim is required to provide all their reasons for wishing to stay in the country. Any new representations they make later will be considered under paragraph 346 of the immigration rules, to decide whether or not they constitute a fresh claim. If it is decided that the representations do not constitute a fresh claim, but rather simply further representation on the original claim, the Secretary of State may maintain his original decision, and so no new right of appeal arises. This decision can be challenged by judicial review.

If the new representations are considered to be a fresh claim, however, a new decision will be made by the Secretary of State that will give rise to a new right of appeal, unless the case is certified under Section 96 of the 2002 Act. Certification, as we recall, may take place where a new claim relies on facts that should have been raised at an earlier stage, and prevents any further statutory right of appeal to the appellate authority or the courts—again, as it should do, although there is still the longstop of judicial review where the Home Secretary is open to challenge that it was an unreasonable exercise of his powers under the statute.

Whether the approach is a fresh claim or simply further representation, the applicant has a remedy, be it a fresh appeal right or the option of applying for judicial review if appropriate. Let me speak to why this is not the scale of problem that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, may fear, and then I shall speak to why we cannot support the amendment, not only on principle but also on technical grounds.

In essence, the remedy of judicial review at such a late stage of the process is a relatively rapid one. We are getting such reviews heard within a very limited number of days in those circumstances. We are not experiencing such a volume of cases and such a delay that we think the existing legal remedies are being excessively abused or frustrated in ways that weaken the fundamentals of the asylum system compared to what we had experienced in the earlier stage of the process, which led us to believe there was a good case for ousting judicial review earlier on. The answer to the noble Lord's question on Report, which I recollect was "If you are against JR then, why are you not against it now?"—I am putting it rather crudely—is essentially that it was a problem there, but it is not a problem here. That kind of pragmatic judgment must drive our thinking.

To irritate the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, I wish to comment on the technical reasons why the measure is inappropriate. That is slightly unfair of me. Amendment No. 36 does not make provision for the other party to make representations and an ex parte paper review process is not appropriate in this context.

Amendment No. 36 would require the High Court judge to have to come to a final substantive decision without the benefit of representation from the other party. However beastly the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, may wish to be to the Home Secretary, I believe that he would not consider it in the interests of justice that he was not able to put his representations.

The amendment does not restrict the grounds for appeal on an error of law, which would mean that the High Court would be reconsidering errors of fact and law. It is an inappropriate court to test matters of fact for exactly the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, gave; namely, the administrative court deals with a range of issues and you cannot guarantee that the judge is necessarily an expert in the detail of immigration law. Amendment No. 36 would rule out the Court of Appeal involvement in the deportation process. It plays a useful role in establishing case law and providing guidance.

I fear that I shall certainly not have satisfied the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. Further, I suspect that I have not answered all of his probing questions, in which case I apologise. I shall seek to do better if pressed: otherwise, I may have to resort to the lame excuse of further correspondence, even at this late stage of our proceedings.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, I am extremely flattered by the Minister labelling my questions as probing. In those circumstances I shall do my best to disguise my deep irritation at his reply.

I accept that there are technical problems with the amendment. Indeed, I think that it could be truly satisfactory only if it had the attentions of the skilled parliamentary draftsman. Nevertheless, I remain perplexed at the fundamental basis upon which the Minister opposes it. I had understood the Government to wish to exclude judicial review from the asylum process altogether. They tried to do it illegitimately by an ouster clause. However, there is a legitimate way to do it, and that is to provide a comprehensive statutory procedure which expedites the process and yet, at the same time, is fair. I simply cannot understand why the process has gone most of the way to achieve that objective but has left this gap at the end. In my submission it is a big gap.

It may be that, in certain circumstances, the administrative court expedites these matters; but the fact of the matter is that an applicant is entitled to three months and he may well come before a judge who is not expert in these matters. There is a real danger that not just the issue before the judge, of deportation, is spoken to by counsel, but there is an attempt to rerun the whole case which featured in front of the tribunal. That would bring the system into disrepute.

I simply do not understand why the noble Lord—I do not, of course, question his good will—is not prepared to make the system absolutely watertight. In those circumstances I feel compelled to ask the opinion of your Lordships' House.

9.28 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 36) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 46; Not-Contents, 72.

Division No. 4
Anelay of St Johns, B. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Attlee, E. Crathorne, L.
Avebury, L. Falkland, V.
Barker, B. Fookes, B.
Bridgeman, V. [Teller] Garden, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Geddes, L.
Byford, B. Glenarthur, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Greenway, L.
Hamwee, B. Northbrook, L.
Howe, E. Norton of Louth, L.
Jopling, L. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
King of Bridgwater, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Kingsland, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B. Renton, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L. Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Lyell, L. Roper, L.
McNally, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Mar, C. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Mar and Kellie, E. Shutt of Greetland, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Stewartby, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Montrose, D. Windlesham, L.
Acton, L. Harrison, L.
Alli, L. Hart of Chilton, L.
Andrews, B. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Bach, L. Hoyle, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Borrie, L. Janner of Braunstone, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Jones, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. Lockwood, B.
Carter, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Carter of Coles, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Clark of Windermere, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Crawley, B. Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller] Pitkeathley, B.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Desai, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Dixon, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Drayson, L. Richard, L.
Dubs, L. Robertson of Port Ellen, L.
Elder, L. Rooker, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Rosser, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Sawyer, L.
Filkin, L. Simon, V.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Gale, B. Triesman, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Truscott, L.
Gilbert, L. Tunnicliffe, L.
Golding, B. Wall of New Barnet, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller] Whitaker, B.
Harris of Haringey, L. Wilkins, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.39 p.m.

