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Lord McNicol of West Kilbride:
Moved by Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
4: Clause 11, page 14, line 2, leave out subsection (1) and insert—“(1) A person may appeal against a citizens’ rights immigration decision to the First-tier Tribunal.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would give a right of appeal against a citizens’ rights immigration decision.
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 8 and 9 in my name and Amendment 10 in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayter. These are relatively short amendments, but they cover a very important issue.
The settled status scheme does not currently provide a right of appeal, causing unnecessary confusion and frustration for applicants who do not receive the decision they were expecting, and in many cases were entitled to. Under the current scheme, if somebody’s application is unsuccessful, they may be able to apply for an administrative review at a cost of £80. The administrative review process applies for people whose applications were refused on eligibility grounds, or where they applied for full settled status but were awarded only pre-settled status. As we have recently heard, the percentages of those awarded pre-settled status is anywhere between 40% and 47%.
While the Bill’s current provisions allow for regulations to be made providing for appeals, this does not amount to a legal obligation, and neither does it guarantee equal treatment in all cases. There is a clear need for a formal appeals process, as we can see from the Government’s wish through making provision in the Bill to deal with this under regulation. A statutory right of appeal should be set out in primary legislation. These are important rights that should not be played with at the whim of individuals.
There have been several cases where EU residents have submitted documentation demonstrating residency for a period of more than five years, yet they have been granted only pre-settled status. The Home Office claims that the scheme is a success because only a small number of people have had their application rejected—we have heard that the number is five—largely due to the criminality of the individuals. As you would expect, we support those rejections. However, the figures discount those who may have wrongly received pre-settled status. My understanding is that the most recent statistics show that the figure for those being granted pre-settled status is, as was touched on earlier, as high as 40%. But this is a temporary form of leave lasting up to five years; it is not indefinite leave to remain. A number of NGOs have expressed concern that outstanding administrative reviews at the end of the implementation period could leave individuals in difficult and possibly hostile situations. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support Amendment 4, to which I have attached my name, as well as Amendment 8 and others in this group. As currently drafted, the Bill does not match the Government’s previous assurances that EU citizens’ rights will be protected. It is impossible to deny that massive errors occur in the UK immigration system. People are wrongly deported, sometimes in tragic circumstances leading even to death. While many of these tragedies occur whether or not there has been an appeals process, it is certain that many more injustices will happen if an appeals process is not available. For that reason, the Bill must set out a clear right to an appeals process. It is not good enough to leave it to Ministers to decide on an appeals process in the future, because the Bill does not give a date by which an appeals process should be brought into force. This means that Ministers might never create an appeals system at all.
Also, no principles are set out, or basic rights which must be protected, or rules which must be obeyed. I do not want a situation where government inaction, for whatever reason, leads to injustice or, worse, citizens’ rights becoming another bargaining chip in the next stage of Brexit negotiations. I say this as someone who voted for Brexit—but I did not vote to be nasty or to make people feel vulnerable and at risk of being deported, and I did not vote to ruin people’s lives.
Surely the Minister understands that the Government are creating a quite complex new immigration status for EU nationals and that it is almost certain that administrative errors will happen, so a clear appeals process must be set out in this important legislation. I therefore make a plea to the Minister to take the amendment away and discuss it with his officials. We need something like this in the Bill so that errors can be put right and so that our EU friends and neighbours know that justice will be done.
My Lords, I rise briefly to speak to Amendment 10 in this group, to which I have put my name. From my point of view, the amendment is more by way of a probing amendment, because I appreciate that the regulation-making powers that are provided for in Clause 11 are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, as set out in Schedule 4. However, my concern is that the regulations could strike down the ability to make an effective appeal review under judicial review, and I would like to know why this is.
Judicial review is a very important remedy so far as the citizen is concerned, because they can challenge the power of a public authority on the grounds that it is, for example, unlawful, unreasonable or ultra vires, or on a number of other grounds. I appreciate that the courts have sometimes gone a bit far in their interpretation of their powers, in that they have on occasion usurped the executive functions of Ministers—but that is by the way. What I would like to know in this case is why we are extending the power in the regulations to tackle judicial review, and in particular what kinds of changes the Minister has in mind when contemplating this power in the statute.
My Lords, I have put my name to Amendment 10. As the noble Viscount said, judicial review—the right to apply to the courts to review the decision of a public body—is hugely important. I do not share the view that the courts have acted inappropriately and entered the political arena when they should not have, but, as he says, that is not the point.
I was not trying to suggest that, for example, striking down the Prime Minister was in any way wrongful. I would have done so if I had been in the Supreme Court. What I am suggesting is that quite often courts do intervene on executive matters. I certainly do not include in that the decisions made by the Supreme Court at the back end of last year, which I profoundly supported.
I was not seeking to have a go at the noble Viscount. If judicial review has grown inappropriately, that is a separate matter. It is dangerous if the Executive are seeking through this provision to protect themselves from proper oversight by the courts.
In the Commons, a Member said on rights of redress for EU citizens that
“appeal rights and judicial review are enshrined”.—[
The Minister endorsed that, at col. 336. But Clause 11(3) seems to “deshrine”—if that is a word—judicial review. I too am concerned that at the least we understand what we are doing, but, if it is as I understand it, that we do not do it.
