Access to Legal Advice

New Clause 2 – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 21st January 1992.

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'.—(1) A person who is in detention at a port of entry, an immigration detention centre, or other premises and is making an asylum claim shall be entitled, if he so requests, to consult a solicitor or adviser of his choice privately at any time.

(2) A custody record shall be kept for a person who is in detention at a port of entry, an immigration detention centre or other premises, and is making an asylum claim.

(3) A request under subsection (1) above and the time at which it was made shall be recorded in the custody record or record of the interview or the appropriate record of detention.

(4) If a person making an asylum claim makes such a request, he must be permitted to consult a solicitor or adviser of his choice as soon as is practicable.

(5) At any interview or hearing in connection with a claim for asylum a person must be permitted to consult a solicitor or adviser of his choice, and must be informed of this entitlement in advance of the interview or hearing, in the language of his choice.'.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The purpose of the new clause is, or ought to be, wholly uncontentious and wholly unexeptionable. Our intention is simply to ensure that persons seeking asylum in this country are guaranteed adequate legal advice and representation. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could oppose that proposition, or vote against a new clause that literally does no more than lay a requirement on the Government and their successors.

During our previous debate on the Bill, the Opposition took particular exception to many of the legal aspects. The argument was not about the propriety of keeping bogus asylum seekers out of the country; on that, all three parties are united. It was about the legal procedures whereby the process should be carried out.

I am happy to say—this is directly relevant to a measure that concerns legal provision and legal services—that in a number of particulars, all related to the operation of the law, the Government have capitulated over the past few days. The new rules—placed in the Library at midday, I understand, and thus available only to the most perceptive Members and those who read fastest set out a number of the changes in legal procedures for which we called. Let me give some examples.

The period in which an appeal may be mounted has been increased to 10 days. Applicants who arrive without documents—and who, originally, would be assumed to be fraudulent or trying to break the immigration and asylum regulations—will now be able to advance reasonable explanations of why their documents are deficient. Applicants will not find that the actions of other persons are held against them when they apply to remain here. It appears, at least, that oral hearings—about which we said so much on Second Reading, and about which my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) said so much in Committee—are to become more regular and more common. They may even take place invariably; no doubt the Minister will interpret the rules.

All those changes improve the Bill enormously. If I did not welcome them, I might even describe them as a climbdown. I have read with some amusement the comments that the Home Secretary made about our suggestions when we made them on Second Reading three months ago. None the less, although these improvements, or capitulations, are very welcome, they emphasise the basic principle that underlies the new clause: the absolute necessity for the applicant who takes advantage of the improved procedures to be provided with the legal services, counselling and representation that meet his or her needs.

To understand the present position, the House must remind itself of the history of legal representation and of the Government's attitude towards it. On 2 July the Home Secretary told the House that he intended to withdraw legal aid from asylum seekers. The green form scheme was to be abandoned for asylum seekers, particularly asylum seekers facing appeal. He said that the work carried out on behalf of many asylum seekers by solicitors acting under the provisions of the legal aid arrangements was to be carried out entirely by the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service—which I cannot bring myself to call "Yewkyass" because it sounds more like a Hittite king than an organisation in Britain in 1992.

4 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and I had the temerity to ask the Home Secretary, after he had made his statement, whether he was sure that that organisation was the best organisation to carry out the work, whether it had the funds to do it, whether it was equipped to do it and whether it was prepared to do it. With typical foolishness, the Home Secretary accused us of casting a slur on UKIAS by even suggesting that it was important to determine whether that was the appropriate organisation to carry out the work.

Today—far from insisting that UKIAS be the sole provider of legal advice for asylum seekers—the Home Secretary proposes to prohibit it from doing any of the work. The Government intend to remove altogether the refugee unit from UKIAS. A letter sent yesterday, and I think also received yesterday, from the Under-Secretary of State to UKIAS is adamant, specific and unequivocal. The grant which covers work done by and for asylum seekers is to be removed. The letter also threatens to transfer all UKIAS grants—that is, for work done with immigration as well as asylum seekers—to a new body.

That new body is not specified in the letter. I understand that the Government have not yet determined what that new body should be. That new body is to be set up, but under what constitution no one knows. All we know is that during the last four months the Government have moved their position by 180 deg. In July, only UKIAS was to be allowed to do the work. Now anybody else, somebody else, an unspecified institution, is to do the work because UKIAS is deficient in every particular.

We have to ask why UKIAS is deemed to be unsuitable to carry out these tasks. I doubt whether the Under-Secretary of State will tell us that it is because of its managerial incompetence, because the chairman of UKIAS is the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Small Heath division of Birmingham. I suspect that he will say things that are not over-specific and that he will leave us with the general impression that the Home Secretary and his colleagues are simply dissatisfied with the way in which the work might be carried on.

The truth of the matter is very different. The truth is that UKIAS rightly, in my view, stated within hours of the Home Secretary's statement that it was wholly wrong that one agency should be the exclusive provider of legal assistance to asylum seekers. One might argue that that was very much against its own direct interests. If UKIAS had wanted to enhance its status, or to increase its grant, it might have said, "We will do the work and we shall let nobody else do it." However, UKIAS said—in my view, wholly properly—that in this area it was important that a choice of legal advice should be provided.

Who can argue with the contention that a man or woman, threatened with a return to persecution or death, should have the right to make a choice between different solicitors and different barristers rather than to be allocated legal advice by and from an institution which I very much admire but which in the eyes of many asylum seekers, who have come not from democracies but from tyrannies, is funded by the Government and, therefore, is likely to be biased in the Government's favour? I certainly do not make that accusation against UKIAS. I have had nothing but help from the service in my constituency. The work that it does in Birmingham, the only area in which I have direct experience of its practices, is admirable in every particular.

However, we delude ourselves if we do not admit and understand that when a man or woman comes here from a tyranny or a totalitarian state and applies for asylum, the idea that their case for staying should be argued by an institution that is funded by the Government who are trying to prevent them from staying is a clear deterrent to their accepting the advice and going through the process. That was the view of the Opposition, the Bar, the Law Society and the Commission for Racial Equality. It was also the view of UKIAS, which said simply that it did not believe that it should be given the work exclusively and that the green form scheme legal aid should be preserved. That is why the Government have chosen to take the work away from it.

One option open to the Government was to lose face by admitting that they were wrong in July and saying that, while UKIAS goes on with much of the work, the legal aid green form provision will continue. That would have been the sort of climbdown that the Home Secretary does not enjoy, even though he has become increasingly used to that over the past six months. That, together with the other five capitulations in the regulations, would, I suspect, have been too much for the Home Secretary to swallow. Therefore, the organisation is to have its powers to provide legal assistance for asylum seekers removed and it has been threatened with the total removal of its grant, which would mean that it would virtually come to a halt and be destroyed.

I do not want to detain the House with procedural questions, but there is the question of the letter between the Under-Secretary and UKIAS which was sent yesterday and which will be the subject of some debate as the new clause is discussed. I assume that if the Minister refers to it, that paper, being an official document written by a Minister of the Crown, must be put in the Library and made available to all hon. Members. Anyone who reads the letter will understand that, as was the case in the autumn, the Government are again threatening UKIAS. They are saying, "Do what we require of you, act as our agent, or your grant will be totally removed and your existence will, at least, be threatened, and you will probably be obliterated." That is intolerable for a Government relationship with an agency that spends much of its time arguing against Government decisions on immigration and asylum. The United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service should not be the creature of the Government. Its nature should be independent. That is an example of the standards that are now common under this Government; an agency that they fund has to bend to the Minister's will or its funds are arbitrarily removed.

The Under-Secretary should announce—I doubt whether he will, and it will be left to us to introduce the proper procedures in two or three months—that the Government will bite the bullet and accept the error. He should say that legal aid will continue to be made available to asylum seekers entering this country and appealing against orders for their exclusion. Having made it clear that legal aid will remain, he should then say that UKIAS shall continue to do the work that is freely given to it by asylum seekers who choose the legal route. I do not mind if he also says that he is interested in the central administration of UKIAS or that he wants the Government auditors to keep an eye on how the money is spent. That is a normal, sober and sensible provision when Government grants go to outside agencies. However, the principle is clear: legal aid should remain and a man or woman under threat should be enabled to choose the representation that they think best suits their case.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

The right hon. Gentleman talked about choosing representation. It has never been open to an immigrant appellant asylum seeker under ordinary immigration rules to have representation paid for by the state from legal aid, which is what the right hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting. It has always been that representation before a tribunal would be paid for when it was an immigration tribunal, but only through UKIAS. That was the arrangement when the Labour Government were in office. Has the right hon. Gentleman now abandoned that practice and is he saying that UKIAS will no longer have the monopoly of free representation as it does now, or has he confused himself about legal aid and green forms, representation and advice? It sounds as if he has from what he is saying?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I have not confused myself, but I fear that I have confused the Minister. What I am saying—and what I repeat as my final word—is that we should revert to the system that operated successfully before the Home Secretary's announcement on 2 July. That announcement curtailed the green form scheme, abandoned legal aid—

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I am sorry to intervene again and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The green form scheme has not been curtailed. The Home Secretary's statement and the Lord Chancellor's statement contained merely a proposal to the effect that they were considering the idea. It has not been done.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The statement said categorically that it was the Home Secretary's intention to abandon green forms and legal aid altogether in this matter and to concentrate the entire work on UKIAS. If the Under-Secretary wants to pick me up on my tenses, he is right to say that it was not done then, but it was announced then. That is a distinction of such triviality that it does not profit the House to waste its time on it. The statement made it clear—and I shall read it to the Home Secretary if I get the opportunity to intervene again—that that was the Government's firm intention, against which I and my hon. Friends argued. It was an intention which UKIAS resisted, and it is because of that resistance that it is to be disbanded. If the Under-Secretary is saying that the Home Secretary never had any intention of abandoning the legal aid system altogether in this respect, he has only to say that he does not intend to do so now and we shall applaud that decision and expect him to support the new clause.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Lord Chancellor's Department)

The Under Secretary's statement was interesting because it seemed to say that the Government are beginning to think again about their express intention to remove the availability of the green form scheme to those who seek to apply for the status of refugee. If that is no longer the Government's intention, that will be broadly and warmly welcomed, not only by the Opposition but by all those outside the House who are concerned about the constitutional implication of the Home Secretary's announcement at that time.

