HL Deb 20 March 1997 vol 579 cc77-8WA
The Earl of Denbigh

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they have taken in response to the recommendations made by Dame Elizabeth Anson in her Reports as the Independent Monitor of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs sets great store by Dame Elizabeth's reports, and, following annual publication, circulates guidance to all entry clearance posts to ensure that her recommendations are implemented. All entry clearance staff are expected to read the report. My officials in the UK examine Dame Elizabeth's recommendations in detail, and change procedures where necessary.

The independent monitor rightly considers that improved training will contribute significantly to improvements in our entry clearance operations. Acting in response to her reports, we have significantly broadened the scope of our training of entry clearance staff. Training courses and guidance have been introduced to develop the skills of entry clearance managers, locally engaged entry clearance support staff and interpreters. In her 1996 report Dame Elizabeth expressed her satisfaction with the improvements we have made to the training of our entry clearance managers and officers.

We have also worked hard to meet the improved administrative standards set by the independent monitor. Increased access to IT is a continuing priority, and improvements we have made are already paying dividends. Administrative systems designed to speed up, and improve the quality of, the entry clearance process, such as the preliminary assessment system and automatic review of refusals, have been introduced and improved after recommendations in the Independent monitor's report.

It is inevitable that some recommendations cannot be enacted immediately. This is true of those concerning applications by elderly relatives and couples seeking infertility treatment. However, work is in hand on both, as a result of which guidance to staff will be amended.

Dame Elizabeth wrote in her 1996 report, "I am satisfied that in the three years I have monitored the standards and performance of the system of granting and refusing temporary visas, there has been a general improvement in the whole process of applying and being granted or refused a visa." I know that Dame Elizabeth also is satisfied that entry clearance staff are acting within the law, and in accordance with their obligations under the Citizen's Charter, in the discharge of their responsibilities. We take heart from these acknowledgements of our efforts, and will strive to meet the independent monitor's recommendations in the future.