Report (1st Day)

Part of Immigration Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 6:45 pm, 1st April 2014

My Lords, I was not sure whether to speak yet; I was looking for a Bishop. Amendment 14 in this group is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Avebury. I have been torn over this issue. Of course, the lawyer in me wants to see access to the courts or tribunals but the pragmatist in me says, “Get it right first time”, especially when it is something where arguably the person involved does not start with having rights. I distinguish between human rights interests, family interests and, at the other end of the spectrum, perhaps permission to come and work in a different country. At issue here is a very wide range of types of decision. Also, of course, the pragmatist says, “Find ways to improve the process to get it right”.

I have to assume that the Secretary of State is satisfied on the basis of the current out-of-country process that what is proposed will be “efficient”, “effective” and “fair”—in the words of one of the amendments. I hope that effectiveness always means fairness. I do not know that one can become satisfied that the process is efficient, effective and fair on the issue raised by the possibility of shadow working and the two systems working in parallel. I know that there are different views about that. Frankly, I doubt that it is practicable. At the previous stage, I raised the issue of reviews of procedures and—particularly important to me —independent oversight and reports to Parliament. I welcome government Amendment 12. Could my noble friend confirm, because it does not quite say this, that what is intended is a report on the first year? It says that, “Before the end of” a year the Secretary of State will commission a review.

My Amendment 14 would introduce a two-stage process, the second of which would be the chief inspector reviewing the first year of operation, and the first of which would be an opportunity for Parliament to consider the procedures after the Government have consulted on them. I am grateful to my noble friend for a letter that I received following Committee and which was copied to other noble Lords. I hope that this will be a useful opportunity for him to explain from the Dispatch Box the Government’s proposals for consultation on the proposed rules—a targeted consultation, as I understand it. There might be, if you like, a pre-consultation of noble Lords as to who might be involved in that process. I am sure we would all have ideas as to who could usefully contribute.

Since Committee, I have seen the information given to those who seek an administrative review out of country under the current procedure. I had been concerned about how representations could be made to the reviewer and what representations could be made. I can infer that from the current information but I am sure that there is scope for spelling it out more clearly. That is a matter for the practitioners, really. I was also relieved to see information on something that had popped into my head and bothered me a lot: whether there would be a charge for an administrative review. I see that that is not the case. That reminded me that this is another reason for the Home Office getting it right first time, as it will not be able to get any income from that administrative review. As it were, it funds it—rightly—from its internal resources.