My Lords, I added my name to the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McNicol of West Kilbride, on behalf of the Liberal Democrat group. I have one or two other amendments in this group. One is on the judicial review point, and I am perfectly happy to leave the lawyers to argue the case on that, which they know far more about than I do.
“A Minister of the Crown may”—
I would prefer “must” but I accept that “may” means it is probably going to happen—
“by regulations make provision for, or in connection with, appeals against citizens’ rights immigration decisions of a kind described in the regulations.”
Clause 11(2) defines a “citizens’ rights immigration decision” for the purposes of the Bill and it talks about various kinds of entry clearance, decisions in connection with leave to enter or remain, a deportation order, and
“any other decision made in connection with restricting the right of a relevant person to enter the United Kingdom”.
That all seems fairly comprehensive. What I do not understand, which is why I tabled Amendment 6 to probe this, is what is meant by
“of a kind described in the regulations.”
Does it mean that some of the things listed will not be covered by the regulations and the right to appeal? If so, what is the Government’s thinking about which ones they may be, or do they intend that they will all be covered, in which case why does the kind have to be described in the regulations since it is set out here in the Bill?
On the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNicol of West Kilbride, and other noble Lords, it is fairly clear that many people who have been given pre-settled status because they have not been living in the United Kingdom for five years or, in some cases, cannot prove that they have been doing so. There is also a significant number of people—I have no idea how many—who have been living here for five years but whose applications have been found difficult, for some reason or other. Rather than refusing them, the scheme is giving them pre-settled status because establishing the true facts would take a lot of time, energy and workload and, as the Minister said, millions of people are applying. It would be helpful to know what proportion of the people who have got pre-settled status have been, or say they have been, living here for more than five years—in some cases, they have been here pretty well all their lives—and have been given that status to give them something without prolonging the argument. In those cases, does the provision that they will automatically get settled status once they have been here for five years still apply?
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments. We cannot support them, and I will outline why. The Government will provide for a right of appeal against citizens’ rights immigration decisions. While I commend noble Lords for their commitment to citizens’ rights, these amendments create unnecessary changes to the wording of Clause 11 and, at worst, undermine our ability to provide for a right of appeal in all circumstances and ensure consistency for judicial review, and even create perverse incentives to appeal decisions to gain the benefits of indefinite leave to remain.
Amendments 4 and 9 are unnecessary. EU citizens who are appealing a decision on residence must be able to appeal if refused leave, or given what they believe is an incorrect status under the EU settlement scheme, under our international agreements. It is also damaging, as a power is required to implement the numerous situations requiring appeals.
Amendment 5 is at best unnecessary and, at worst, could prevent the provision for necessary appeals. This Government will provide for a right of appeal against citizens’ rights immigration decisions. This is an essential part of our commitment to protecting the rights of EU citizens, EEA EFTA and Swiss nationals under the withdrawal agreement, the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement and the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement.
On Amendment 6, the current wording of Clause 11(1) allows the Government to make sufficient regulations in relation to appeals against citizens’ rights immigration decisions. It fulfils our commitment in the agreements and provides certainty to EU citizens that they shall have a right to appeals. Moreover, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has recently commended the powers in the Bill as,
“naturally constrained by the scope of the particular matter contained in the Agreements”.
As such, Amendment 6 is unnecessary.
As for Amendment 7, it is in the public interest to make reviews of exclusion directions made in respect of those protected by our implementation of the withdrawal agreements consistent with how similar reviews are treated now. This power enables us to do this, but Amendment 7 would remove that ability.
Amendment 8 would make it harder for EU citizens to challenge an exclusion direction, would prevent the Government being able to prevent removal unless the appeal is certified and would create a perverse incentive for individuals to launch appeals to gain access to the benefits of indefinite leave to remain.
Amendment 10 seeks to limit the power in Clause 11 in relation to judicial review. It is in the public interest to make reviews of exclusion directions made in respect of those protected by our implementation of the agreements consistent with how similar reviews are treated. This power enables us to do this, but the amendment would remove that ability.
I will, but first I reiterate that appeals processes will be set out in the regulations to be made under the power in Clause 11. The regulations will be made in the last week of January, to answer the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I may now be answering my noble friend’s question, because he asked whether we have a power to make changes to reviews, including judicial reviews. This limb of the power will be used to ensure that the legislation that interacts with new citizens’ appeal rights continues to function appropriately. It ensures that we can amend Section 2C of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 to provide that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission can hear reviews in respect of those protected by the agreements in the same way as they hear reviews in other cases, such as the most sensitive immigration cases. We will not be restricting the availability or scope of judicial review.
I would like just a little more clarity, although my noble friend has given quite a lot. Do I understand that what the Government are thinking of doing is procedural only, and they are not seeking in any way to curtail the substantive rights that presently arise under judicial review?
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for taking part in the debate on this group of amendments and the Minister for her response. Mistakes can be made in any process and, as the Minister said, the Government will be moving to provide the right of appeal. These amendments seek to put that right of appeal in the Bill and ensure that it is dealt with properly at this stage. With that, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 4, but I will continue to push the points that have been made.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Amendments 5 to 10 not moved.
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed.
Clause 13: Co-ordination of social security systems