There is an important constitutional issue which should not be forgotten. It should be the right of every person who seeks to avail himself of a remedy available to him in law to have available to him advice that is not only in fact independent but is perceived to be independent. The great problem with what the Government proposed at that time—we look forward to them announcing that they no longer propose it—is that advice from that quarter would not be perceived as being independent. It would not be perceived as being advice on which the refugee or the applicant for refugee status could safely rely.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made that clear when he referred the Secretary of State and the Minister to the fact that such people are coming from countries in which, very often, the rule of law has been abandoned and where they cannot rely on the protection of the courts or on the independence of the judiciary and the legal system. That makes it all the more important for us with our tradition of respect for the rule of law to be able to offer a service and to hold out a system that guarantees those applicants not only the fact of independent advice but the perception of independent advice. It is absolutely central to our concept of the rule of law and to all that the legal aid system has stood for. To renege on that—to appear to do so—is something that we simply cannot afford, and the House should not allow that to happen.

4.15 pm

Are we to hear from the Minister that we need not fear because, after due reflection, the Government have decided to abandon the proposal or, if not abandoned it, will ensure that the exclusive agency for advice—which particularly relates to the amendment—and/or representation can be relied on as being independent and perceived to be so?

We should be reassured on that issue because to those of us who observe such matters it appears that what is happening to UKIAS is an all-too-clear sign of the fact that when such agencies seek to behave and sound as if they are at arm's length from the Government—giving independent advice and expressing views that are not likely to find favour with the Government, of whatever political persuasion—their grants and functions are at risk—[Interruption.] It is all very well the Home Secretary muttering into what might in other circumstances be his beard but what, in fact, are his whiskers, but the perception of the House and the general public is that UKIAS is being punished for having dared to stand up to the Government when they made the proposal that they now seem to be backing out of—to remove the right of access to the green form scheme for those who seek to apply for refugee status.

The public and House are justified in their view. The green form scheme has served this country well, as it has those who seek to utilise our legal system. It would be a tragedy if it were to be denied any groups.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I hope that the Home Secretary is rising to assure us that that was never his intention and is not now his proposal. If it will assist him if I continue speaking a little longer, I shall happily do so.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The hon. Gentleman earlier claimed that it was the public perception that the Government would cease to fund UKIAS because that organisation did not agree with Government policy. May I make it absolutely clear that it has not been the policy of this Government or any previous Government to undermine the independence of UKIAS and the advice that it gives. All those who have been connected with UKIAS during the past few months will have regretted what has happened to it and its internal difficulties.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I see that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), who was formerly chairman of UKIAS, is nodding and I am sure that his view is shared by all hon. Members.

The meeting yesterday of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department with UKIAS was positive. It has been alleged that the proposals are politically motivated, but that is not so. I want to make it absolutely clear that the proposals that the Government put to UKIAS yesterday were fully supported by the United Nations convention on refugees. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will shortly tell the House about those proposals.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

The debate is useful and should prompt the Minister to give an early report on the state of play of the continuing discussions that he has had with those concerned about the provision of advice and the representation of asylum seekers. It is a late stage in the Bill's proceedings for us to be left in such doubt about the direction of the Government's thinking.

Some would say that it would be more appropriate not to proceed with primary legislation—changing the law so fundamentally, making a change of such substance—until the Government had a clear idea of the procedures that should be built in for the purpose of protecting applicants from the patently oppressive provisions that the Bill encapsulates. However, that is not the way in which the Government proceed. At least, it is not the way in which the Home Office proceeds. The Home Office announces its conclusions and then proceeds to rewrite them during the passage of legislation—and this is no exception.

What has happened can be explained in terms of the Government's uncertainty about the timing of the election. The initial announcements in July had more to do with the possibility of an imminent autumn election than with the need to bring forward precise legislative proposals. Indeed, when the next phase unfolded, an autumn election—a November election—was still an option, but that, too, was snatched away from the Government. No doubt they hoped that answers to the awkward questions raised by Members on both sides of the House would not need to be given before completion of the earlier stages of the Bill. This is a case study on how not to legislate. Indeed, the Home Office could provide us with many examples.

With regard to the substance of the proposal of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), the Government have a duty to give Parliament full answers to all the questions—questions raised in the Standing Committee and at other stages of the Bill—about the advice that will be available. There will not be an opportunity today to discuss in detail a subject that was debated very fully in Committee. I refer to the representation, advice and care that would be available to children coming into the country. The new clause refers to the age of those seeking such help, and it gives the Secretary of State an opportunity to say what particular consideration he has given to the representations made by the Save the Children Fund, the Children's Legal Centre and many other organisations that are concerned about the relatively small number of minors who come in without assistance, very often having been put on international transport by terrified parents anxious to get them out of danger.

There have been reports—one of them appeared in The Independent today—of an Ethiopian child whose mother was seeking to avoid his conscription to fight against the Eritrean rebels. No doubt the case has been brought to the attention of the Secretary of State. These are real cases. They give rise to great anxiety, and they merit special and separate Government consideration for vulnerable children—the people whom, above all, this House would wish to protect.

I hope that the Minister will be in a position to announce, in response to this debate, the conclusion of the Lord Chancellor following his announcement about the green form. That proposal has certainly met with uniform hostility from all those in this country concerned with the rule of law and with ensuring that the due process of law is followed.

The ability to obtain advice from professional advisers, or such advisers as the person in need of advice wishes, is an integral part of our judicial system and is essential if we are not to have a legal system very different from that which we have enjoyed in the past.

The Lord Chancellor has certainly been deeply concerned about the extent of increased funding required for legal aid, and quite separate proposals on that subject have been considered by the House on one or two occasions. As a result of the Government's decision, the Lord Chancellor has recently become responsible for the operation of these matters in the magistrates courts, and that may have opened his eyes to difficulties that have hitherto rested with the Home Office.

Great though the difficulties flowing from the expanded legal aid fund are, however, we must not allow the Government to whittle away the long-established rights of vulnerable people coming to our shores. We in this country have a record of concern that must not be diminished in the eyes of those who observe our affairs.

I warmly welcome the new clause and I hope that the Government will use the debate to explain in full where we stand before we proceed any further with the Bill.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

I must admit that I am attracted by the part of the new clause that says that the proposed report shall describe the arrangements made for ensuring that access to advisers and representatives of an applicant's choice is not hindered nor inhibited by the applicant's … age". Between Christmas and the new year, three unaccompanied Somali children arrived in my constituency. My local social services department has some experience of dealing with both unaccompanied children and Somalis. Somalis make up more than a third of the 89 refugee families, with 216 children, who have recently arrived in Bromley.

The social services department will be hard pressed, however, to find accommodation and adequate medical support for the children. Most of the unaccompanied children who arrive have substantial medical problems which are difficult to diagnose, and distinct linguistic problems arise in their dealings with doctors. There will also be considerable problems in fitting the children into our education system. They have little idea of how to cope with schools and no knowledge of the English language.

While trying to cope with those problems, my social services department cannot possibly hope to provide the children with sensible advice about asylum-seeking procedures. It is important that asylum-seeking children should be assigned special guardians to look after their special needs. If we did that, we would merely be following in the footsteps of our Community partners.

In Denmark, France, Germany, Holland and Italy, unaccompanied refugee children are already allocated a special person who is responsible for looking after their interests, both in terms of care and of asylum procedure. In several Community countries, such as Denmark, France and Holland, all the care and advice expenses of unaccompanied asylum seekers are paid by central Government. In France and Germany, there are special procedures for ensuring that a child's case is dealt with quickly.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to say something about the problem of advice for unaccompanied children. Sadly, the present situation is wholly unsatisfactory. We should follow our Community partners in assigning special advisers to unaccompanied children who arrive on our shores.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook 4:30 pm, 21st January 1992

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You, I think, agreed that the letter from the Under-Secretary of State to UKIAS of 20 January, being a document under discussion in this debate and an official Government document, should be placed in the Library of the House of Commons for general observation. That letter is one of a series of letters between the Minister and UKIAS. Do you agree that the entire series should be in the Library for hon. Members' perusal? I am particularly concerned about a letter of 7 October, which actually states in terms that, unless UKIAS accepts the Government's policy, its grant will be withdrawn, which is exactly the threat that the Home Secretary has denied was ever made.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The right hon. Member is putting words in my mouth. I did not make that ruling at all. It is not a state paper; it is correspondence. It has never been the rule for correspondence to be placed in the Library. We have yet to hear from the Under-Secretary of State exactly what the letter contains.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

It would have been much better, of course, if we had seen the correspondence over UKIAS, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has said, or if we had had a statement; hence my strong support for the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden). If, at the outset, we had had a statement about precisely what the Government intend to do about the funding of UKIAS and the future arrangements of that organisation, we would have been in a better position to debate the subject.

