As the hon. Gentleman said, the Bill is intended to make much clearer the points-based system by which people can apply for extended leave to remain or the right to come here to work or study. I understand his points about clarity, but perhaps I can offer him some reassurance.
The hon. Gentleman’s amendment would extend the circumstances under which a tribunal would be prohibited from considering new evidence, although that might simply be a problem with the wording—I accept that it is a probing amendment. I think that his intention was to allow the tribunal to consider evidence that was not submitted with the original application if the applicant was
“unclear about the conditions required” and if the
“failure to consider new evidence would be in clear breach of natural justice.”
Why is that problematic? Because it would make the evidential rules in points-based system cases very vague. The key consideration would be what the applicant knew, so different rules of evidence would apply to different applicants. That approach could be seen to reward applicants who could show that they did not know what the rules required, while penalising those who took care when making their applications. Any applicant who did not supply evidence on time could claim that he was unclear about the requirements. That would present a difficulty with the whole aim of the system. People could take a chance on the judge believing them and letting them submit further evidence with their appeals. We are trying to ensure that appeals are not simply an extension of the application process, but the intention behind the hon. Gentleman’s amendment means that late evidence could still be submitted at appeal.
Under the system, the majority of people will apply online. We will stipulate what evidence is required so that it is clear and there can be no misunderstanding as to what is needed. If an applicant is unable to provide a piece of evidence, in exceptional circumstances, we will give advice as to what evidence can be submitted instead. That should not present a problem with late evidence. With online applications, there will be tick boxes and if applicants cannot tick them to say that they can submit what they need to, they will be told that there is a problem and that they need to submit a certain document. If they are unable to do that, they will be told to take different steps or to make contact. It will be clear what evidence is required, what replacement evidence can be provided when the necessary evidence cannot be produced and what to do if there is still a problem.