Report (1st Day)

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

Alert me about debates like this

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 mentioned to my noble friend the report on out-of-country cases in Warsaw in December last year which concluded that in 88% of the cases reviewed the right decision had been reached. You can do that only if you actually look at the subject matter. Therefore, I would fully expect that the chief inspector, in undertaking his report, would have to be able to give some indication as to whether there was greater efficiency and greater accuracy in decision-making. You would have to look at sample cases to see whether the right decisions had been reached.

Amendment 14, in the names of my noble friends, requires the Government to consult on the immigration rules for administrative review. As I have already indicated, the Government will undertake a targeted consultation on the immigration rules establishing administrative review before those rules are laid before Parliament. It is not necessary to place an obligation to consult on the face of the Bill as the Government have already committed to doing so. The proposed new clause also seeks to ensure that administrative review is the subject of an early inspection and report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee acknowledged, Amendment 12, tabled by the Government, requires the Secretary of State to commission such a report from the chief inspector.

My noble friend raised the out-of-country administrative review note that she received. She saw the same point that I had noticed, which indicated that out-of-country reviews are free. I then noted that the statement of intent, which was published along with the Bill, indicated that there would be a fee of £80. I have queried why that is the case. I understand that a separate charge for an administrative review is incorporated into the visa application charge. To do that for in-country reviews would require increasing visa charges. I rather suspect, given what has been said in a number of other debates, not least with regard to students, that that would not be the most popular course to go down. The review is free, but the cost is already incorporated within the visa charge.

I believe that we have accepted a recommendation emanating from the chief inspector about how administrative review can work. I believe that it will work because we are following up on recommendations that have been made about how these decisions can be made more efficiently. Where we have heard evidence of administrative review working for out-of-country applications, there has been a significant improvement over the 60% of errors that were identified in that period with regard to in-country appeals. Therefore, particularly with regard to the huge difference between 28 days and 19 weeks—I suspect overall that it will be cheaper if one does not have to engage learned counsel—we are proposing something here that will be of benefit not only to applicants but to the general administrative procedure as a whole.

Therefore—I suspect without any success—I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment and to recognise that the Government have listened to what was said in many cases in Committee. We are putting on the face of the Bill an obligation on the Secretary of State to commission a report from the chief inspector and particularly to have regard to the specific concerns raised in Committee. I therefore hope that she will withdraw her amendment.