That organisation, with which I was involved—I have already informed the House that I have no involvement at present—has undoubtedly undertaken excellent work since it was set up in 1970. I was very pleased when my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook mentioned that he advised constituents to use the Birmingham office. As my constituency is in the west midlands, I follow the same course. I have had no complaint—none whatsoever —about the work that has been undertaken by the Birmingham office of the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service.

UKIAS was started when the appeal system was introduced on 1 July 1970. Some people have queried whether the organisation is independent. They have asked, "If the organisation is funded by the Government, how can it argue against the Government decisions?" There is no dilemma of course. Other organisations are funded by the Government—citizens advice bureaux, for example. No one questions the integrity of the CAB. Indeed, if there were no Government funding, it would be difficult for that organisation to exist.

The UKIAS was publicly funded and brought into operation as a result of the legislation of a Labour Government and continued by a Conservative Government, but its independence is not questioned, certainly not by Opposition Members. As I have often said, if one questions its independence, one has only to go to a hearing and listen to the UKIAS representative argue the case against the Home Office, and let me know whether the organisation is independent.

So we are not therefore querying the independence of the organisation. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook had any doubts at all, he would hardly advise his constituents to go to the Birmingham office of the UKIAS and nor would I. My right hon. Friend has made that perfectly clear and has taken the opportunity today to praise the integrity of the organisation.

As has been rightly argued by Labour Members, however, if UKIAS is the sole agency and if legal aid is abolished in such cases, people could come to a different conclusion. If people are forced to use UKIAS because there is no alternative, because they have not the financial means, the organisation may well be described as acting on behalf of the Government, however unfair that accusation may be.

This is an important point and it is why, in my view quite rightly, the executive of UKIAS, despite all the internal differences and the rest, unanimously came to the view that it was wrong to take on the work as a sole agency: it believed that, if it so did, its integrity and independence would be compromised.

The crux of the matter in new clause 2 is in the words representation from advisers and representatives of their choice". There is no doubt in my mind that, in the large majority of cases in which refugee asylum is being dealt with and in which appeals are to be heard or advice sought on the possibility of making an appeal, UKIAS would be used. But there is a difference between a large majority of people rightly choosing to use UKIAS and a situation in which they had simply no alternative. The statement of the Home Secretary to the House earlier certainly gave the impression that UKIAS would be the sole agency, and that is what we really object to. I hope that the point will be clearly established today that legal aid will be available for people if they so wish.

If the refugee section of UKIAS is not to remain in existence—I have not seen the letter but, as I said earlier, it would have been much better if we knew precisely where we were on this issue—and if there is to be a successor to UKIAS for refugee work, the House is entitled to know what will be the make-up of the organisation, what will be the management body, and what will be its relationship in its fund-raising role with the Government. These are important questions. The reason why UKIAS has had the confidence of most people over nearly 22 years is that everyone has known the position. There has been no secret. It has been funded by the Government—that was made clear from the beginning—and its make-up and internal decision-making has been, as it must be, a matter for the organisation itself.

I deplore some of the disagreements which have arisen in UKIAS. It is not unique: we even have disagreements, so I am told, in political parties from time to time. I deeply regret that some of these differences have come to the fore, and I wish that they could have been avoided. However, that is no reason—I hope that the Home Secretary is listening to my viewpoint—why the organisation should be discontinued. The Home Secretary is nodding.

If we agree that excellent work is being undertaken and that the staff are dedicated people who believe in the importance of their work and who feel an obligation to their clients—otherwise they should not be doing the job in the first place—it would be unfortunate if, because of some internal differences, which I hope will be cleared up—I understand that there is to be a meeting of UKIAS on Wednesday—the Home Secretary came to the view that the organisation itself, leaving aside the refugee section, should be dismantled. I hope that the Home Secretary will make it clear to the House today what he has in mind.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be able to comment on the activities of some of the charities that are concerned with assisting those who are applicants for refugee status. He may have noticed a recent report in the News of the World—[Laughter.]

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

An authoritative source. [Laughter.]

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

Opposition Front-Bench Members may laugh, but they should take such matters more seriously.

The article related to a gentleman who, in one of his guises, was claiming to be one of my constituents. His name was Mr. Avedila. He had not only an address in my constituency, but 14 other addresses. So far, it has been discovered that he has a total of 15 identities. In each of those identities, he was claiming the maximum benefits available. It appears that, apart from housing benefit amounting to about £400 per week, he was netting some £790 per week in other benefits—in 15 different names. I have conducted some investigations and have found that it is absurdly easy to do that—

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Apart from his anxiety to catch television prime time—perhaps it was an appointment in a television studio that prevented the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) from attending the earlier part of the debate what on earth has his contribution to do with the new clause? If I am correct in thinking that his comments are out of order, am I also correct in thinking that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will shortly advise the right hon. Gentleman that he is out of order?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

I must be very careful, but I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is using a particular case to illustrate a general point. So far, I have heard nothing that is out of order.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

Having been a Member of the House for 22 years, I am certain that, if the Chair believed that an hon. Member was out of order, the Chair would say so before being advised in general by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden). If you will forgive me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to advise the hon. Gentleman in a by-line that I have recently returned from my constituency of Chingford, and that that is what delayed me and prevented me from being present earlier.

My specific point relates to an organisation that is called the British Refugee Council which I understand is involved in these matters. Mr. Avedila had 15 letters from the British Refugee Council, all of which held his photograph, in 15 different names. In what I imagine is a standard form, each of those letters states: This is to introduce the above-named refugee who has applied to the Home Office for political asylum. In the meantime we would be grateful if you would consider this letter as evidence of our client's identity"— all 15 of them.

It seems extraordinarily easy to fool both the authorities and the British Refugee Council, because I am sure that that body was being fooled and was not conniving in such a dishonest trick.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

As I do not know the cases to which my right hon. Friend is referring, I am not necessarily sure that the organisations were conned. The letters may be forgeries. I am afraid that we come across forgeries in our police and detection work, and that those letters may be examples of it.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

In that case, I must ask my hon. Friend whether he will investigate whether those letters were forgeries—[Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is as capable of reading the newspapers as I am. I should like him to look into this matter and to tell me what steps he is taking to avoid such a matter recurring.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

Will my right hon. Friend accept it from me, as a member of the British Refugee Council, that that most honourable organisation would never connive in any form of illegal activity? Clearly, therefore, there may well have been a forgery, but what has happened would certainly not have been with the knowledge of the British Refugee Council.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I am grateful to hear that from my hon. Friend. However, what has happened suggests that it is all too easy to make forgeries and to fool the authorities. Perhaps my right hon. Friends could do something to improve the standard of checking such records.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I think that I can do without the hon. Gentleman's help.

As the House knows, it is extremely easy to obtain false documentation from the authorities. It is extremely easy to obtain false passports or even to have genuine passports issued to people who do not exist.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Where is the evidence?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

The Home Secretary is aware of these matters—

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I am grateful to hear the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) give his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) the advice that he should speak to the Chair—[Interruption.] Well, what is clearly extremely unwelcome to Opposition Members is the fact that there is a large-scale racket, of which Mr. Avedila is but one example of a so-called refugee who seeks to claim that status.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford 4:45 pm, 21st January 1992

No, thank you.

If Opposition Members would like me to elaborate at greater length, I could tell them the story of Mr. Williams, who was recently deported. He had been here illegally for about 18 months, during which time he had found gainful employment in the Department of Employment as an employment adjudication officer. In that role, he frequently adjudicated upon his own claims. He then went round at the weekends to collect his benefits from his accommodation addresses, many of which are quite well known. Those are matters about which my right hon. and hon. Friends should be—and, I know, are—concerned.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

First, I must apologise to the House for not being present in the Chamber for some of the earlier speeches. Unfortunately, however, I did hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). Given that he served in Cabinet for many years, I should have thought that he would be more objective and would not simply take as his evidence two cases from the front page of the News of the World. The right hon. Gentleman cannot even be bothered to pass on his information to the Home Office or the police, yet he extrapolates from that that there is a massive amount of fraud and a refugee and immigration racket.

For one moment, when the right hon. Gentleman first rose to speak, and given that he will not be standing at the next election, I thought that Daniel had come to judgment and that the right hon. Gentleman was going to show some concern for those who seek asylum in this country and who have fled from oppressive regimes that were supported by the Government of which he was happily a Cabinet member for so many years. Those people have suffered torture and all sorts of indignities and have missing family members.

However, the right hon. Gentleman chose instead to use the race card, which his party is determined to play in the run-up to the election, by extrapolating from those two cases that there is massive fraud in matters relating to refugees, thereby smearing the character of all those who seek asylum in this country, without any thought of the conditions from which they have come.

I might have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would draw the attention of the House to his views on the two new clauses, but I do not recall him even mentioning them. Perhaps he has not read them. Indeed, he does not appear to have a copy of them with him. That seems a strangely ill-prepared way to attend such a debate—without a copy of the Bill or of the Hansard of the Standing Committee, with Mr. Speaker's selection of amendments or copies of those amendments.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

The right hon. Gentleman has the News of the World.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

As my hon. Friend has pointed out, the right hon. Gentleman came with a crucial piece of information—the front page of the News of the World. We all know where he gets his information.

These new clauses are crucial ones about the right to independent legal advice. I should have thought that the right hon. Member for Chingford, who believes, apparently, in freedom of choice in all matters, would have supported the right of freedom to choose independent legal advice. But he does not do that; instead, he supports the Government's curtailment of that right. He supports the curtailment, apparently, of green-form advice, which I believe is largely motivated by the embarrassment which the Government have suffered from a number of very successful cases that have been mounted against Home Office decisions by law centres and legal aid practices throughout the country. That, I believe, is the motive behind what they are doing.