Clause 29 [Entry clearance]:

Lord Avebury

moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 30, line 23, after "rules," insert—

( ) relate to an issue of objectively verifiable fact, and not questions requiring subjective assessment of evidence or intention,
The noble Lord said

My Lords, it should be universally agreed that the quality of initial decisions on entry clearance applications, the subject of this clause, is even worse than that for asylum. In 2002, 46.2 per cent of appeals against refusal of visa applications were successful, in spite of the fact that all of those appeals were dealt with on paper only. The percentage of refusals at the 10 overseas posts with the highest rates of refusal for non-settlement applications increased in 2003 compared with 2002. The independent monitor for entry clearance in her report published last month said that at any particular post: Systems need to ensure that any drastic increase in refusing applicants is reflective of the quality of applications rather than a more restrictive regime". Do the Government accept the recommendation that research should be conducted with that object in mind? If the Minister can give me an answer I would be grateful.

The independent monitor found on the basis of her sample that some 10,000 applicants were wrongly denied the right of appeal in 2002; a third of them students and two-thirds family visitors. She dryly remarks: Parliament may wish to consider this when and if consideration is given to removing other rights of appeal". Now we have the opportunity to do that. The finding shows that even where the criteria are objective, mistakes can be made on a large scale. It would not be sensible to grant the Secretary of State powers that could be used to deny right of appeal where matters of opinion or judgment are concerned, and entry clearance officers cannot even get it right when they have to decide whether a course of study lasts more than six months.

Apparently 3,000 students were denied an appeal because one module of their proposed course lasted for less than six months. Family visitors were denied because they were wrongly categorised as not having a qualifying relationship or because the ECO did not believe that they were related as claimed, an issue that should be determined by appeal.

It is wrong for Parliament to allow the Secretary of State to limit the right of appeal still further when he is not exercising the existing powers in accordance with the law. If we are to grant him an unfettered power to widen the list of those who are to be deprived of appeal rights, we should at least make sure that he can do so only on the basis of objective criteria, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said was the intention.

The Minister also said: The best brains in Whitehall are on the case. If we can clarify and make more transparent what we seek to do, to meet the points raised, we will do so".—[Official Report, 28/6/04; col. 85.] We on these Benches do not claim to match the expertise of the Home Office. However, if its officials have not come up with a solution so far, even if the amendment does not precisely achieve the objective that we share with the Government, by inserting the words in this clause we lay down a marker and give all those brains an extra few weeks to get it right in another place.

For the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, to suggest, as he did last week, that judicial review provides an adequate alternative remedy for those who may be unlawfully denied their appeal rights is fanciful; it has not provided a remedy for the 10,000 people who were unlawfully denied their appeal rights against a refusal of an entry certificate in 2002. No legal aid would be available for those proceedings and I do not know of any successful judicial review applications in relation to wrongful denial of entry certificate appeal rights. If it were a realistic option, hundreds of cases would be flooding the courts.

I refer again to the JCHR report because it said in relation to this clause that, Not providing a right of appeal in cases where the basis of the refusal is the failure to meet a requirement which turns on an objectively ascertainable fact is likely to be unobjectionable in human rights terms. However, the breadth of the power conferred on the Secretary of State by new clause 29, without specifying on the face of the legislation the types of case in which the power can be used, is a matter of concern. Parliament is being asked to authorise in advance a very wide power which is capable of being exercised in a way which may impede access to an effective remedy or unjustifiably discriminate between different classes of applicant for entry clearance".

It is common ground between ourselves and the Minister that we want the power to be exercisable only in relation to totally objective and ascertainable facts, which is what the amendment would do. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak to Amendment No. 38, which stands in my name and is grouped with Amendment No. 37. In moving his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly addressed the broad principle underlying this clause. When we first debated this issue in Committee on Recommitment, I, like him, raised the concern that we are being asked to sign a blank cheque for the Secretary of State to apply a refusal of a right of appeal in the future to such categories as he or she may designate.

I then asked at whom the Government were now aiming this provision. Was it aimed at alleged bogus students going to alleged bogus colleges? The Government said that it was. Therefore, my Amendment No. 38 continues to probe the mechanism that the Government intend to put in place properly to prevent people attending sham colleges. It is on that basis that I tabled this amendment for Third Reading.

Of course, we are aware that those who represent the interests of education in this country are fully behind the Government's policy to land a punch on the sham colleges. We have heard from UKCOSA, the Association of Colleges and ARELS, all of which are in favour of a proper policy. But they all have a difficulty in seeing how the Government's proposals in this new clause reflect a real attempt to cut down on sham colleges.

On Report on Recommitment, I asked what criteria the Government would use to determine a college's eligibility to get on to a register of bona fide colleges that the Government tell us will be operated by DfES but will be accepted by the Home Office for the purposes of identifying which colleges are all right and which are not. In response, the Minister concentrated on saying what the criteria would not be. He said that they would not relate to quality control or state what the level of education should be. I fully accept that because it is not the duty of the Home Office to determine the quality or level of education in either privately or publicly funded establishments.

Surely we should have some indication from the Government of what their discussions with the DfES have thrown up concerning how a college will get on to a list. The Minister will be aware that the education world is concerned that the DfES may operate a list which will have fewer hoops for people to go through in order to get on to it. It will be easier for the colleges to get on to that list than it will be for them to get on the current Home Office list. The education world is saying that the Home Office's current list of bona fide colleges should constitute the minimum level of entry. Possibly the level set should be tougher than that, but that should certainly be the minimum level of entry.

