Immigration Advisers

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1997.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East 12:00 am, 7th July 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to regulate immigration advisers. [5522]

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

As my hon. Friend will know, we have a manifesto commitment to control unscrupulous immigration advisers. We are examining the options for delivering on this commitment and fully intend to do so. We shall issue a consultation paper as soon as possible.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East

I welcome the Minister's commitment to dealing with the abuse that exists in this area of policy. Will he give the House an assurance that where a constituent has been given false, inaccurate or misleading advice by an immigration adviser and has then acted in good faith as a result of that advice, the Minister will show sympathy to that constituent and will not sign any removal or deportation notices?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

Each case must be assessed on its merits. When cases are examined, all the circumstances that should be taken into account are taken into account.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

The Minister may be aware that four years ago, I founded the Immigration Advisory Service and was its first chairman of trustees. Is he further aware that the IAS is at the forefront of calls to set up a register of immigration advisers? Is he also aware that until such a register is set up thousands of innocent people in this country, generally from poor backgrounds, will be disadvantaged and cheated by unscrupulous people? I urge the Minister to bring the matter forward.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

The hon. Gentleman has a good record on raising such issues, for which I commend him. I also commend the IAS on the way in which it has brought the issues into public forums. I regret, however, that the previous Government failed to act on these matters. We intend to act to stop the exploitation of vulnerable people by so-called advisers who are often incompetent, fraudulent or both. The previous Government declined to take action against such advisers, despite the concerns expressed by many people, including the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins). We have a manifesto commitment to deal with those so-called advisers and we shall.

Photo of Mr Bernie Grant Mr Bernie Grant Labour, Tottenham

Is my hon. Friend aware that in my constituency we have begun the process of scrutinising not only bogus immigration advisers but bogus immigration solicitors because quite a few of them know nothing about immigration law? Will my hon. Friend look at the papers, particularly the questionnaire worked on by my office, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and the Law Society? He will see that they are following good practice, which could be adopted nationally.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I commend my hon. Friend for his work in that respect. He has set an example that all Members of Parliament would benefit from observing. I have read the papers that he has submitted to me at the Home Office. Other Members should consider his method of setting out the means by which he is able to vet advisers locally and to advise his constituents on how to deal with them. We should also circulate the questionnaire that he has developed to other hon. Members, and we are considering doing so. As part of our consultation, we shall be looking at some of the proposals that my hon. Friend has suggested.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Does the Minister agree that he could reduce the market for unscrupulous immigration advisers by following the advice sent to him recently by the new Labour-run Sheffield city council and repealing the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, which it describes as a contemptible act of racism?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

We are examining the way in which the latest Act of Parliament on the subject operates. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, we made a number of manifesto commitments relating to that legislation. We are hoping to implement those manifesto commitments as soon as possible. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the legislation contained a number of faults; we are examining them and I hope that we can deal with them in the near future.