I believe that an important part of the first of the new clauses tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) is the independence of interpreters. While I am not denigrating individual interpreters working for the immigration service or the Home Office, many of whom work extremely hard and do a very good job, it is essential that those seeking political asylum have an absolute guarantee that the person doing the translating is independent, is fully aware of the importance of an asylum application, is fully familiar with the cases and is somebody whose background has been inquired into to make sure that he or she is not in a position to infiltrate the immigration service and pass information back to the regime from which the individual may be fleeing, thus putting their family at risk.

These are extremely serious matters. Anyone seeking political asylum is taking a major step. People arriving in this country for such a purpose have to go through a long interview procedure to process their claims. While that is being done, their families at home, in Zaire, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, or wherever it may be, are in great danger if the authorities in those countries find out that an asylum application has been made in Europe or anywhere else. We need to know that all those who are taken on as interpreters by the Home Office are responsible people and will not pass back that kind of information.

I heard what the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) said and I share his disappointment and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) that the amendments relating to the rights of the child have not been selected. When a child arrives in this country unaccompanied and seeking political asylum—in some cases, it is extremely obvious why they are seeking political asylum—it is very important that the child is treated properly, as any homeless or friendless child should be treated. We discussed these matters at some length in Committee.

I have had experience of children arriving in this country unaccompanied from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. They are desperately sad cases. They have come from a war-ravaged country where their parents or friends have thought the best thing to do is to get them on a plane to some safer place. That is not an unreasonable thing to do when one considers the circumstances in which they might be living. They turn up on church doorsteps in inner London hoping that the Church will be able to help them out in some way. Then there is a rather unseemly scramble, with London social services authorities passing the children from one place to another until somebody finally accepts our responsibilities under the Children Act 1989.

What we were looking for in Committee, and what the children's legal aid centre was looking for, was a declaration that the Government's signature to the United Nation convention on the rights of the child would be enshrined in the spirit of law in this country and that there would be independent panels that could look after the welfare of the children to ensure that their welfare was the primary consideration. That surely ought to be what we are discussing today.

These two new clauses are important, and the Government should be able to accept them, because they would ensure a right to independent legal advice and a choice of that advice. I am not condemning the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service or the people who work in it. I am saying that, as an organisation, it cannot cope with the work it has to do at the present time. No organisation could expand as quickly as the new organisation that is to be set up is apparently expected to expand to take on all this work.

I know from first-hand experience about the excellent work that is done by a number of legal aid practices and law centres in supporting asylum applicants. It could well be that the right hon. Member for Chingford and others are so offended by the success of those organisations and the ability of those individuals that they wish to curtail the right of people to seek that independent legal advice. That seems to me to be completely wrong. We should be supporting the right to seek independent legal advice in support of an asylum application.

Nobody who seeks political asylum does it lightly. It is a very serious step to take, with implications for the individual, his family and the rest of his life. It is not something that people easily embark upon. I think it is time that the House took the issue seriously and guaranteed the right to independent advice.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

I do not support the new clause, but I want to bring one aspect of it to my right hon. Friend's attention. It is the need, when an application for asylum is being considered by the special adjudicator, for a second interpreter. Denmark, which I visited to explore this very subject, uses this process. The Danes have made it quite clear—and I accept the arguments and the evidence that they have produced—that a second interpreter is absolutely necessary in the case of an application for leave.

The application for leave is a much more beneficial ground than most other countries in Europe give; it is a much freer ground. In this respect, we are much more generous in this country. But it is really important that there should be another interview with another interpreter, and that it should be before the adjudicator in the application for leave. I see my right hon. Friend shaking his head, but I hope that he will take into account what I have said.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

I, too, wish to apologise to the House for not having been present at the start of this debate. I was attending elsewhere to an immigration problem which was based on a misunderstanding between the Home Office and the Foreign Office. That is why I had to spend the last half an hour intervening and telephoning both Departments to try to deal with the problem.

I want first to say something nice about the Under-Secretary of State and, on the record, to thank him for his decision in the case of Younis Patel, who was in prison in Leicester for a number of months. The case was reviewed by the Minister and Mr. Patel was allowed to stay. That is the only nice thing that I propose to say about the hon. Gentleman. That is the only case of the thousands of cases that I have raised with him to which he has said yes.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

Well, perhaps we can count them on the fingers of one hand.

I want to comment briefly on the Government's proposals and to support wholeheartedly the new clauses and amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).

I believe that it is a fundamental principle that people should have access to independent legal advice. I make no mention of the crisis with the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service, except to say this. I have referred many immigration cases to that organisation. I believe that until very recently it operated perfectly properly. I have no great attachment to solicitors earning large sums of money dealing with immigration cases. I believe that there are many examples of people having to pay large sums to solicitors who are not experienced in immigration matters to deal with such matters. But until we have a system that allows properly resourced public access to organisations such as UKIAS, we cannot have a system that precludes people from seeking independent legal advice from private firms of solicitors.

The right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) may find this surprising, but I deplore the fact that some people who work in counselling services set up those services specifically to rip off people. That is utterly deplorable. If the right hon. Member has the evidence, he should place it before the Home Secretary, the police and other appropriate authorities rather than come here, in the time off that he has from his interviews on Sky, to make wild accusations about everyone involved in immigration matters.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Does not my hon. Friend consider it surprising that the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who always wants to lecture us about the rule of law although we certainly need no lectures about it from him, comes to the House with, I think, two cases where crookedness was involved? Instead of taking the cases to the police, as he should have done and as any other hon. Member would have done, and certainly to the Home Office Minister, he found it more appropriate to come to the House and read from The News of the World to get as much publicity for himself as he could.

5 pm

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. Photocopies or even originals of the News of the World, if they remain from last Sunday, are no substitute for evidence being placed before the Home Secretary so that appropriate action could be taken.

Hon. Members who are present all have a constituency interest in immigration. We know from our weekly surgeries the amount of work that immigration problems generate. In many respects we act in the shoes of solicitors and legal advisers because we have gained great experience in dealing with these matters. Rather than refer them to other people, I find myself, as I am sure my colleagues do too, making the basic applications for citizens who come to me in order to save them time, effort and money.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

Has not my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) made a powerful case for the use of fingerprints under clause 2? Was not that the main thrust of his observations? There is a very powerful case when a body like the British Refugee Council could be fooled. Is not the hon. Gentleman concerned that the true asylum seeker should be protected so that he is free to make his claim for asylum unhindered by the illegal actions of others who misuse the process?

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

We are all here to support genuine asylum seekers; that is why we tabled the new clauses. If the new clauses are accepted, we will make sure that genuine asylum seekers will be treated decently and will have access to proper independent legal advice.

Before I was elected to the House, I worked as a solicitor in a law centre in Leicester where I dealt with many immigration cases. Because of my constituency, since election I have continued to deal with them. The anxiety, hardship and distress suffered by people as they wait for decisions from the Home Office are obvious to anyone. We feel very strongly that people should have access to solicitors who have knowledge of immigration law, and who can protect people by explaining the difficult legislation and regulations dealing with immigration policy.

Over the past 12 years immigration policy developed by the Government has become more restrictive and hurts many people. When the Government introduce complicated legislation, it is only right that people should have access to those with basic information about it. UKIAS or another body should be developed on a national basis, with branches in all parts of the country. Certainly I should like to see a branch in Leicester. I do not see why my constituents should have to go to Birmingham or elsewhere to get effective legal advice. If we had such a network, we would be able to withdraw the support which we currently give to private practitioners, but the Minister knows that we cannot do so at this stage because there is no body of effective legal advice and opinion to benefit people.

I make no secret of the fact that we should have a public legal system in Britain, funded by central Government through law centres. Under that system, which we will begin to have under the Labour Government, we would not have to worry about dispensing public funds to private solicitors.

As to interpreters, I do not speak every language of the Indian sub-continent. I need interpreters in my surgery who can speak Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati, otherwise I cannot understand fully what my constituents are saying when they have complicated immigration problems. It is only right that we should put forward modest proposals to ensure that there is access to interpreters. I understand that even the The People has started to produce certain pages in Urdu. If that newspaper recognises the importance of doing so, Parliament should recognise its importance and it should be enshrined in the legislation.

I hope that the Minister will realise that we have made sensible suggestions. They would ease his load by giving people access to proper and effective legal advice. If they had access to interpreters, it would enable his Department speedily to deal with immigration cases.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames , Crawley

I should like to intervene only for a moment because I have an important constituency interest in that Gatwick, a major international airport, is within my constituency.

I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) about the anguish and anxiety caused to people by immigration problems. Inevitably it takes a great deal of time to go into these cases. It is right that they should he dealt with in a humane and honourable manner. In my view, the steps that the Government have taken, and are proposing to take, will in no way diminish the handling of the cases; indeed, I hope that they will speed it up and make it more effective and efficient.

May I pay a tribute to the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd), from whom I have always had the greatest courtesy and the most enormous amount of help in dealing with constituency cases. He takes great trouble over a seemingly endless stream of difficulties. I am grateful to him. I do not recognise in what the hon. Member for Leicester, East said about my hon. Friend any vestige of truth. My hon. Friend has been a staunch ally in trying to resolve difficulties as they have arisen for my constituents.

I should like also to pay tribute to the work of UKIAS at Gatwick. I have absolutely no doubt about its independence. I understand that the statistics show that UKIAS ranks ahead of other people in its success rate at tribunals—not that that is necessarily a good or bad indication, but it is fact. The House need have no anxiety about the independence of UKIAS. I understand the concern that people may feel about the proposed change, but I am content that it should go thus.