One particular concern is that the information from the DfES so far leads some people to believe that it may be sufficient for an organisation or company acting as a college simply to say, "Here are our company accounts. We can prove that we are trading". What we need tonight is an assurance that that will not be sufficient. As we know from apocryphal stories that have come before noble Lords, some organisations can produce trading accounts that, in anyone's view, would be considered to be those of a bogus college. We would not want people to gain right of entry if they were allegedly attending such a college.

I also asked the Minister whether he could give an assurance that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate would provide colleges with a list of students who had been issued with visas on the basis of an offer letter from a college. I asked that because it was something that the colleges specifically wanted to see in place. The Minister replied that the DfES was consulting representative bodies from the education sector on this matter. He said that he could not give an assurance about how the system would operate because the detail was still being worked out. Therefore, at this late stage—it is only a week later, I know—I am asking whether the Minister has any further and better particulars on the matter.

The Minister has been playing a straight bat in telling the House that many of these policies are still under discussion. This is our last chance to obtain from the Government an account of their progress. As other noble Lords have commented today, my honourable and right honourable friends in another place will have but a limited time in which to consider these matters when they go to another place. Therefore, I think it is right that we ask the Minister to update us on how far we have progressed on these matters.

Lord Rooker

My Lords, perhaps I can with the leave of the House and a bit of goodwill put two paragraphs on the record. That will save writing letters—there are delays with letters in the post, as we know The noble Countess, Lady Mar, is still in her place and I hope I can give her a decent answer. She thought the last one I gave was appalling. She asked me if paragraph 284 of the immigration rules works. Yes it does.

Paragraph 284 of the immigration laws requires that persons applying for leave to remain on the basis of marriage to a British citizen or persons settled here have extant leave to remain in the UK and have been granted over six months leave since the date that they were admitted.

However, paragraph 284 does not affect the spouses of European economic area nationals. It is the act of marriage that gives the right of residence and not the act of the Home Office granting leave. I have probably explained that inadequately. It is working but it does not do the job that we intended it to do.

In his absence I would also like to answer the specific question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, about paragraph 46 of the JCHR report. Bearing in mind that it will be pretty quick when the other place gets this, it is important to get an answer on the record. The report said that the legislation was silent about the purpose of the open-ended power to exempt certain classes of individuals, and so on, from the new requirements.

The answer—my brief says "line to take" here—is that the power to exempt certain categories of persons can be found in subsections(3)(c) of Clauses 19,21 and 23. At present the Government envisage that persons with settled status in the UK will be exempted from the requirement for entry clearance or the certificate of approval. We do not feel that it would be appropriate to state this category of person on the face of the Bill. By leaving it to secondary legislation we are able to then consider the effectiveness of the measures and who it would be appropriate to exempt, taking into account fluctuations in the sizes of categories and future changes in immigration rules. I hope that answers the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lester.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I refer to the Minister's reply to me. If that provision works for people marrying British citizens, why do we not apply these clauses to those marrying EEA nationals?

Lord Rooker

My Lords, that was probably the original question that the noble Countess, Lady Mar, asked in Committee. It is not possible to do that as it would mix up European and UK legislation. That is the point at issue. There is a route through. We have clearly stated that people can nip off to France or Germany, get married and go through the route that way. We are not blocking it off. We are doing our best to put a hurdle against some of the alleged sham marriages. Nobody says that it is perfect and completely blocks everything off.

I turn to these two amendments, with which I will deal in reverse order. I have already spoken at some length about the Government's intention to address the problem of students who enrol at bogus colleges, or at establishments that do not maintain proper attendance checks. This amendment resembles closely the amendment that was withdrawn. I understand why it has been placed on the agenda tonight, I have no problem about that.

The amendment places on the face of the Bill the Government's intention to create a register of bona fide or approved colleges, and of making enrolment at a registered college a requirement of the immigration rules. The order-making power provided by new Clause 29 could then be used to specify this requirement. The consequence of such a specification would be that an entry clearance application refused on these grounds would not attract a right of appeal. This revised amendment makes it clear that the registration requirement should not affect persons domiciled in an EEA state.

I am not entirely clear as to the reason for this reference to domicile in the EEA. European economic area nationals travel freely to the United Kingdom without the requirement for prior entry clearance. A non-European economic family may require an EEA family permit before travelling to the United Kingdom.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, with great apologies to the Minister, it was only when he expressed his puzzlement just now that I re-read the wording of the amendment. What I tabled was, who is not normally domiciled in an EEA state", rather than, who is normally domiciled in a non-EEA state".

There has been a trifle of a mix-up in the typing here. It is one of those dreadful things: when I read something in the Marshalled List I see what I think should be there, not what is there. It is my fault and I apologise to the Minister.

Lord Rooker

My Lords, in that case I can move on. During our debate on 28 June a number of questions were raised about the operation of a register of educational establishments. I should like to answer those concerns because the Bill will return to the other place fairly soon. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, has expressed the view that there should be a right of appeal for establishments not included in the register. As I explained, the Department for Education and Skills is consulting on the detail of how the register will operate and will be considering whether there should be a right of appeal as part of that consultation.

The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount seeks to place the responsibility for a register of bone fide educational establishments in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Department for Education and Skills is responsible for education and skills within England and it is therefore appropriate that any register which records the existence of learning providers be owned by the department with those responsibilities. Much of the information needed for the register relating to publicly funded providers is already held within the Department for Education and Skills and it already has strong working links with those bodies responsible for accreditation of private providers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, asked whether there would be consultation on the register in Scotland. Once the register is operational, the Home Office will need information about all education providers in the UK and the Department for Education and Skills and the Home Office are therefore in consultation with the devolved administrations to ensure that that is achieved.

