Clause 19

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 9:30 am, 15th March 2007

You are absolutely right, Mr. Illsley. We need to know how many applications, and therefore appeals, there will be, and how much pressure there will be on the system. The applications will result in pressure on the system. The Minister needs to deal with this question: how many applications does he foresee under this system?

My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth has just mentioned the important point of checking the entitlements of the people in question and guarding against forgery. That is very important to the clause, because the Government seem to envisage the system working through a mechanical checking of whether the person ticks the right boxes to accumulate enough points, on the basis of the documents and any other  evidence that they produce. The Under-Secretary’s earlier use of the word “objective” echoes the Government’s paper on the matter—the term is used repeatedly, because the Government see what is happening as an improvement on the system—and it is, I think, meant to signal that there will not be as much scope for individual judgment in individual cases, when the person making the decision is not satisfied, after looking at the case in the round and bringing their experience to bear on it, that the application is genuine.

The Government seem to wish among other things to facilitate such migration and put it on what they regard as a legal basis, although I do not know whether such a basis is a legal requirement. However, I know that it is important that immigration control should be tight and that people should not slip through the system because they happen to tick the right boxes, without their applications being examined for possible irregularities or wrong motivation. I am very worried about problems at that end. There is no use in the Government’s producing proposals for dealing with overstayers and the like if we do not get the first line of defence right. In that line of defence, the interests of immigration control should come before anything else. That necessitates an element of judgment. Of course, if people have a legal entitlement and it is accepted that their application is genuine, they must receive whatever benefits they are entitled to under the Government’s proposals on permission to come to this country, but there must be an element of individual judgment.

The Government are storing up problems, and things will get even more unsatisfactory as far as appeals are concerned. The Government have already had to withdraw some rights of appeal, which I believe they granted in the first place because the system was being overwhelmed. There is a fundamental problem or disjunction in a system that has what Migrationwatch suggested was, in comparison with those of other countries, a Rolls-Royce appeals system. I should be interested to learn what happens in other countries in this respect. I do not know, but I should not be surprised to learn that our appeals system was far more extensive—a Rolls-Royce in comparison with other countries’ systems.