As to the unfair and entirely predictable venom that was poured on the head of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) a moment ago, it is increasingly impossible to have a sensible talk about sensitive matters without such abuse. My right hon. Friend was correct and was entitled to raise the case that he did in the House just now. We all saw it in the newspaper and there is great public concern. Many constituents write to me regularly, expressing themselves strongly and loudly of the opinion, or in some cases the fact, that there has been serious abuse of the immigration laws. We all know that it goes on.

All of us who have immigrant populations in our constituencies have become more adept at identifying dodgy lobbying. Over the last nine years, as I have dealt more and more with these matters, I have gained more experience. My right hon. Friend was right to air on the Floor of the House a matter which, however specific—no doubt it is being looked into by the authorities and by the police—

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames , Crawley

I am sure that it is.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. It enables me to say that I was accused of racism by Labour Members although I had not mentioned the race of the individuals in the two cases to which I referred.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I shall tell the hon. Gentleman a little more about the two individuals, if I may, in a brief intervention. One gentleman has fled the country of his own volition, using yet another identity. The other gentleman to whom I referred, Mr. Williams, was deported some little while ago, it being cheaper to deport him than prosecute him for the gross fraud that he has perpetrated against the United Kingdom.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames , Crawley

My right hon. Friend makes his own point.

These matters, however disagreeable they may be to raise in an individual context, are discussed in the pubs in my constituency, as they are discussed and debated at the Eton College debating society or the Liverpool polytechnic. Why should they not be aired on the Floor of the House? My right hon. Friend is right to raise in front of the—

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

We are merely suggesting that if the right hon. Member for Chingford has information he must place it before the appropriate authorities. That is what he should do.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames , Crawley

As I have said, I have no doubt that, given the scale of the fraud, the matter is being investigated vigorously. I have no shadow of a doubt about that. I am aware of cases in my constituency—of course they are rare—where the investigating authorities have gone into matters extremely carefully and at great length while being most careful to ensure that there is no publicity that would be likely to lead to prejudice one way or the other. The only point that I seek to make—

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames , Crawley

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not.

I wish only to make the point that I think it wrong that Opposition Members should seek to criticise my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford, who has fairly raised a matter that carries with it considerable concern in all strata of society. It is right that it should be raised on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Lord Chancellor's Department)

The objection is not that such matters are raised but to the poisonous or venomous manner in which it is done.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames , Crawley

That is precisely the point that I am trying to make.

I have seen my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford being poisonous or venomous, but neither poison nor venom did I detect when he raised a fair, sensible and extremely important matter that needs to be debated frankly and fully on the Floor of the House without the sort of ignorant, absurd and childish platitudes that we have so recently heard.

I have had regular and extensive contact and dealings with the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service as an ordinary Member who has regularly to deal with immigration matters. I am confident that when I recommend a constituent to see UKIAS he or she will be dealt with in an entirely independent and completely honourable and decent manner. I commend the work of my hon. Friend the Minister in that respect.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham 5:15 pm, 21st January 1992

I start by agreeing with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) that asylum seekers should be guaranteed good legal advice and representation. I have considerable sympathy for what the two new clauses seek to do. Before any fluttering expectations begin to arise in the minds or breasts—I do not mind which it is—of Opposition Members, I should say that I cannot advise the House to write the two clauses into the Bill, because they deal, for example, with administrative matters such as a once-off requirement for a report to be made to Parliament—new clause 2—and the keeping of a custody record—new clause 10—that should not be set down in primary legislation. They do so—this comment applies especially to new clause 10—in language that is more absolute then justified or practical. For example, new clause 10 provides an asylum seeker with the entitlement to consult a solicitor or advisor of his choice privately at any time. That would be unexceptionable if "at any time" were changed to "any reasonable time". The right of the asylum seeker to be informed in the language of his choice is too sweeping, though I accept the general direction of that which is sought. There are some languages that require interpreters to which we do not have ready access, though we always make every effort to ensure that we find an interpreter who speaks the applicant's language or at least one in which he or she is comfortable.

I have given some of the prosaic reasons why the new clauses should not become part of the Bill—

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Will the Minister give way on the provision of interpreters?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I shall not give way if the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask about that. I shall take up the matter more fully later in my remarks.

Mr. John Frase:

The Minister has referred to what he described as administrative matters that he thinks are not amenable to legislation. He has said that he is in agreement, but with some reservations, about the keeping of custody records and access to a solicitor of the applicant's choice. Will he give an undertaking that he will make administrative arrangements that will equally well put into effect the entitlements that we seek in new clause 10?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I can give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking—it is of the sort that I gave him in Committee—that I believe that many things should be done with the extra resources that we shall have, and in the context of administrative matters the care of records is relevant. We shall be able to undertake that task more fully and in a better manner in future. It is a matter of priorities. I undertake to examine all these matters to see what we might do. I cannot say that in an administrative context we shall take up every item that appears in the new clauses, at least not in the way that is implied. I am not against the general tenor of that which is sought.

I have set out some of the reasons why the new clauses should not become part of the Bill and now I shall say something about general intention. It is right that, for example, the House should be well informed of the arrangements for advice and representation. It is open to the House to ask for reports, and it can pose questions at any time. I believe that I am being asked a question on my meeting yesterday with the UKIAS executive council, and I have no doubt that other hon. Members have tabled questions. It is my intention to keep hon. Members informed of the temporary arrangements that will be made for the UKIAS refugee unit. This will be done by the best and most helpful means that are available to us, so that the House is kept informed at each stage. I shall deal with that matter more fully in my later remarks.

I look to the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook when I say that I am not clear about the precise intention that lies behind the phrase in new clause 2, which refers to satisfactory access to advice and representation"— this is for applicants— from advisers and representatives of their choice". Of course applicants may continue to have advice and representation of their choice; we place no limit on either. The present arrangements for representations are as they were under the Labour Government, which means that publicly funded representation, as opposed to advice, is available only from the UKIAS. Does new clause 2 envisage that legal aid will be extended to representation before the special appellate system takes effect? That would be a fundamental change from the practice of Labour Governments of which the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was a member.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I do not know why the Minister is making such heavy weather of this matter. I suspect that he is doing so because he believed what the Home Secretary said when he intervened. The statement made by the right hon. Gentleman on 2 July included the following two sentences: At present advice and assistance but not representation are available to those whose means qualify them under the legal aid green form scheme. We propose that in future advice and assistance, and where necessary representation before the immigrant appellate authority, should instead be provided by the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service."— [Official Report, 2 July 1991; Vol. 194, c. 166-67.] That can mean only that UKIAS was to be made the exclusive provider of legal advice. We are opposed to that. We wish to return to the scheme which was operated and was intended to operate until the Home Secretary made his statement on 2 July.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

The purpose of my question was to extract from the right hon. Gentleman what he thought was meant not by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department but the new clause. When I intervened in the right hon. Gentleman's speech he replied in such confusion that I thought it best to give him time to reflect, and to ask my question again later. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to abandon the arrangement with which Labour was content when it was last in power? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can answer that now. Is he saying that free representation—as opposed to advice—paid for out of public funds would continue to be a monopoly of UKIAS or some other similar organisation?

Alternatively, is the right hon. Gentleman implying—as I thought that he was in some of his remarks—that legal aid would be generally available to those appearing before adjudicators or tribunals, and that they could secure representation from any part of the legal profession?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I was not arguing—and never have argued—for the hypothesis that the Minister irrelevantly introduces. I want to see the status quo—the preservation of the system that the Home Secretary said on 2 July that he intended to abandon. I understood from the Home Secretary's intervention that the total abandonment of the green form scheme was never in the Home Secretary's mind. There is confusion throughout the House about the Under-Secretary's intentions. Does he or does he not propose to abandon the green form scheme totally and completely?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I am trying to tease from the right hon. Gentleman what he thinks is the meaning of the new clause that he invites the House to adopt. I understand that it would leave the situation exactly as it is now, with green form advice available from a legal practitioner or free from UKIAS—but with representation confined only to UKIAS or any successor body.

As to the Government's position on the green form scheme, my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that instead of an arrangement unique to the immigration appellate system, whereby public funds finance two sources of free advice—UKIAS and green form—they were considering concentrating the provision of free advice through UKIAS, so that only that organisation would be publicly funded to give advice.

My noble and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend made it clear that the green form scheme would not be withdrawn until a full, free, prompt, and convenient form of professional advice was available to every asylum seeker. They made it clear also, as they had to do because of the rules by which we work, that no such change could be put into effect without formal consultation and the consent of both Houses. Parliament will decide. The right hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to speak his mind and to record his vote if and when my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor brings forward considered proposals on the green form scheme. Until then, green form professional advice will continue to be available.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

It would be churlish of me not to say how much I welcome that statement, and how much I rejoice in the fact that to add to the four climbdowns that I announced at 4 o'clock, there is a fifth—the abandonment of the proposal announced by the Home Secretary in column 167 of Hansard on 2 July.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

That proposal is still under serious consideration. Laughter.] We would not make such a large change without formal consultation. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook may laugh. That is how he may see himself operating as Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor, but it is not how this Government's Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor operate. As to the climbdowns to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, they merely reflect the Government's success in putting in writing—and I agree that this was needed in some cases—the Government's intentions, using words that even the right hon. Gentleman could understand.

The timing of yesterday's meeting with UKIAS was not occasioned by either the imminent general election, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), or today's Report stage of the Bill. Because UKIAS's general council will meet tomorrow, I thought that it would be fairer to speak to its executive in advance so that it could report back, rather than have to wait until after tomorrow's general council meeting.