I can therefore assure the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount that the proposition in Amendment No. 26—the original Amendment No. 26—that the power in Clause 29 could be used to specify a requirement relating to approved educational establishments is one with which the Government are in full agreement. It can be achieved using Clause 29 as drafted. We do not consider that it is necessary to refer to the example on the face of the legislation.

The noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Avebury, have tabled an amendment that seeks to ensure that the order making power in Clause 29 could be used only in relation to requirements under the Immigration Rules which relate to an issue that is objectively verifiable and factual, and not to questions which require subjective assessment of evidence and intention.

I agree with much of the thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said in his opening remarks. We want this to be highly targeted and precise so that there is no argument; otherwise, it would be grossly unfair if the matter were subjective. After the previous debate, we agreed to consider whether Clause 29 could be amended so that the only grounds that could be specified by order are those that relate to a factual requirement of the Immigration Rules. We explained that it would be difficult to define what was meant by "factual". However, we made it clear that we were sympathetic to the principle behind the suggestion; namely, that the power should be used only in relation to requirements of the rules which concern a simple question of fact.

We explored the suggestion with parliamentary counsel but concluded that Clause 29 should not be amended in the manner suggested. For similar reasons we are resisting this amendment. Inserting the word "factual" or referring to "objectively verifiable facts" would not give effect to the principle behind the suggestions. We reached the same conclusion when, previously, we considered using the word "objective". All the Immigration Rules could be described as relating to factual matters or as being objectively verifiable. The question is the extent to which there is room for debate—the noble Lord gave a couple of examples in his opening speech—and thus scope for appeal, in coming to an objective conclusion about a factual matter. Generic limitations of the kind suggested would not necessarily prevent the use of the power in relation to requirements which we would have no intention or wish to include. Whether or not the right of appeal against a refusal of entry clearance on a particular ground should be removed is best judged on a case-by-case basis. That is the effect of Clause 29 as drafted. It requires the Secretary of State to specify by order the grounds in relation to which he intends to remove the right of appeal. The affirmative resolution procedure will ensure that both Houses will be able to consider whether the grounds specified are appropriate for the use of the power. No Minister would want to be embarrassed at the Dispatch Box unless a robust order, which cannot be picked apart, is brought before the House. We would certainly want the order to include consideration of the specific provisions of the immigration rules to which those grounds relate. That would also include consideration of the need for subjective assessment of evidence or intention in relation to those immigration rules.

10 p.m.

We have given assurances that we would not wish to use the power in relation to requirements under the immigration rules which are particularly open to assessment or argument. If the power were used inappropriately, the relevant order, as I have said, could be subject to challenge by way of judicial review. I know the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that was fanciful. It would not take many such cases by concerned people and organisations outside to start to clog up the system. That would be acutely embarrassing to both the Home Office and the Government, bearing in mind the commitments I have given at the Dispatch Box, which will be repeated in the other place in the next few days.

There are some grounds for refusal which are straightforward and self-evident, where there should be limited scope for appeal. I have a fresh example to give. It is a fair example and I offer it for the record. The requirements to be met by applicants wishing to set up as a businessperson are set out in paragraph 200 to 210 of the immigration rules. These include the fact that the person has at least £200,000 of his own money to invest in the business. The availability of funds is assessed through scrutiny of the applicant's business plan and supporting documents such as financial accounts. Checks are also made to ensure that funds are the applicant's own and not from another source, and that they are entirely under the applicant's control. Applications can be, and have been, refused solely on the grounds that the applicant has not provided sufficient evidence that he is investing not less than £200,000 of his own money directly into the business in the UK.

There is not much more to report on the compiling of the register, as I indicated last week. I hope that I have been able to reinforce our intention about the way this new power will be used. We are working with the English language sector to encourage comprehensive accreditation of English language schools so that, in due course, visas will be issued only to English language students who are coming to the UK to study at an accredited school. A point was raised—and I regret I did not make a note of it during the speech—asking about the cross-flow of information so that schools know the names of the students who the Home Office knows. I gave a positive response to that. Maximum transparency has got to be best for all concerned, and that is my understanding of the intention as to how this operation will work. Whether or not the position will have been advanced by the time this group of changes goes to the other place, I genuinely cannot say. The latest update on the position will clearly be given when these Lords amendments, as they will be, are moved in the other place in the next few days.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, it is not a question of argument whether or not we have this register of colleges which is approved on all sides by your Lordships. The only questions that have arisen again today are just how establishments will be put on the register and whether there will be a right of appeal against refusal to list a particular establishment.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has said that that would be considered for inclusion in secondary legislation. Clearly it could be limited to non-educational matters, such as whether proper records are kept and the hours that students attend, whether lectures are given in the subjects offered, whether examinations are held, and whether they lead to a recognised qualification such as the NVQ. All of those are legitimate matters of fact which should be specified. There will not be any difficulty in, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, put it, "landing a punch" on the sham colleges by listing the criteria which have to be satisfied by an organisation wishing to be on the list.

We were looking at something much broader than that. Until this evening, the only example that had been given of an objective and factual requirement was the colleges. Now the Minister has kindly given us another one, which needs a little analysis. As the noble Lord has said, whether someone has the funds to set up in business is a question of fact and that would be ascertainable by evidence submitted by the applicant in the form of a bank statement, for example. However, the noble Lord then said that doubts could arise on whether the funds were the applicant's own or whether they were under his control.

