Clause 19 - Professional bodies

Part of Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 22nd January 2004.

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Photo of Ms Annabelle Ewing Ms Annabelle Ewing Spokesperson (Social Security (SNP Shadow Scottish Minister); Education & Skills; Home Office; Law Officers; Work & Pensions) 3:45 pm, 22nd January 2004

These three amendments are technical amendments that seek to clarify that the information requested by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner must relate solely to information

''in relation to the provision of immigration advice or immigration services by a person regulated by a designated professional body.''

I thought that that would have been the Government's intention. It is also in the interests of legal certainty to include that definition of the scope of the provision. The Minister referred to the fact that the commissioner's powers are set by statute, but it is not unheard of for a statutory body to act ultra vires. I urge her to consider the amendments.

Subsection (4) introduces the statutory duty of compliance by all designated professional bodies to a request for information by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner. I understand that the possible motivation for the new provision may be the difficulties that have arisen with information flows, in particular between the OISC and the Law Society of England and Wales. The OISC's annual report for 2002–03 refers to such problems. Interestingly, it states on page 48 that some 94 per cent. of the complaints that were referred during that period to designated professional bodies by the OISC, were referred to the Law Society of England and Wales. If those problems are the prime motivation behind the new provision, is it appropriate to encompass all designated professional bodies in subsection (4) merely to deal with the problems of one body—the Law Society of England and Wales?

The Minister will know that the Law Society of Scotland concluded a memorandum of understanding with the OISC on 3 October 2003. As far as I am aware, that arrangement has worked satisfactorily to date. The Law Society of Scotland is an important body in Scotland, so will the Minister consider its example? When designated professional bodies are voluntarily working well with the OISC, is it necessary to impose a blanket statutory duty of compliance? Would it not be better to separate out the bodies with which the office has particular problems and find appropriate language to deal with them? I look forward to the Minister's reply.