Those who obtain leave to apply for judicial review of a decision about their immigration status cannot expect automatically to be allowed to stay here until proceedings are completed.
Will the Minister reconsider that reply and give a clear undertaking that anyone who has sought to apply for a judicial review, or has been granted one, will not be removed or deported until those procedures have been exhausted? I urge him to reconsider, following the passing of the Immigration Bill, because it will impose important new restrictions. I believe that the implications of my request are most important, in terms of natural justice, for those who are faced with very great difficulties.
There is nothing new about this. In his statement to the House on 3 March 1987 my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it plain that this would be our procedure in cases of those applying for asylum, for example. There may he cases in which the interests of maintaining proper immigration control will make early removal necessary. I am sure that the right approach is to deal with each case carefully according to its individual circumstances.
Are not applications for judicial review sometimes used by illegal immigrants simply as a delaying tactic? Will my hon. Friend tell the House the average time span between an application for judicial review and the eventual decision?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Leave to move for judicial review can be used simply as a means of delaying removal and thus of staying longer in this country. If a case is taken to the Court of Appeal or to the House of Lords, delays of four to five years may occur before removal takes place. Even in the case of an application to the Divisional court, the time taken to bring the case to a hearing can often be as long as two years.
Is the Minister aware that the Master of the Rolls in the Swati case indicated that premature removal of a person might deprive the courts of jurisdiction in such cases? Bearing in mind that the powers of Members of Parliament to make representations are under continual threat from the Government, and that the Home Secretary has said that not all cases will be referred to the United Kingdom Immigrants' Advisory Service referral system, what effective safeguards does the Minister intend to introduce to ensure justice for genuine visitors or asylum seekers who wish to appeal?
I have no doubt that there is genuine justice at the moment. We have a superstructure of appeals in this country which has little parallel in other Western countries. That superstructure is such that, through using the system, people are often able to abuse it and to stay for much longer in this country than is justified. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have not yet had cause to remove or deport anyone in the circumstances that I outlined in my original reply. It is correct to reserve the right to do so in future and to have regard to individual cases.