That precisely illustrates our point. If the entry certificate officer says that the funds are not under the applicant's control or belong to someone other than the applicant, but he has no objective reason other than his suspicions for saying that, then these matters ought to be subject to independent appeal. They should not be treated as objective and readily verifiable facts. That is the distinction that we have sought to make all along: between matters of fact, which are properly to be dealt with under this power, and somebody's opinion, assessment or judgment, on which there ought to remain a right of appeal.

If this example had been given to the JCHR and it had been able to consider it as part of its scrutiny of the legislation, it might have said, as I do, that the example demonstrates our doubts about leaving the clause as it is. I did not understand the noble Lord's explanation of why it was impossible to incorporate our suggested wording in the clause. However, we shall have to be satisfied with his assurances, which enable outsiders to rely on the Pepper v Hart statements that have been made more than once on the Floor of the House. If there are any further discussions on this, we shall have to leave them to another place to pursue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Immigration Services Commissioner: power of entry]:

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 38, line 34, leave out "or a justice of the peace"

The noble Lord said

My Lords, Clause 38—

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a minute? It is now five past ten. We had a very late night last night. Although I am not going to move the adjournment of the House, I should be grateful if noble Lords on the Front Bench would convey to the Chief Whip that the organisation of business should be such that there is an understanding that some matters take a lot longer to consider than others and that time should be allowed for them. I ask noble Lords to give me confirmation that they will do so.

Lord Rooker

Yes, my Lords, I will do that and I shall certainly speed up. There are about four items left and it would be a waste of time to have to come back on another day to deal with them, bearing in mind the time in the parliamentary year and the nature of the Bill. All that I have to do now is move three government amendments, all of which are concessions, so I do not need to spend much time on that.

The amendment ensures that in Scotland the matter and powers affected are solely the reserve of sheriffs. I think that will meet the points that have been made in Scotland. I do not need to read out the speech that I have. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister. It has been rather hard work to persuade the Home Office that there was a mistake in the Bill in this respect. There was never any remote chance that a JP should be dealing with search warrants in this way. I should like to record that we are very grateful for the change.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, the amendment ensures that in Scotland a sheriff only and not a justice of the peace will be entitled to grant the search warrant referred to in the clause. That was originally suggested by my noble friend Lord McNally in Amendment No. 36JA, which he moved on 27 April, as the noble Baroness will recall.

Inexplicably, the noble Baroness who replied to that amendment was wrongly advised by the Scotland Office and the Office of the Advocate General that provisions limiting the issue of such warrants to JPs occur only in legislation dealing with terrorism or firearms offences.

The Law Society of Scotland has cited three instances which go beyond those offences. Under Section 289 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the approval of the judicial officer has to be obtained for searches. Section 290 defines the judicial officer as a justice of the peace in England and Wales but the sheriff in Scotland. Under Section 17 of the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003, warrants for searches may be granted by a justice of the peace in respect of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in the same circumstances, warrants under Section 18 in respect of Scotland may be granted by a sheriff. The third example was the Extradition Act 2003, where, under Section 156, search and seizure warrants may be granted by a justice of the peace for England and Wales but in Scotland only by the sheriff.

It is not clear whether there is any recent precedent for powers of this kind being conferred on justices of the peace in Scotland. Section 8 of the Bail, Judicial Appointments, etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 defines two classes of justice in Scotland, and this may be the reason for the confusion. There are full justices and signing justices. The function of issuing warrants relating to the investigation of serious offences, including those related to asylum claims, should be undertaken only by the former. But there could be difficulties in making sure that only a JP skilled in such matters was approached if the class of justice was not specified, and that would subvert the intention of Parliament.

The Government really should undertake more and better consultation with authorities in Scotland, including the Law Society of Scotland, with a view to agreeing not only how this matter should be dealt with under the Bill but how future instances in legislation should make it more certain that the correct person be appointed as judicial officer.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 42 [Amount of fees]:

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 42, line 15, at end insert— () An instrument may not be made in reliance on this section unless the Secretary of State has consulted with such persons as appear to him to be appropriate. () An instrument may not be made in reliance on this section unless a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament (and any provision making the instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament shall not apply).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can be quite brief in speaking to the amendment because I understand that it has been very well trailed.

As your Lordships are aware, Clause 42 provides that the Secretary of State may levy a fee for certain specified non-asylum immigration applications at a level which exceeds the administrative cost of processing those applications, and which reflects the benefits that the Secretary of State thinks are likely to accrue to a successful applicant. We have had a number of useful and wide-ranging debates about the operation of this power and the safeguards in place. In response to a recommendation from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and to points raised by your Lordships in previous debates, we indicated at Report that we would be bringing back amendments to strengthen these safeguards.

In short, the amendment provides, first, that prior to the introduction of a fee under this power, the Secretary of State shall consult appropriate persons. Secondly, an order made under this power shall be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, requiring the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

For the avoidance of doubt, I will explain, if I may, a little about what consultation we have in mind and whom we envisage appropriate persons to be. I shall not use all my notes.

Prior to the laying of the order to levy fees, we will undertake all possible consultation with appropriate bodies. For example, where the fee is payable by employers, as in the case of work permits, we would expect to consult with a large sample of those organisations on the UK work permit database, members of the UK work permit user panel and sector panels, as well as representative organisations including the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the CBI, the Trades Union Congress and its Scottish counterparts, the British Chamber of Commerce, the Forum for Private Business, the Institute of Directors, the British Hoteliers Association, the Restaurants Association and the Federation of Small Businesses and others, to name but a few.

