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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Boswell of Aynho Lord Boswell of Aynho Conservative 7:00 pm, 12th March 2012

My Lords, I have listened with interest to this debate as a lay person who has not been much engaged on the Bill in the past. However, like my noble friend Lord Avebury, I had constituency experience and was always impressed by the complexity of the cases brought to me. I am also impressed by the volume of evidence and comment made, not least because I currently happen to be one of the officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration. I am not in any sense taking its brief but I feel that this matter needs very careful and continuing consideration.

I well understand that there have been cases of abuse in the past. These may have involved overt or self-styled professionals, and they may have involved bad practices by others, including third parties, who run the immigration cases. I also well understand the point about the cost that the Minister has already made to us in correspondence. I would go beyond that to comment that we really cannot meet all the objectives which his department needs to meet in order to balance its budget if we make wholesale concessions on every single aspect of concern where pressure is developed.

These are complex cases. My difficulty in saying that we need to keep them within scope is-thinking aloud-in determining how one would find a basis for doing so without, as it were, pre-hearing the merits of the cases and without necessarily being able to predetermine the degree of legal complexity in those cases unless and until they had been examined. I know that those are difficulties and I know that the cost is a difficulty, but I say to my noble and learned friend that I do not spend my life rebelling and I do not intend to do so tonight for some of the general reasons that I have given about the need for rigour as we take this Bill through. However, I think that these cases are particularly difficult. If he takes them out of scope now, I think that he will need to keep the whole area under review. In future, he may need to consider at least some residual discretionary fund which can be applied to cases of particular interest or importance or where justice is most engaged. It is on that qualified basis, but in anticipation also of his response, that I may be prepared to tender my vote in his Lobby tonight.