Report (1st Day)

Part of Immigration Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office), Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 7:00 pm, 1st April 2014

My Lords, I am almost tempted to say that you are damned if you do and damned if you do not. That 51% included those cases where there was administrative error. If one wishes to drive to improve the quality of decision-making, inevitably the number of successful appeals will go down.

In Committee, concern was expressed about the opportunities for scrutiny of the Immigration Rules. I am pleased to confirm that we are committing to publishing draft rules no later than the Summer Recess. I hope that that reassures my noble friend Lady Hamwee about what I have said in my letter to her. I am happy to repeat that those rules will be the subject of a targeted consultation with key interested parties, including the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association and Universities UK. We certainly are open to discussions with noble Lords and organisations to which noble Lords consider this consultation should be addressed. The aim of the consultation will be to ensure that all relevant views are taken into consideration before the rules are finalised. The consultation will offer an opportunity for the rules to be scrutinised and potentially amended before they are laid before Parliament in accordance with Section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971. Clause 15 creates a better process for all concerned—applicants, decision-makers and the court system. It will help to address the legitimate concerns raised about decision quality.

Amendment 13, which stands in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, would impose three conditions that would need to be met before the appeals provisions in Clause 15 came into force. The proposed sunrise clause would require: that the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration must first report on decision-making for entry clearance and managed migration; that the Secretary of State must be satisfied that decision-making for entry clearance and managed migration is efficient, effective and fair; and that the order to commence Clause 15 must be laid before and approved by both Houses. My noble friend Lady Hamwee raised the possibility that, to be able to do that, we might need to have a shadow operation, which probably would be an administrative nightmare.

I submit that we already have reports from the chief inspector on decision-making in entry clearance and managed migration. In 2013, he reported on investor and entrepreneur applications, concluding that 91% of decisions on investor applications were reasonable. That report recommended that the overseas approach of sharing administrative review outcomes to improve decision quality should be adopted in-country. That recommendation of an approach recommended by the chief inspector has informed the changes which this Bill seeks to implement through Clause 15.

The inspection of entry clearance decision-making in Warsaw in December 2013 of out-of-country administrative reviews concluded that the service was efficient and consistently meeting service standards for completing decisions. In 88% of cases reviewed, the report concluded that the right decision had been reached. We accept that this report made five recommendations for improvement. We have accepted all of these either in whole or in part.

I assure your Lordships that the Home Office takes the chief inspector’s inspections and reports seriously. A dedicated team manages the implementation of his recommendations. In his spot-checking report of August 2013, the chief inspector considered the progress that had been made against recommendations from three earlier inspections and was pleased to see evidence that the Home Office was acting upon his recommendations. We already have evidence from the chief inspector who has looked at the administrative review procedures that are applied at present for out-of-country cases of managed migration. He appears to confirm that, in the cases that were reviewed, the right decisions had been reached. As I have said, in Warsaw that was in 88% of cases.

However, we recognise the concerns that prompted Amendment 13. Therefore, we have brought forward a government amendment which takes a different but effective approach to address those concerns. Amendment 12 in the name of my noble friend Lord Taylor imposes a specific obligation on the Secretary of State to secure an independent review of administrative review. It looks forward and will review new processes. The new clause requires the Secretary of State to commission the independent chief inspector within a year of Clause 15 being commenced to prepare a report on administrative review.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked for confirmation that it was intended that the report would be on the first year although commissioned ahead of the first year. As I have said, the report will be commissioned within 12 months of administrative review being implemented. The Secretary of State will ask the chief inspector to complete the report within the first 12 months of the operation of administrative review. In timing the commissioning of the report, we want to strike a balance between a desire for an early report on how administrative review is working and the need to let the process operate for a period before a meaningful report can be prepared. It is therefore intended that the Secretary of State asks the chief inspector to undertake his report once administrative review has been in operation for six months and to complete his report within the first year of the operation of administrative review. The chief inspector should build flexibility into his inspection plans to allow such specific requests.

The new clause requires that the Secretary of State commissions that report and the report must address specific concerns. If noble Lords look at the terms of the amendment, they will note that the specific concerns that the chief inspector is being asked to address are ones that quite fairly reflect some of those raised in your Lordships’ House in Committee—namely, the effectiveness in identifying and correcting case working errors and the independence of the person conducting the administrative review in terms of their separation from the original decision-maker.