New Clause 7 — Appeal from within United Kingdom

Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, Etc.) Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:43 pm on 1st March 2004.

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'For section 92(3) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c. 41) (appeal from within United Kingdom: person with entry clearance or work permit) substitute—

"(3) This section also applies to an appeal against refusal of leave to enter the United Kingdom if—

(a) at the time of the refusal the appellant is in the United Kingdom, and

(b) on his arrival in the United Kingdom the appellant had entry clearance.

(3A) But this section does not apply by virtue of subsection (3) if subsection (3B) or (3C) applies to the refusal of leave to enter.

(3B) This subsection applies to a refusal of leave to enter which is a deemed refusal under paragraph 2A(9) of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 resulting from cancellation of leave to enter by an immigration officer—

(a) under paragraph 2A(8) of that Schedule, and

(b) on the grounds specified in paragraph 2A(2A) of that Schedule.

(3C) This subsection applies to a refusal of leave to enter which specifies that the grounds for refusal are that the leave is sought for a purpose other than that specified in the entry clearance.

(3D) This section also applies to an appeal against refusal of leave to enter the United Kingdom if at the time of the refusal the appellant—

(a) is in the United Kingdom,

(b) has a work permit, and

(c) is any of the following (within the meaning of the British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61))—

(i) a British overseas territories citizen,

(ii) a British Overseas citizen,

(iii) a British National (Overseas),

(iv) a British protected person, or

(v) a British subject."'.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Order for Third Reading read.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. How long do we have for Third Reading of this important and controversial Bill?

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:55 pm, 1st March 2004

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I thank my ministerial colleagues from the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Whips, all members of the Standing Committee and all hon. Members who participated today. The Bill has been properly and adequately considered. Once we got over using silly words, such as "despicable", about clause 7, we had a sensible debate.

I am pleased that we have amended the Bill to include trafficking offences to deal with forced labour, and tackled important subjects such as child slavery. I thank my hon. Friend Mr. Gerrard, who does not always agree with me, for his work in Committee in drawing attention to that. I am glad that we could make important changes.

Clause 11 has caused controversy and will cause it in another place. It is a classic example, which shows that had people been more modest in their operation of the law and their approach to their job, they would not have cooked the goose that laid the golden egg. I am talking about lawyers who simply abused the judicial review system by dragging out cases for months and, in some instances, years. That is what happens when those who preach liberalism lead us down the wrong path so that those who try to protect human rights and individual interests find that the system has been so abused that we have to remove the golden thread. The legal aid budget has doubled to £174 million. That is public money that has not gone towards asylum seekers or people in the community but into lawyers' pockets. That is a disgrace that is coming to an end.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking 9:57 pm, 1st March 2004

The Home Secretary is quick to condemn lawyers, but if he had heard today's debate he would realise that the rule of law is under attack from an illiberal Government. If any of us had been asked to accept that, one day, the Executive—the Government of this country—would be exempt from judicial oversight or scrutiny, we would have been, first, amazed, secondly, angry and thirdly, ashamed.

All the people within this country's jurisdiction should be treated equally under the law. The Government have been universally condemned by their own supporters. Speaker after speaker from the Labour Benches condemned the Government's proposals. Not one hon. Member supported the Government's approach; even the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Mr. Lammy was lame in his support.

On Second Reading, Conservative Members said that we wanted the Bill to be improved in Committee, but it has been improved only a little. The Government have made far too few improvements. Lest it be believed that we debate matters sensibly in the House, I stress that the Government tabled 64 amendments and new clauses today. Many aspects of the Bill have simply not been debated in the House of Commons, either in Committee or the Chamber.

Appeals provisions are vital for the freedom of the individual, whether he or she is of our nationality or from abroad. All deserve equal treatment. The Bill remains seriously flawed and we cannot actively support it. We shall try to amend it as best we can in the House of Lords. We hope that the Government will have the sense to permit some form of judicial oversight of the Executive.

The Bill is not only illiberal but grossly unfair to tens of thousands of people. I hope to goodness that I speak for all Conservative Members and most of the Labour party when I say that the Bill needs to be improved in the House of Lords.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 304, Noes 65.

Division number 67 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, Etc.) Bill — Third Reading

Aye: 304 MPs

No: 65 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 286 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If one of the Tellers standing before the Mace to announce the vote was not the same Teller who counted the Division, is the Division still valid? Is there any precedent for what happened, and are you prepared—if not now, after a period of reflection—to consider whether the Third Reading Division was valid, owing to the fact that Mr. Heath sprang forward from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, even though he was not a Teller, and purported to announce the vote? It is a serious matter, Mr. Speaker. The House should take such matters seriously; and I believe that we could have established a very dangerous precedent. I hope that you will reflect on the issue, Mr. Speaker, before you tell the House that the Division was valid and substantive.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. No discourtesy was intended to the House, and I hope that you will feel that what happened was, in all the circumstances, proper and in order.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Let me respond to the points of order, after which Mr. Leigh may not need to raise another one.

I felt that it was tidy to have four Tellers to report to the House. [Interruption.] Mr. Forth has asked me a question, and I am in the process of explaining what is in order. I invited Mr. Heath to fill the space. The House has to move quickly and the Speaker has to take snap decisions. My snap decision will go into "Erskine May"—[Interruption.] Perhaps in 100 years from now, when a Teller is missing, the House will refer to the precedent that has been established today. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the vote that was delivered was perfectly valid, and that there is no need for a re-run.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course, I would never seek to question any of your rulings, but surely the whole point of the Teller system is to have one person who counts and another who checks that; the two then report back to the House. Of course this would not happen now, but there might have been difficulties in the past, and there might be misreporting. I should not want the age-old custom to be in any way upset.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the age-old custom has been protected, because it has been clearly reported to me that there were four Tellers, two counting the Aye votes and two counting the No votes. Therefore, that stage was well and truly completed; only the reporting was different. Three of the original Tellers out of four have reported. That is very tidy, and I do not know what is worrying the hon. Gentleman. If he wants a re-run, I can assure him that it certainly will not be tonight.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely the whole point of our voting procedure is to have one Teller for one side of the argument and one for the other. It seems that there was a Government Teller in the Lobby, but we know not whether the other Teller verified what the Government Teller told the Clerks. The House is now in the invidious position of not being able to rely on the fact that there were two Tellers, of different points of view, reporting back to the House. That surely must—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that three Tellers out of four have reported the result—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Three Tellers out of four have reported the result to the House. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that both the Government Teller and the Liberal Teller were in the appropriate Lobby, counting the votes. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, so that he does not have a sleepless night, that if the Speaker is wrong, and there was no Teller in that Lobby, he can report to me and I shall deal with the matter. However, I can assure him that the Teller was in the Lobby.

It must be borne in mind that the Teller concerned was somewhat inexperienced.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Well, that may be worse, but I have seen the right hon. Gentleman from time to time coaching and helping inexperienced Tellers, and a very nice practice it is too, to help those who are less experienced than he is.

Perhaps I can now go on to the Northern Ireland orders.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that Mr. Forth, who has been raising points of order on the conduct of the vote, did not in fact pass through either Lobby, and therefore cannot offer the House any useful information?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman must know that I have, rather rapidly, moved on to the next item of business.