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 Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism) 3:45 pm, 22nd January 2004

As the hon. Lady said, clause 19 requires the designated professional bodies listed in section 86(1) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to comply with a request by the commissioner for the

provision of information, which may be general or specific to a particular case of matter.

The amendment would provide that the only information that a designated professional body must provide would be that relating to the provision of immigration advice by persons regulated by the body. The amendment is not framed to remove references to general information, but its effect would be that the commissioner's ability to request general information would be severely undermined.

The requirement has not been informed specifically by a problem with flows of information from any quarter. It exists primarily because an important part of the commissioner's statutory duty in his annual report and report to the Secretary of State is to detail the designated professional bodies' effectiveness in regulating their members in the provision of immigration advice and services. Clause 19 reflects that duty—hence the references to general information. In order to fulfil that duty, it is not only advice in relation to specific cases that is important.

For example, the commissioner would need statistics on the number of complaints sent directly to designated professional bodies, and how many were upheld. Clause 19 will ensure that the commissioner receives the information that he requests, either general or specific, that is necessary for him to fulfil his statutory duty. The amendment would compromise that. It is not necessary. The type of information that he may reasonably request is limited to what is necessary for him to fulfil his statutory duties relating to immigration advice. Any request unrelated to those responsibilities would be unreasonable and subject to judicial review.

Not only are the amendments unnecessary but they would severely circumscribe the commissioner's ability to fulfil his statutory duties, so I ask the hon. Lady not to press them.