Where the fee is payable by individuals, we intend to consult with a wide range of representative bodies and organisations. These include, but are by no means limited to, the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, the Law Society, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, the Immigration Advisory Service, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Refugee Council, Justice, the Commission for Racial Equality, the International Bar Association, London Refugee Voice, the Association of Regulated Immigration Advisers and the Audit Commission. There will be a whole range of other bodies that will be consulted. I have listed some of those that have been consulted in relation to the education colleges. A fairly substantial consultation operation will be launched. In due course, details of the fees and how they will apply will come back to your Lordships' House because final approval will have to be given here. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak to my Amendments Nos. 41 and 42, which are grouped with the Government's Amendment No. 40. I begin by welcoming government Amendment No. 40, which was a result of amendments that I had pressed earlier when the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, was responding to them. He gave the commitment that is now being fulfilled. I was particularly grateful to the Minister for taking the care to give some examples of those bodies that can expect to be consulted as a result of the amendment. I fully accept that he was giving the House an illustrative list and not a definitive one, but it was helpful to get a flavour of the bodies concerned.

My two amendments seek further information from the Minister in two different ways. Amendment No. 41 would ask the Minister to tell the House what progress the Government have made on this matter since Report on 18 May, when I first brought the amendment before the House. A problem has been identified to me by the Refugee Children's Consortium: unaccompanied minors who are refused recognition as refugees, but who are given leave to remain in the UK, are now being charged under Section 5 of the Asylum Act 1999. They would thus face increased charges under Clause 42.

However, the very fact that they are charged at all causes a problem. Have the Government found a way of resolving it? Are they now in a position to give a satisfactory undertaking to vary the regulations to give effect to the intent which underlies my amendment; that is, to give an indication of when that may happen?

Like the Minister, I am not going to use my full note—I hope that the Refugee Children's Consortium will forgive me for that—but the nub of my question is whether the Minister is able to give an undertaking.

I turn to Amendment No. 42, which returns to a matter that has been previously rehearsed, but on which I have yet to receive a convincing reply from the Government. The amendment would put into the Bill the power to correct errors in the charging of fees. I am asking the Government merely to keep to a commitment that was given to this House by the now Lord Chancellor when was at the Home Office. He said: We shall ensure that when fee regulations are made, appropriate provision is made to deal with errors which may occur".—[Official Report, 12/7/99; col. 49.] So far, the Government have sought to reject the amendment on the basis that they can already make ex gratia payments if they wish. The difficulty has been that colleges are not persuaded that that brings sufficient certainty and equity into the process and I agree with them.

One example of an error is what happened on the admission of a student, who had her mother with her as a visitor to help to find somewhere to live. The student stamp was put in the mother's passport and the visitor's stamp was put in the student's passport. That caused all manner of problems. Too many students still receive the wrong leave for no apparent reason.

My amendment would not direct the Secretary of State to use his discretion in particular way; it is intended to be helpful. When I consulted the Association of Colleges and UKCOSA between 18 May and now, they were very much of the view that if the Government were unwilling to keep to the commitments that were so clearly given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, they would not be at all disappointed if I were to press the matter to a Division if I did not receive a satisfactory answer from the Government.

I have been talking to the Bill team between then and now as well as to the colleges. I pointed out that I hoped that we might get at least a little further information from the Government as to the robustness and the fairness of their policy. I have also pointed out to the colleges that, as the noble Countess said, given their timetabling, the Government were likely to come round at an exceedingly late hour, when there might be too thin a House, properly to reflecting the views of the education world. I think that that gives a big enough hint.

Lord Rooker

My Lords, I am going to take these in reverse order, the reason being that I have a 12-page speaking note on Amendment No. 42 but the nuts are in the last paragraph.

In order to address the outstanding concerns, Des Browne, the Home Office Minister of State for Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality, has indicated that he would welcome the opportunity to meet with a wide range of representatives to explore further what measures we might take to assist in delivering a more efficient and effective service, particularly to students in the education sector.

It is not a perfect service; it is getting better; we are working on it; we have hot lines all over the place; and we have been monitoring it since the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made his Statement. However, the Home Office Minister of State responsible for that, who, of course, takes full responsibility as the Minister should for all the defects in the system, is opening up his office for a grand powwow with all the interested bodies. I hope that is a sufficient answer on Amendment No. 42.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling Amendment No. 41 because it gives me an opportunity to state on the record the Government's position in relation to charges for applications for further leave to remain by former asylum-seeking children. While it would not be inconsistent with our international obligations to impose a charge on former asylum-seeking children whose application for further leave to remain in the UK is not based on asylum or Article 3 grounds, we believe this group is in many ways a special case.

We know, for example, that many of these applicants are in receipt of benefits and support from local authorities under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and would find it difficult to pay the fee themselves. Consequently, I can confirm that we agree that children, or all those applicants who sought asylum while under the age of 18 who subsequently apply for further leave to remain should be exempted from the leave to remain application fee.

However, as we indicated on Report, we do not believe that an amendment to Section 5 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 is the most appropriate means to achieve that. Section 5 enables the Secretary of State by regulation to provide for exemptions to the leave to remain application fee for certain immigration applications, including applications for leave to remain in the UK. We do not therefore believe it is necessary to amend the primary legislation and we shall, very shortly, be making an amendment to the Immigration (Leave to Remain) (Fees) Regulations 2003, which I understand is SI No. 1711, to achieve that aim. By "very shortly" I think that I am allowed to say this summer.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Carter)

My Lords, before I call Amendment No. 43 I should tell the House that if Amendment No. 43 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 44 on the grounds of preemption.