As the House knows—because I have said this before—whatever may be the difficulties, to use the word chosen by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), confronting UKIAS's general council and executive, its full-time staff give excellent and professional advice and representation. However, I have long thought that UKIAS's constitution does not sufficiently bring in the various bodies and professional groups concerned with asylum, effectively rule out conflicting pecuniary interests, or satisfactorily delegate its day-to-day running to its very good, professional, full-time management in the way that a well-run organisation in receipt of public funds ought to do.

For more than a year my officials, and latterly myself, and most particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—whose senior representative attended yesterday's meeting and shares my concerns and objectives—urged on UKIAS the need to introduce constitutional changes to remove the shortcomings that I described and to meet many of the outside criticisms to which UKIAS is subjected.

It is plain that, although there was, and is, wide acceptance of the need for reform within UKIAS, it was too slow in producing results. As I said, we have been talking to UKIAS about the need for reform for more than a year. I therefore told the organisations's executive that as the refugee section will need to expand to meet the requirements of the new appellate procedure and the increase in asylum applications, which will press upon UKIAS with the new appeal provisions that the Bill introduces, I did not believe it right to permit UKIAS to have large additional funds without the desired constitutional changes being in place.

Accordingly, I gave UKIAS notice that its refugee section would be temporarily detached, to enable its expansion for the time being under the guidance of an independent body to be established in consultation with the UNHCR. I also gave UKIAS three months to introduce the necessary constitutional changes or face the withdrawal of the rest of its grant. I hope that will not be necessary, and that UKIAS will implement the changes needed in a manner that it will be possible to reunite it with its refugee unit. However, the Government will want to be sure that the reformed organisation has the confidence of not only the Home Office but the UNHCR and the various respected bodies active in asylum and general immigration.

I am not acting to rescue a substandard, representational service on which my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State sought to place too much reliance earlier this year. I am most emphatically not doing that. I am certainly not acting—as the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) suggests—to make the refugee unit more politically amenable. Even if we were of that mind, the constitutional changes for which we are calling would make that much more difficult.

I should be interested to know whether Labour Members quarrel with any of the three constitutional principles that I indicated. Certainly the UNHCR believes that they are necessary—particularly for an organisation that will inevitably play a much enhanced role as a result of the Bill.

Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Norwood

The constitutional principle that we uphold—a principle enshrined in many declarations of human rights—is that people in difficulty should be given the advice of their choice.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham 5:30 pm, 21st January 1992

The hon. Gentleman giggled when I asked him about representation earlier. Advice and representation will, of course, go together: when a representative appears before an adjudicator or a tribunal, he will make the case in the way that he and his client have agreed is the most sensible. The distinction that the hon. Gentleman makes between advice and representation is not as real as he suggests. Certainly it is not a distinction of principle; it emanates from the practice of the past 24 years. It is because that practice has continued for so long that the very conservative party—conservative with a small "c"—that constitutes the official Opposition is happy with it, and will not question it.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Lord Chancellor's Department)

Surely the Minister recognises that at the heart of the green form system is precisely that distinction between advice and representation. The green form system does not cover representation; it is linked specifically with the issue of advice, which is recognised as being entirely distinct and separate from the issue of representation. To confuse the two, as the Minister is doing, is to mislead the House, and to do his own case no service at all.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

Of course representation and advice are different, but they are not as easily separated as the hon. Gentleman implies. I am not speaking to a Bill that would make such changes; I am speaking to a Bill which leaves matters as they are now. I am, however, making an administrative change in the way in which grant is paid to the refugee section, to protect it. I am seeking to safeguard the high quality of UKIAS's representation—especially in regard to asylum applicants—and to enable the refugee section to expand speedily and efficiently. I want it to be able to meet the demands of additional representation that the Bill will confer on it, with the confidence of those who work in the field.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

The Minister has described the hived-off refugee section as desirably independent. How does he propose to ensure that it is so independent of the Government that it is a reliable body in the eyes of those who seek advice?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I assume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to what I hope will prove to be temporary arrangements. We are consulting the UNHCR closely, and we shall rely heavily on its advice and recommendations: indeed, the UNHCR contributes funds to the refugee unit. It wanted the changes, and we shall not reach conclusions with which it is not happy. I hope that we shall be able to introduce a temporary arrangement that will include the contribution of a range of representatives or individuals who are knowledgeable about the whole system of asylum and immigration, and who will inspire confidence. I thought it right, however, to tell the executive of UKIAS what the Government intended before the UNHCR approached individuals and sensible discussion began.

A number of points have been raised this evening. One concerned the letter that I sent to the chairman of UKIAS. I should be happy for it to be placed in the Library, although I should like to ask the chairman whether he has any objection. I do not see why he should—it merely confirms a meeting—but I feel that I owe him that small courtesy. I have no reason to believe that his agreement will not be forthcoming.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland mentioned timing. I hope that I have made it clear that the Bill does not owe itself to an approaching general election. The changes that I require UKIAS to make in its constitution have nothing to do with that; what they have to do with is the imminence of the large amount of extra money that is to be devoted to the expansion of the refugee unit.

The hon. Gentleman drew my attention to a report in The Independent about an Ethiopian boy. I have only just seen that report, and I do not know the background, so I shall make only two observations. It appears that the boy's mother feared that he would be conscripted into the Ethiopian army, so the report obviously dates from some time ago. It is said that the boy was found wandering outside the airport. Certainly he did not say when he arrived that he was seeking asylum; if he was entering the country legitimately—even if he did not mention asylum—he would have needed a visa, as well as an Ethiopian exit visa. That requirement certainly operated then, and I believe that it still does.

I shall need to examine the case further, but it appears to be one of those cases in which a child is brought in by someone, and directed to introduce himself to some organisation. The rule clearly states—and I believe that our immigration officers implement it—that if an unaccompanied child seeks asylum at an airport, that child must be put in touch with the appropriate local authority social services department with a view to his being taken into care.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Is the Minister saying that the green form system will continue indefinitely, and that a temporarily detached refugee section will be established? I may not be the only hon. Member who is confused about this. Are we to assume that that body alone will be able to provide representation for political asylum seekers?

As each hour passes, it becomes clearer that a statement should have been made before the Bill reached this stage. I wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you would consider accepting a motion for the adjournment of the Report stage to enable the Government to get their act together. They need time to make all the temporary arrangements, engage in all the necessary consultations and reach all the decisions that so vitally affect men and women who seek political asylum because they are fleeing violence and persecution. Surely this is a very shabby way in which to respond to the faith that those people have placed in us.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

If the hon. Gentleman had listened more carefully, he would know the answers to his questions. I believe, however, that my response to a later question will clarify the matter further.

As I have said, representation will continue to be available, at public expense, and will be available only through UKIAS or through the detached refugee unit. I have made it crystal clear that the green form system will continue as it is, if and until the Lord Chancellor presents proposals that will be incorporated in a formal consultation document. If, after that, he decides to make a change to the green form system, that change must come before both Houses of Parliament: the system cannot be withdrawn without the approval of Parliament as a whole.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

How long with the process take?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

That is not a matter for me. I can only say that it is a considerable way off, because of the clear undertaking given by the Lord Chancellor that absolutely no change would be made until a comprehensive national system of good professional advice was available promptly to all asylum seekers.

That must be some way off. The circumstances in which such a proposition could be put into effect are not with us yet. I realise that the hon. Gentleman would prefer to chat about this matter rather than about the provisions of the Bill. However, it is not in the Bill and it is not proposed to be included in the Bill. It would have to come before the House in another measure.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames , Crawley

Before the intervention by the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) my hon. Friend referred to the care that local authorities provide for children who arrive here in this distressing situation. May I ask him to listen carefully to the representations of the West Sussex county council? Gatwick airport is situated within its boundaries. The county council experiences great difficulty over the care of these children, at enormous additional expense, for which it is not recompensed. Will my hon. Friend consider carefully the recommendations that the county council has already made?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I shall always consider carefully what those who are involved have to say, but my hon. Friend ought to direct any representations that he wishes to make on behalf of his county council to the Department of Health, which is the sponsoring body in this case. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister for Health is very much concerned about this subject.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

May I remind the Minister that about two years ago a delegation consisting of London local authorities and some London Members of Parliament went to the Department of Health to raise the very same point that the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) has just raised about the costs involved, which they were willingly bearing, in looking after displaced children. However, at the end of it all we got nothing from the Department of Health in terms of additional vital resources that are absolutely necessary if these children are to be cared for properly.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

As I have already said, these are matter for Department of Health, not for me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) asked about the availability of advice, irrespective of age, but he is particularly concerned about children, as he demonstrated in Committee. I said to him in Committee that the refugee unit is the right group of people to give legal advice. I have put that matter to the unit and it is considering what might be done in terms of providing advice and help that is especially suitable for children, as well as representation on legal matters and their claim for asylum.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North referred to these difficulties. As I said earlier, he is a distinguished former chairman of UKIAS. I believe that he was also a full-time officer of UKIAS, so he knows very well what good work it does. I hope that UKIAS will be able to continue to give advice on refugee, immigration and representational matters after the constitutional changes have been made, which I hope will remove the difficulties that the hon. Gentleman knows exist.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) referred to a case that he had read about in the newspapers. If I have identified it correctly, it is a case of which we were already well aware and which we were investigating before that report appeared in the newspapers. As my right hon. Friend made his point in this debate, it is not unreasonable that I should briefly reply to it. It has been too easy to defraud the Department of Social Security. That is one of the reasons why we are taking fingerprint powers in the Bill.

