Lord Kingsland (Shadow Lord Chancellor, Parliament; Conservative)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, was right in saying that there has been a considerable amount of beneficial flexibility as the Bill has moved through your Lordships' House and another place. The issue of time has been, in my submission, the one exception to that.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, that the time limits should be demanding. In Committee, we ourselves tabled an amendment suggesting a limit of seven days; but it is our view that setting a limit of five days goes too far.
There are many circumstances in immigration appeals in which it is necessary to switch from a legal adviser who has a general practice in immigration law to an adviser who deals with very special issues. It would be extremely difficult to make such a switch within as tight a timetable as five days.
Moreover, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, although appeals can only be on the basis of an error of law, there are many occasions when, to make out an appeal on an error of law, a legal adviser has to study in considerable detail the factual structure of the case to determine whether a perverse decision was reached with respect to the evidence.
We must not forget, either, that, on occasions, the consequences of a wrong decision for an applicant are very serious if he is returned to a country that is determined to incarcerate him for a long period or to put him to death. We must remember that those applicants often do not speak any English.
In all those circumstances, it is our view that the limit of five days ought to be considered again by the Government and extended. We on these Benches will support the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in his amendment.