Schedule 1 [New Schedule 4 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002]:

Lord Clinton-Davis

moved Amendment No. 43: Page 45, line 23, leave out "(which may include provision for dismissal)

The noble Lord said

My Lords, I am deeply obliged to my noble friend for tabling Amendments Nos. 46 and 47, and with that I am happy to say that I have nothing further to add, except that I beg to move.

Lord Filkin

My Lords, I rise to respond to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, Amendment No. 43, and in doing so I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 44 and 49. I shall be very succinct.

We have listened to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and others in the House who are concerned that the term "dismissal" seemed to be inappropriate for judges who are, of course, office holders. Therefore we have replaced the word "dismissal" with the word "removal" and I emphasise that no removal can take place without the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

The second concern of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, was whether the concept of supervision might be seen to imply an interference with judicial independence. In response we have tabled Amendment No. 49, which removes that entire provision from the Bill, as it is no longer our intention that those matters should be provided for in rules. Instead, Amendment No. 44 specifies that the terms of appointment of an immigration judge may also make provision for training, appraisal and mentoring, which was exactly what we wanted to achieve in the first place. I have now made that more explicit. With these amendments, I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and the House are content.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Filkin

moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 45, line 23, leave out "for dismissal)" and insert "—

  1. about the training, appraisal and mentoring of members of the Tribunal by other members, and
  2. for removal)"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Asylum and Immigration Tribunal: Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provision]:

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 50, line 3, at end insert— At the end of section 2B (deprivation of citizenship) insert "(and section 40A(3)(a) shall have effect in relation to appeals under this section)."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, paragraph 4(b) of Schedule 2 empowers the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, in the event of a successful appeal against deprivation of British nationality, to direct that any order for such deprivation made prior to determination of the appeal is to be treated as having no effect.

The amendment will confer a parallel jurisdiction on the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in relation to successful appeals to that body against deprivation of nationality under Section 2B of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997.

This might be thought to be a minor technical amendment, and I suspect that it probably is, but it ensures that the Bill gives full effect to the policy on joining deprivation appeals with appeals against deportation action and/or certification, as the case may be, under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, whose daily passage I remember even now. The measure was described in detail at recommittal, and your Lordships supported it. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said at the time that they were sensible and overdue provisions that should be supported.

I want to make it clear for the avoidance of any doubt, because there will not be opportunities later, that the Bill does not alter the grounds for deprivation of citizenship. It is important to make that clear. The Bill does not have retrospective implications. It is not directed, for example, at Abu Hamza and his appeal. The changes in the Bill would make the procedure for appeals against deprivation of citizenship and the effect of such appeals not retrospective. Any appeal currently in progress will be conducted in accordance with the existing procedure. That is an important point; I would not want people to get the wrong idea. Furthermore, the Bill does not limit the grounds for appeal against deprivation of citizenship or take away appeal rights in those cases.

Deprivation of citizenship is one issue—but it does not necessarily mean that deportation or removal from the United Kingdom automatically follows. Each case will be considered on its merits and separate decisions taken about the propriety of deportation or removal, as distinct from deprivation of citizenship. There might, for example, be practical or legal difficulties preventing deportation or removal which would not prevent deprivation of citizenship, and circumstances in which the latter action would be desirable or appropriate notwithstanding the impossibility of the former.

I believe that I have milked everything that I can from this minor technical amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Filkin

moved Amendment No. 46: Page 51, line 14, after ""it"," insert— ( ) for "him" in relation to an adjudicator substitute "it", The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I speak also Amendments Nos. 47, 48, 53 and 54. These are minor amendments suggested by parliamentary counsel to tidy up the drafting of the Bill. I do not propose to go into excessive detail, but they all tidy up the drafting of the consequential amendments in Schedules 2 and 4 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

In Sections 85 to 87, all references to "adjudicators" need to be changed to references to "the Tribunal". The Bill already provides for changing "he" to "it" and "his" to "its". Amendment No. 46 completes the set of changes, by changing "him" to "it". Paragraph 20(e) of Schedule 2 changes the reference at Section 106(2)(e) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 from "an adjudicator for the Tribunal" to just "the Tribunal". Amendments Nos. 47 and 53 make the same change to a similar reference at Section 106(2)(f). Amendments Nos. 48 and 54 remove a reference to Section 101 of the NIA from Section 106(2)(m). Section 101 is being repealed by this Bill, as it sets out the old appeals structure. I hope that is sufficiently detailed to be clear. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, I do not in any way wish to alarm the Minister by standing up at this point. Of course I have no objection to these amendments being made. However, the moment should not pass without a comment that, at this stage of the Bill, on Third Reading, when we have also had recommitment of clauses, it is interesting that the Government are still able to find drafting improvements, however minor in nature. It is certainly important that they are so made.

When these and other amendments pass to another place, do the Government foresee that other drafting amendments may be made within the rules to their own amendments? As I understand it, the only way in which the Government may further improve the Bill is if they are able to bring their amendments back to this House in an amended form.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, since the noble Baroness has asked a question, perhaps I may be permitted to return to a subject I raised at an earlier stage of this Bill. When we have complex amendments of this kind, even though in the particular case we are talking about, as the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, has explained, they are minor and technical, there may be other instances where the effect would be more substantial. I said then, and I am sorry if I sound like a bit of a gramophone record on this topic, that it makes things much easier for noble Lords to understand if, in a case of this kind, Keeling schedules could be produced. The noble Lord is aware that that suggestion has been supported on all sides, and other noble Lords have said that it should be a common practice and not confined to a particular instance, such as we are discussing at the moment.

