My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment to remove Clause 15 from the Bill. A system of internal review is not a substitute for the right of appeal. The right to appeal confers a right to a decision by an independent adjudicator, but it is more than that. There is a public hearing with witnesses and with submissions on both sides. There is a public reasoned decision as a result of the process. I fear that, without independent appeals, the already poor standards of administration in relation to immigration decisions—the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, has referred to the lamentable figures—will get even worse.
I do not think that another layer of internal decision-making through an administrative review can possibly be as effective a mechanism for improving standards and ensuring correct decisions as an independent and public appeal process. I welcome, of course, the Government’s decision to invite the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration to review the new administrative review process. This will introduce some independent scrutiny of the process, but the chief inspector is not going to assess the substantive merits of individual cases in the way that the tribunal does.
The Government have emphasised that an individual dissatisfied with the internal review process—and there will be many of them—will have legal redress by way of judicial review. But of course a judicial review, unlike an appeal, is not an assessment of the merits of the case; it is a limited assessment of a fair process and of legal errors. In any event, I simply cannot understand any more than the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, why the Government are seeking to push these cases—and there will be many of them—into judicial review when, at the same time, the Lord Chancellor is bringing forward legislative proposals to reduce the number of judicial reviews. Indeed, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, explained in speaking to the previous amendment, the whole thrust of reform in recent years has, rightly, been to remove immigration cases from judicial review and to have them decided before tribunals.
The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor—like other noble Lords, I am very grateful to him for having meetings and correspondence on these issues—has previously emphasised that administrative review is cheap and quick. He is right, but there is nothing to stop the Home Office introducing a quick, cheap and effective process of administrative review. If it were to do so, no doubt it would find that a very large proportion of appeals would become unnecessary. My objection to the clause is the removal of the right to an independent appeal in cases which are not adequately addressed by a process of administrative review. That is why I oppose Clause 15.