Report (3rd Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 12th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat 7:00 pm, 12th March 2012

My Lords, perhaps I may mention one point which has not been raised so far. I refer to the effect of this provision on the workload of Members of Parliament in another place and of some of your Lordships in this House. Many of us already get letters, e-mails and personal approaches from immigrants asking for advice. Obviously, we are exempt from the provisions that apply to other not-for-profit agencies. Under the rules that determine who is legally able to do so, we cannot say that we are not qualified to give advice, but people will no longer be able to go to, for example, citizens advice bureaux. I know from personal contact with the citizens advice bureau in Southwark that it has one person who is trained to give advice at level 3 on immigration cases and it has very few lower down who are even able to advance advice to their clients on level 1 cases.

Do your Lordships not think that the consequence of the Bill, when enacted, will be that, as people will not be able to get advice elsewhere, they will come in their droves to the doors of Members of Parliament, they will clog up the advice bureaux and they will turn to your Lordships? We will be completely overwhelmed by the volume of cases, as well as being unable to deal with the complex cases to which the noble Lord, Lord Bach, referred in his introduction. We all know that some immigration cases are simple and can be dealt with very easily by a person acting on his own behalf, but that does not apply to the vast majority of cases, as we have heard today. I think that there is enormous merit in the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and I certainly hope that my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench will have been thinking carefully about how he is going to reply at the end of this debate.