Immigration Bill — Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench 8:45 pm, 1st April 2014

My Lords, I added my name to Amendment 21, which is in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett. As she explained, some of the provisions in Clause 18 depend on a relationship with a qualifying child. I am doubtful of the wisdom of imposing rigid categories in a context that inevitably depends on the circumstances of individual cases. It seems that the inevitable consequence will be to create anomalies, as here, with the impact on a child who has lived in this country for a continuous period of four, five or six years. If we are to legislate by reference to the number of years that a child has been in this country, a cut-off period of four years seems much more appropriate than seven years. If the child is aged between six and 10, four years will form the major part of his or her conscious experience.

I have noted the helpful letter dated 28 March from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, to noble Lords. It says:

“Children who have been here for less than 7 years will still be considered on a case by case basis”.

I welcome that assurance but find it difficult to reconcile with the wording of Clause 18. I have in mind, for example, proposed new Section 117C, which provides at subsection (3):

“In the case of a foreign criminal … who has not been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of four years or more, the public interest requires … deportation”,

unless one of the two exceptions applies. The second exception, which is in new subsection (5), is defined to apply where that individual has, for example,

“a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child”.

It therefore seems, on the wording here, that despite the relationship—which may be genuine, subsisting and very powerful or compelling—if the child has not been here for a continuous period of seven years, it is simply not a factor that can be taken into account under new Section 117C. Therefore, under new Section 117C(3), the public interest will require deportation. I am troubled whether the facts of individual cases in relation to the child who has been here less than seven years will be capable of being taken into account under these very restrictive and absolute criteria.