We have also made it clear to the DSS—to which it has happily agreed—that the only piece of paper that will justify the Department making social security payments to an asylum seeker is the piece of paper issued by the Home Office with the individual's photograph upon it, as well as a special number. Since that system was introduced last year, about 2,250 asylum seekers—who had not, either through the post or in person, presented documents to us that established their identity—been asked to come in so that their identity could be established. Of those 2,250 people, only 20 per cent. have materialised. That is a measure of the problem that we have to tackle. I do not say that the other 80 per cent. have defrauded anybody, but the integrity of our system needs to be ensured by the provisions contained in the Bill.

I promised the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) that I would return to the point that he raised about interpreters. It is very important that they should be capable interpreters and that they should interpret reliably both ways. We take steps to ensure that immigration service interpreters interpret reliably. Representation is looked after by the refugee unit which has its own interpreters; they are not provided by the Home Office. In court, the refugee unit must provide its own interpreters. It may, however, use the same interpreters as the Home Office uses. There is no copyright on interpreters. Each body is responsible, however, for providing its own interpreters.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North 5:45 pm, 21st January 1992

I raised this important point because I was concerned about the security of those who provide the translation. My point was that somebody who is privy to the interview, as the translator obviously is, must be absolutely reliable. Unless one is completely certain about those people and the quality of their translation, they could pass information back to an oppressive regime that might be extremely dangerous for the family of the asylum seeker.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

We are very much aware of that concern. We take all the steps that we can to ensure that all our staff, including the interpreters, are secure and keep confidential information that could be extremely damaging if it were released.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Ashby) wanted a second interpreter to be provided. I hope, having listened to what he said, that he realises that in almost all cases there will be a second interpreter—certainly it will not be a Home Office interpreter—when the refugee unit represents an individual. That interpreter will have to talk to this individual, look at the papers produced and decide whether the case is the same as that which was presented by the other interpreter.

I thank the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) for his limited personal endorsement. I was interested in what he said about developing UKIAS and his qualified approval of the withdrawal of the green form. Again let me say that the Government have not yet made that decision. All that we are doing is giving serious consideration to an outline proposal.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) for his kind remarks about the UKIAS staff who work at Gatwick. Again I repeat that the advice that the UKIAS field staff give is excellent. The constitutional changes that we expect to make to the organisation are designed to preserve that excellence.

Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Norwood

We have listened to criticism of UKIAS, and various proposals and analyses have been put before us. It is a pity and somewhat surprising that, when the Home Secretary made a statement about the ending of the green form advice scheme in July and that when he spoke to the House on Second Reading in October—when he regaled the House with stories about bogus applications, some of which put certain applicants for political asylum in a bad light—he did not use some of his time to tell the House about his concerns and criticisms and in particular about his proposals for the reorganisation of UKIAS. That has been forced out only by this debate that the Opposition have brought about on Report.

It is proper for me to begin by declaring an interest as a partner in a firm of solicitors that deals with some political asylum cases, and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association. Dealing with immigration and political asylum cases is not seen as highly remunerative within the legal profession. It is done by many people as a duty, rather than something that will bring in a great deal of money. There is some misunderstanding—it has not been made clear by the Under-Secretary—that there is a distinction between giving advice and advocacy on appeals. I use the word "advocacy" because it makes the distinction clearer.

There are thousands of cases involving ordinary immigration matters and political asylum applications where advice and assistance is given in presenting the case to the Home Office. It may be a case to stay here as a husband or a political refugee; or, akin to a political refugee, it may be a case involving exceptional leave to remain. Currently, most such cases are dealt with by solicitors and other advice agencies, some of them using the green form scheme.

Thus, it will not be just solicitors who are deprived of the assistance of the green form scheme. About 60 law centres across the country dealing with such work will he deprived of that assistance, as will the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which will be deprived of that form of Government support for advice and preparation of political asylum applications, and a number of other advice agencies throughout the country, which will be deprived of the assistance of the scheme in processing claims.

Most claims are admitted and approved by the Home Office and do not go to appeal or involve advocacy. It must be made clear that what is being proposed by the Lord Chancellor and Home Secretary is the abolition of green form advice for between 15,000 and 20,000 cases a year, most of which will never involve advocacy or an approach to UKIAS under the present arrangements, and no appeal or representation at that level. The House must be clear about the scale of the abolition of advice and representations made to the Home Office on political asylum cases. The scale of that in no way matches the scale of the appeals that take place.

It is important to understand the wish and need of people claiming political asylum to have a choice of representation and not to be directed towards an organisation which, no matter how good, is seen as being a state monopoly—and in the light of the letter of 7 October, a state monopoly that is amenable to the Government's bullying.

I was asked for my advice on a case this week involving somebody who feared political persecution because they were a Christian. The person was part of a Christian band in a country that is under a dictatorship. The band engaged in acts of evangelism where people would sing and pray against killing, war and violence. That group of people was arrested by a band of soldiers because it was thought that the opposition to killing represented opposition to the country's presidency. A number of them were taken to barracks and beaten. One of them was able to escape and that person—I shall not identify the sex—came to the United Kingdom.

For four years, that person has been in the United Kingdom without making a political asylum application. For the benefit of the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), that person has never claimed income support. In fact, that person probably does a part-time, poorly paid job cleaning, perhaps in one of British Telecom's offices. That person has made no claim against the state and there is no question of fraud, duplication or anything of that nature.

That person's concern is not for himself or herself but for their child. The concern is whether the child will be able to survive if the parent is returned to a country under dictatorial rule and is killed or imprisoned. That person has been in so much doubt about whether to make an application that it has taken four years to pluck up courage even to take advice.

I am not criticising UKIAS, but it is important that, in genuine applications of that nature, people should have a choice. They should be able to go somewhere where they believe that their confidence will be respected, which may have been recommended by someone else. That is partly what this is about. In principle, the Under-Secretary agreed that that was incontestable.

New clause 10 ensures that any applicant for political asylum who is in detention should have access to advice from a solicitor or adviser of their choice. The clause fills that out, because it will not work unless the applicant is informed of that right and unless it is underpinned with custody records—that is the experience of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and our ordinary criminal procedures. It does not work unless the interview between the adviser and the person claiming political asylum is conducted in a language that is understood by the applicant. I understand that one cannot provide interpreters for every language, but it is important to choose a language in which the applicant can be understood. I hope that the Under-Secretary will ensure that, even if those provisions are not written into law, they are at least written into our procedures.

New clause 2 seeks to preserve the green form legal advice scheme. It follows that the agreed and incontestable objectives of new clause 10 are impossible to fulfil in practice without the provision of green form advice. New clause 2 is simply a device to get a debate on this subject on to the Order Paper because the Bill is not directly about advice, although it was presented in the context of ending green form advice.

Green form advice costs about£2.85 million a year, and an average of£181 per case. That is not a great deal of money, and it is not possible to charge more than about £50 per case without going to the Legal Aid Board and justifying the additional expenditure. So there are already tight public expenditure controls, and the rate of remuneration is well below that paid to anybody acting in a commercial capacity. There is no possibility of abuse, and the amount of money involved is not high.

Legal advice and assistance underpin the reality of the rights given to applicants for political asylum under the international convention. I say to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) that it is important that vulnerable people, not just adults but children and elderly parents who may have no understanding of the English language or culture, have that underpinning. It is provided now, usually by experts at a low rate of remuneration and a pretty modest overall cost.

The proposal to abolish the green form scheme is mean because it will not save a great deal of money. Even worse, it is vindictive because it is bound to weaken in some way the rights given under the international convention. It begs the question whether the real purpose of the Home Secretary's proposal was not simply a rearrangement of the source of advice, but a way of ensuring that the number of those applying for political asylum is reduced. It is contrary to the spirit of the international convention and to conventions on human rights.

If the scheme is abolished it will rob political asylum applicants of nationwide coverage. In Committee, the Under-Secretary told us that the UKIAS expanded scheme would involve an increase in the number of officers working for the organisation from 23 to 87. That is an extra 64 officers, compared with about 700 specialist firms coupled with advice centres. There is no equation between perhaps 700 and 1,000 observers giving nationwide 24-hour expert coverage and an extra 64 officers working for UKIAS, who are supposed to fulfil the same task.

6 pm

We know that, under the Bill, for the first time, applicants for political asylum who arrive at ports will have rights of appeal—we do not contest that—and those appeals will be dealt with by UKIAS. That is the existing system, but people will have their work cut out in dealing with the appeal aspect, let alone the preparation of the applications, which very often have to be carried out at the ports at short notice and often at unsocial hours and, most importantly, done by people who know what they are talking about and who have some expertise. Abolition of the green form scheme will not only undermine people's rights but destroy the geographic coverage.

Abolition will also unlock the link which was always intended by both Governments between giving advice and applying for legal aid to go to the courts where necessary. What often happens at the moment is that, when someone arrives at a port, an early decision is made to refuse an application for political asylum, and if anything is to be done—whether under the old or the new system—there is a necessity for a judicial review. Abolition will break the link between the lawyer giving advice in the first place and processing the matter within a short time limit to take the matter to a judicial review and the divisional courts. It will abolish what is, as near as damn it, a 24-hour service.

This proposal does not have a single friend. I do not think that one hon. Member has been able to produce a letter, a representation or a delegation from anyone in the United Kingdom in favour of the proposal. Only two people, apart from the Under-Secretary, are in favour of it. One is the Lord Chancellor, represented in the House by the Attorney-General, and the other is the Home Secretary.

