It is worth pausing for a second on the clause. As I have argued in previous debates, the immigration system must be robust, but it must also be fair, and seen to be fair, because public confidence will be restored only if it is both robust and fair.
The Minister will be aware that people are worried that the clause might be used to violate the protections offered by various international conventions to which the Government remain signed up. As we heard in the evidence session, some people believe that we should pull out of the European convention on human rights. I am not conscious that that is yet Government policy, although it is a fast-moving area, but there are genuine concerns out there that the wide powers that the clause gives to the Secretary of State might be used to violate people’s rights under the ECHR, various Community treaties or the refugee convention. It is worth noting clause 7(2)(e), which states that regulations may
“provide for the consequence of a failure to be at the discretion of the Secretary of State.”
That is potentially a hugely wide provision, giving the Secretary of State quasi-judicial powers of a high order.
No such clause should pass the House without its being noted that such powers are potentially dangerous in the hands of an unscrupulous Secretary of State. It is part of the scrutiny role of the House to point out potential dangers, which I am sure are unintended. There are points to be made about the rights of individuals under various conventions. I hope thatthe Minister can reassure us on them; otherwise, the provision will cause deep unease in various parts of the community.