Report (3rd Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 12th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour 6:45 pm, 12th March 2012

My Lords, if the House was today being given a choice between the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Bach, to bring within scope the immigration laws and advice that is needed by so many people to get through the impenetrable weight and mass of immigration law, and simplifying and reducing the impenetrability of immigration law, many of us might go for the second.

I remind your Lordships that many branches of administrative law-or what is nowadays called that-were created by the welfare state, post-Beveridge, after the end of World War II. The idea was that there would be a law which need not be dealt with by the courts but could be dealt with by a mix of lay men and lawyers in administrative tribunals. I recall that the TUC used to say: "No more law, no more lawyers", when dealing with industrial injury and other matters which were to go to tribunals. Of course, we all know that during the past 50 or 60 years the law relating to the welfare state and immigration has increased. It has expanded. Many times during debates on this Bill in the past few weeks, mention has been made of the vast quantity of material contained within the 1,000 pages-plus of the law relating to welfare. Many lawyers know, as many of your Lordships have said this afternoon, that that is the case with immigration law. There is a mass of detail.

If I were given the choice between simplifying that and my noble friend's amendment, I would probably prefer a scheme to start on the major task of simplification. We do not have that choice today. The choice today is how to deal with the present Bill. Whatever we may do as Parliament in due course, today and tomorrow, in the immediate future, there is a real need for people to have proper advice from authorised persons about the detail of immigration law. That can be done only if we agree to the amendment to enable relevant people to come within scope of legal advice and legal aid.