I should have thought that the Attorney-General and the Home Secretary were the last people in the world to want to abolish legal advice and assistance. After all, the House was told yesterday that the Attorney-General had spent—I think—£2.1 million on one case. He spent £2.1 million-worth of legal advice and assistance in order to pursue the "Spycatcher" case. That is almost exactly the same as what is being spent on the green form system which the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor propose to destroy. In view of the Attorney-General's scale of expenditure, he should not be against the scheme.

The other person who should not be against publicly paid legal representation is the Home Secretary, who is not doing too badly for legal advice. The costs of his going to the divisional court will be paid not by him but by a legal aid scheme provided by the Government. His costs in going to the Court of Appeal and of having the best Queen's counsel were paid out of the public purse. When he goes to the House of Lords on his contempt rap, he will receive legal aid. Indeed, the sum involved would keep a very large proportion of the green form scheme in being for a long time.

The proposals are disreputable and they have become more disreputable the more they have been examined. They are disreputable because they deny choice, because the cost at the moment is relatively small, because they involve threats to UKIAS and because they attack and undermine those who are most vulnerable. I hope that the House will uphold our international obligations and our tradition of choice of representation by supporting the new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 219, Noes 301.

Division No. 45][6.04 pm
AYES
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)Corbyn, Jeremy
Allen, GrahamCousins, Jim
Alton, DavidCrowther, Stan
Anderson, DonaldCryer, Bob
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCunliffe, Lawrence
Armstrong, HilaryDarling, Alistair
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDavis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Ashton, JoeDewar, Donald
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Dixon, Don
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Doran, Frank
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Dunnachie, Jimmy
Barron, KevinEadie, Alexander
Battle, JohnEastham, Ken
Beckett, MargaretEnright, Derek
Beith, A. J.Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bell, StuartEwing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Bellotti, DavidEwing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyFatchett, Derek
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Faulds, Andrew
Bermingham, GeraldFearn, Ronald
Blair, TonyField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Blunkett, DavidFields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Boateng, PaulFisher, Mark
Boyes, RolandFlannery, Martin
Bradley, KeithFlynn, Paul
Bray, Dr JeremyFoot, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Foster, Derek
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Foulkes, George
Caborn, RichardFraser, John
Callaghan, JimFyfe, Maria
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Galloway, George
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Canavan, DennisGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Golding, Mrs Llin
Carr, MichaelGordon, Mildred
Cartwright, JohnGraham, Thomas
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clelland, DavidGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGrocott, Bruce
Cohen, HarryHain, Peter
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Hardy, Peter
Corbett, RobinHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Heal, Mrs SylviaO'Hara, Edward
Healey, Rt Hon DenisO'Neill, Martin
Henderson, DougOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hinchliffe, DavidParry, Robert
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)Patchett, Terry
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Pendry, Tom
Home Robertson, JohnPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hood, JimmyPrimarolo, Dawn
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Quin, Ms Joyce
Howells, GeraintRadice, Giles
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)Randall, Stuart
Hoyle, DougRedmond, Martin
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Reid, Dr John
Illsley, EricRobertson, George
Ingram, AdamRobinson, Geoffrey
Janner, GrevilleRogers, Allan
Johnston, Sir RussellRooker, Jeff
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Rooney, Terence
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRowlands, Ted
Kennedy, CharlesRuddock, Joan
Kilfoyle, PeterSalmond, Alex
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilSheerman, Barry
Kirkwood, ArchySheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Kumar, Dr. AshokShore, Rt Hon Peter
Lambie, DavidShort, Clare
Lamond, JamesSkinner, Dennis
Leadbitter, TedSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Leighton, RonSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Lewis, TerrySmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Litherland, RobertSnape, Peter
Livingstone, KenSoley, Clive
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Spearing, Nigel
Lofthouse, GeoffreySteel, Rt Hon Sir David
Loyden, EddieSteinberg, Gerry
McAllion, JohnStephen, Nicol
McCartney, IanStott, Roger
Macdonald, Calum A.Strang, Gavin
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)Straw, Jack
McKelvey, WilliamTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McLeish, HenryTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maclennan, RobertThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
McMaster, GordonThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
McWilliam, JohnTurner, Dennis
Madden, MaxVaz, Keith
Mahon, Mrs AliceWallace, James
Marek, Dr JohnWalley, Joan
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Wareing, Robert N.
Martlew, EricWatson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Meacher, MichaelWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Meale, AlanWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Michael, AlunWigley, Dafydd
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Wilson, Brian
Moonie, Dr LewisWinnick, David
Morgan, RhodriWise, Mrs Audrey
Morley, ElliotWorthington, Tony
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Wray, Jimmy
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Mowlam, Marjorie
Mullin, ChrisTellers for the Ayes:
Murphy, PaulMr. Frank Haynes and
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonMr. Thomas McAvoy.
O'Brien, William
NOES
Adley, RobertAtkins, Robert
Aitken, JonathanBaker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Alexander, RichardBaker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBaldry, Tony
Allason, RupertBanks, Robert (Harrogate)
Amess, DavidBatiste, Spencer
Amos, AlanBendall, Vivian
Arbuthnot, JamesBennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Benyon, W.
Arnold, Sir ThomasBiffen, Rt Hon John
Ashby, DavidBlackburn, Dr John G.
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGorman, Mrs Teresa
Boscawen, Hon RobertGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Boswell, TimGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bottomley, PeterGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGregory, Conal
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bowis, JohnGrist, Ian
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGround, Patrick
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardGrylls, Sir Michael
Brandon-Bravo, MartinGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brazier, JulianHague, William
Bright, GrahamHamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Browne, John (Winchester)Hampson, Dr Keith
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hanley, Jeremy
Buck, Sir AntonyHannam, Sir John
Budgen, NicholasHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Burns, SimonHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Burt, AlistairHarris, David
Butler, ChrisHawkins, Christopher
Butterfill, JohnHayes, Jerry
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hayward, Robert
Carrington, MatthewHeathcoat-Amory, David
Carttiss, MichaelHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Cash, WilliamHicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHill, James
Chapman, SydneyHind, Kenneth
Churchill, MrHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)Hordern, Sir Peter
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clark, Rt Hon Sir WilliamHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Colvin, MichaelHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Conway, DerekHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'restHunter, Andrew
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Irvine, Michael
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnIrving, Sir Charles
Cormack, PatrickJack, Michael
Couchman, JamesJackson, Robert
Cran, JamesJanman, Tim
Currie, Mrs EdwinaJessel, Toby
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davis, David (Boothferry)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Day, StephenJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Devlin, TimJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dickens, GeoffreyKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dorrell, StephenKey, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kilfedder, James
Dover, DenKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dunn, BobKnapman, Roger
Durant, Sir AnthonyKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Dykes, HughKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Eggar, TimKnowles, Michael
Emery, Sir PeterKnox, David
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Evennett, DavidLatham, Michael
Fallon, MichaelLawrence, Ivan
Farr, Sir JohnLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Favell, TonyLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fenner, Dame PeggyLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Lightbown, David
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fishburn, John DudleyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forman, NigelLord, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Forth, EricMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Franks, CecilMaclean, David
French, DouglasMcLoughlin, Patrick
Fry, PeterMcNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gale, RogerMcNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeMadel, David
Gill, ChristopherMalins, Humfrey
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMans, Keith
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanMaples, John
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMarland, Paul
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Sims, Roger
Mates, MichaelSkeet, Sir Trevor
Maude, Hon FrancisSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Sir RobinSoames, Hon Nicholas
Mellor, Rt Hon DavidSpeed, Keith
Mills, IainSpeller, Tony
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Mitchell, Sir DavidSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Moate, RogerStanbrook, Ivor
Monro, Sir HectorStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Montgomery, Sir FergusSteen, Anthony
Moore, Rt Hon JohnStern, Michael
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Stevens, Lewis
Morrison, Sir CharlesStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir PeterStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Moss, MalcolmStewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Mudd, DavidStokes, Sir John
Neale, Sir GerrardSumberg, David
Nelson, AnthonySummerson, Hugo
Neubert, Sir MichaelTapsell, Sir Peter
Newton, Rt Hon TonyTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholls, PatrickTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Temple-Morris, Peter
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Thompson, Sir D. (Calder Valley)
Norris, Steve
Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Oppenheim, PhillipThorne, Neil
Page, RichardThornton, Malcolm
Paice, JamesThurnham, Peter
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilTownend, John (Bridlington)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Patten, Rt Hon JohnTracey, Richard
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyTredinnick, David
Pawsey, JamesTrippier, David
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethTwinn, Dr Ian
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Porter, David (Waveney)Viggers, Peter
Portillo, MichaelWaldegrave, Rt Hon William
Powell, William (Corby)Walden, George
Price, Sir DavidWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Raison, Rt Hon Sir TimothyWaller, Gary
Redwood, JohnWalters, Sir Dennis
Rhodes James, Sir RobertWard, John
Riddick, GrahamWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWarren, Kenneth
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWatts, John
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynWells, Bowen
Roe, Mrs MarionWheeler, Sir John
Ross, William (Londonderry E)Whitney, Ray
Rossi, Sir HughWiggin, Jerry
Rost, PeterWilkinson, John
Rowe, AndrewWilshire, David
Sackville, Hon TomWinterton, Mrs Ann
Scott, Rt Hon NicholasWinterton, Nicholas
Shaw, David (Dover)Wolfson, Mark
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Wood, Timothy
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Yeo, Tim
Shelton, Sir WilliamYounger, Rt Hon George
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Tellers for the Noes:
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Mr. John M. Taylor and
Shersby, MichaelMr. Timothy Kirkhope.

Question accordingly negatived.