Report (1st Day)

Part of Immigration Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Lord Woolf Lord Woolf Crossbench 6:00 pm, 1st April 2014

My Lords, this is a matter in which I, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, have had considerable practical experience, first as a Treasury junior, who for years advised and acted for the Government on these problems that arise in immigration matters, which can be very frustrating indeed.

I have been delighted at the steps that were taken, with the encouragement of the judiciary, to transfer matters which previously went before the courts on judicial review to tribunals. We have to recognise that there are situations within the court system where tribunals are better equipped to deal with matters than the courts are, because the tribunals’ knowledge and experience is so considerable. Because of that, this process has continued. I am happy to say that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, does himself an injustice when he suggests that what he sought to do has not produced positive results. It has, and I can say to the House with confidence that if we had not built up the tribunal system in the way it has been built up, from a practical point of view judicial review would be an area of great difficulty in the courts today.

It is therefore very important that we do not do something that is contrary to principle and which reflects adversely on the tribunal system. Of course, that was not the intention of those who were responsible for drafting the amendment now under consideration. However, the transfer from the tribunal that has jurisdiction to deal with matters of this sort, for the sort of reasons that have been put forward, to one of the parties of the proceedings, is just totally and utterly contrary to principle and it should be and can be rectified in a way that is acceptable.

The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, was very modest about her amendment; she said that it may not be perfect, and she may be right about that, but this matter certainly warrants consideration. It would be a very undesirable precedent indeed to create a situation where one of the parties to the proceedings has in effect to give its consent to the other party doing something that justice may require. In addition, the suggestion that something should go back to the beginning is just out of accord with what is now the practice in the courts. It is true that the real decision-making body is the Minister and not the courts, but for years, in my experience, the courts, when a new point has arisen, have taken the view that it is more practical and more in accord with common sense for the tribunal that is dealing with the matter to continue to deal with the new matter, if it thinks that it is right to do so, rather than to send it back to the Secretary of State, who is technically the decision-making body under the legislation.

With respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, to whom I bow in these matters, because he has been such a benign influence in the development of our court system, on this occasion the difference that he has with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, and myself is misplaced and is not in accord with the practice adopted by the courts today, when a matter comes before them that should technically go back and discretion is exercised by the court to save everybody’s time and money by dealing with it themselves. So I urge the Minister to have another look at this matter, consult on it and come back at Third Reading.