Immigration: Dna Tests

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:15 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:15 pm, 25th October 2018

I thank the right hon. Lady for her comments. She asks a number of reasonable and sensible questions to which I will reply. She started by saying that the immigration system must be robust—we all agree with that, absolutely—and that it must also be fair. The issue I have brought to the House today is of concern to us all and something that, at least in this regard, is not fair. As I said at the start, this should not have happened, and there should not have been any request in any immigration case, whether family related or not, for mandatory DNA evidence.

The right hon. Lady asked me to make it clear that this is illegal. My understanding is that the Home Office has never had the express power to require anyone to give DNA. It has never had that express power. There have been a number of Acts over time that have referred to this and tried to make it clear. As I mentioned in my statement, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was, when she was Home Secretary, the first Home Secretary to put it completely beyond doubt by amending an Act—I think a 2007 Act—and then again in 2014 to make it absolutely clear in law. As I say, the Home Office has never had the power to compel anyone to provide DNA evidence.

The right hon. Lady will know that we want to have a further review to look into this much more deeply and wanted independent assurance of that. She may be interested to know that we are finding practices, in the cases to which I have already referred, that might go back further. For example, in 2009 two pilots were established by the then Government: the familial testing pilot, which used DNA evidence to verify a child’s biological connection with a family during asylum screening; and the human provenance pilot, which used DNA testing and a technique called isotope analysis to attempt to establish whether asylum applicants were from the country of origin that they had claimed. It is therefore important that we have a review that is thorough and goes back as long as it needs to, because, as I say, the Home Office has never had the power to compel people to supply DNA evidence.

The right hon. Lady referred to the broader review of structures and processes. I thank her for welcoming that. She referred to work that has already been done by the Law Society on part of the structures and processes in the immigration system. I have a great regard for the Law Society, which does just this type of work. It is just the kind of organisation we should be listening to.

The right hon. Lady also referred to the appeals process. There have, over recent years, been a number of changes to the appeals process which I think make it fairer, but she is right to raise this issue. This is clearly a very important part of the immigration system, making sure it is fair and that people feel they have had the right to make their case properly and the right to have a person take a second independent look at their case. There is work to be done there.

Finally, the right hon. Lady referred to the EU settlement scheme, which again she is right to refer to. It is a big and ambitious scheme which, over a relatively short period of time, is designed for 3.5 million European citizens. We want them to stay in our country. Whether there is a deal or no deal, we have been very clear that we want them to stay and we want to make that as easy as possible. I do not doubt how ambitious that is. The Home Office has dedicated a significant amount of resources to it and there is significant oversight of the scheme. I can tell her that the reports from the beta testing that has taken place so far, on a limited number of cases in their thousands, have been very encouraging. If I remember correctly, I think most people found that they could register in about 20 minutes through the app system that has been developed. Approximately over 90% of people asked how they found the process said that it was very straightforward and easy to use, but she is right to raise this issue. It is one of those things we all need to get right.