When the noble Lord comes to reply, I would be grateful if he would at least say that the Government would have a look at this issue. I am not expecting him to give me a definite answer this evening, or to declare of his own volition that Keeling schedules would also be produced by the Government whenever there is a case of complex technical changes to a particular clause or schedule, but if the Government would look at it as a general issue, I feel sure that it would facilitate the work of the House, not just on this particular Bill but in all future legislation.

Lord Filkin:

My Lords, as courteously expressed as that was, how else could I respond other than to say that we will most certainly look at the matter, with all the ambiguity that implies? I will be pleased to write to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, with a considered view on it. I do not mean to be flippant; I understand the point, and it would be proper to respond to it.

As for the teasing question of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about whether we think it possible to improve even further an almost perfect Bill, I shall say that the desire of parliamentary counsel to make Bills clear and unambiguous is a good ambition, but I am not aware of any further plans afoot, either by counsel or by the Government—but of course one never knows.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Filkin

moved Amendments Nos. 47 and 48: Page 52, line 37, after "(2)(e)" insert "and (f) Page 52, line 42, at end insert— ( ) in subsection (2)(m) omit the words from "(which may" to the end, On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Carter:

My Lords, before I call Amendment No. 49, I should tell the House that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 50 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, on the grounds of pre-emption.

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 49: Page 53, leave out lines 7 to 9. On Question, amendment agreed to. [Amendment No. 50 not moved.]

Lord Kingsland

moved Amendment No. 51: Page 54, line 35, at end insert "or lay The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, will agree that Amendment No. 51 is consequential upon the vote taken on 7 June, which is recorded at col. 51 of Hansard. I beg to move.

Lord Filkin:

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that Amendment No. 51 is consequential. Having said that, I think the House would have recognised when we discussed previous stages of the Bill that we had considerable concerns not simply about the House's insistence that lay members should be retained but also about the intersection of that with the three member tribunals. It was that latter point—the two matters are interconnected—that caused us particular concern as it appeared to us that it significantly fettered the proper discretion of the president of the tribunal. I say that to be clear regarding the weight of our concerns and to give a slight hint of what is going on in our minds in that respect.

Lord Kingsland:

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his response to the amendment. I am, indeed, aware of his concerns about its implications on the discretion of the president of the tribunal. I hope that in the few days that lie between now and the next phase, in another place, the Minister will consider what alternatives might be put forward to the draft of the Bill.

Lord Filkin:

My Lords, I accept that this is a consequential amendment, as previously indicated.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Repeals]:

[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Lord Filkin moved Amendments Nos. 53 and 54: Page 62, line 41, after "(2)(e)" insert "and (f) Page 62, line 42, at end insert— ( ) in subsection (2)(m), the words from "which may" to the end, and On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Rooker:

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Rooker.)

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My Lords, I think it may be appropriate at this time, as this has been an unusual Bill, for me to say one or two words upon its passing. I know that it has been the view of the usual channels over the past three years that there should not be long speeches at this stage. I well remember that the previous Leader of the House, who is much missed, made it clear that one should be as brief as possible.

However, it has been an unusual Bill in that we have had recommitment of significant new policy issues. The Minister will be aware that it is sometimes difficult in those circumstances for outside organisations properly to brief these Benches on their concerns. Of equal concern, it must be difficult for them to brief the Government and for those discussions to go forward in an appropriate way.

That is a matter which I hope the Government will seek to try to avoid in future. However, we are realistic and we appreciate that all governments at some stage wish to use a Bill as a passing vehicle in which they feel they must put their policy because one may not appear again in the near future.

I appreciate that the Government have made it clear that they wish this Bill to be on the statute book before the House rises for the Summer Recess. I know that my honourable and right honourable friends in another place would wish me to make it clear that we have no intent now, nor ever have had any intent, to delay this Bill. Our view has always been that the Bill should be given the proper scrutiny that this House, but more particularly the public, deserves.

Lord Avebury:

My Lords, may I add a word to the remarks made by the noble Baroness, conscious of the fact that we are under the strict injunction not to speak for very long at this stage?

I could not refrain from saying how grateful we are to the Ministers' offices—and I speak in the plural because we have had many letters from the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and from the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, during the course of these proceedings—which have assisted us enormously in making better contributions than we could otherwise have done, and in understanding more what is in the minds of Ministers.

I remember that, when I first came into this House years ago, one would not have dreamt of receiving letters of that kind from Ministers or of having the kind of communication that we have had with the Bill team. We have therefore made progress. This has assisted the work of the House and improved the general parliamentary process.

We realise that it places an enormous workload not only on those who are in the Minister's offices but also on those who stand behind them in the Bill team and in their departments. We would therefore put on record our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and his colleagues and to those in his department who have served them so well during the course of these proceedings.

Lord Rooker:

My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the contributions of noble Lords. I would briefly put on record my thanks for the support I have had, having returned to do some Home Office business in this House for the first time in a few years. It is a very complicated Bill with many aspects of policy. It is a large Bill team and I pay thanks to them and to my own private office in the ODPM, which has facilitated communication between two government departments. It has enabled me from time to time to share some of the Government's views with the House. I am extremely grateful for what has been said and I thank everyone concerned.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.