Schedule 3 - Bank accounts

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 3rd November 2015.

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Amendmentsmade: 22, in schedule 3, page 70, line 35, leave out “or a court of summary jurisdiction”

This amendment and amendment 23 change the definition of “relevant appeal court” for appeals in Northern Ireland. The effect is that an appeal against a decision by a court of summary jurisdiction in Northern Ireland to make a freezing order is made to a county court instead of the Crown Court.

Amendment 23, in schedule 3, page 70, line 38, at end insert—

“(c) a county court, where the decision appealed against is a decision of a court of summary jurisdiction.” —(The Solicitor General.)

See the explanatory statement for amendment 22.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I beg to move amendment 93, in schedule 3, page 72, line 8, at end insert—

‘(8A) The Secretary of State shall provide any individual she determines to be a disqualified person with the information resulting from her checks under 40C(1) that led to this determination.

(8B) The Secretary of State shall provide an individual she determines to be a disqualified person, and any person or body by or for whom the relevant account is operated, with compensation in accordance with [New Clause: 40HA Compensation], where that determination is found to have been incorrect.”

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 94, in schedule 3, page 72, line 8, at end insert—

“40HA Compensation

(1) This section applies where—

(a) a person is determined by the Secretary of State (following a check under 40C(1)) to be a disqualified person;

(b) the Secretary of State provides notification to the bank that the person is a disqualified person under section 40C(3) or 40D(7);

(c) the bank closes an account or prevents an account being operated in compliance with section 40G; and

(d) the determination by the Secretary of State under 40C(1) is found to have been incorrect.

(2) Where subsection (1) applies, the Secretary of State shall pay compensation to—

(a) a person incorrectly determined to be a disqualified person;

(b) any person or body by or for whom the relevant account is operated.

(3) No payment of compensation under this section shall be made unless an application for such compensation has been made to the Secretary of State before the end of the period of two years beginning with the date on which the information resulting from its checks under 40C(1) is provided to the person incorrectly determined to be the disqualified person.

(4) But the Secretary of State may direct that an application for compensation made after the end of that period is to be treated as if it had been made within that period if the Secretary of State considers that there are exceptional circumstances which justify doing so.

(5) The question whether there is a right to compensation under this section shall be determined by the Secretary of State.

(6) If the Secretary of State determines that there is a right to such compensation, the sum of £10,000 is paid.”

To make provision for statutory compensation from the Secretary of State to compensate the holder of a bank account where their account is closed or suspended by their bank in reliance on incorrect information provided by the Secretary of State as to the status of the account holder as a disqualified person.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I had the opportunity when we were discussing clause 18, which inevitably included a discussion of schedule 3, to speak to the amendments. I hope the Minister heard my concerns. I do not think I will make them any stronger by repeating them.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his observations. We believe amendments 93 and 94 are unnecessary and would create a disproportionately expensive bureaucracy around the provisions. The Home Office will only share the details of migrants who are liable for removal or deportation from the UK, such as those who have exhausted all appeal rights. Those will include people who have been served with a deportation order or enforcement papers or who have absconded from immigration control. They will be fully aware of the reasons why they are considered to be disqualified people. Those who are refused permission to stay will be warned in the Home Office decision letter of the practical consequences, including for their continued ability to operate a bank account in the UK. To require the Home Office separately to actively provide them with such information in every case where their data are shared would cause delay and waste resources. Details of the individuals are already shared with the anti-fraud organisation CIFAS for the purpose of enabling banks to comply with the Immigration Act 2014 and also to assist in the prevention of fraud. The accuracy of the data is subject to rigorous checks by the Home Office before it is shared. This is reflected in the fact that the Home Office receives very few complaints or inquiries from banks or individuals regarding the current sharing of data arrangements under section 40 of the 2014 Act. Only three official complaints have been received since the Home Office started to share data with CIFAS in 2011.

Under the new provisions, the Home Office will be notified by banks when they believe that an account holder is a disqualified person. It will then carry out a further thorough check before the bank will be required to take any action to close an account. The bank will be notified if circumstances have changed and the person is no longer disqualified. This double check will act as a further safeguard to make sure that the bank acts on the most up-to-date information. Individuals whose accounts are subject to closure will be told by the bank of the  reason why, provided that it is lawful to do so. If, despite all the checks, a person still considers they are lawfully present and that incorrect information has been provided, they will then be given the information they need to swiftly contact the Home Office so that any error can be rectified.

As is currently the case with data provided to CIFAS, the Home Office will be able to correct any mistake in real time so that the person’s details will immediately be removed from the data that are shared with the banks. That will be a far swifter and more effective means of correcting any error than in the process proposed in the amendment. If an account is closed, any credit balance will not be withheld from the individual, but returned to them by the bank in the normal way. In the unlikely event that an account is closed by mistake, the situation can be swiftly rectified in the way I have described without the serious consequences for the individual that have understandably been envisaged by the hon. and learned Gentleman. We believe the proposed compensation would therefore be disproportionate in the circumstances, and I invite him to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I am grateful to the Solicitor General for his explanation and reassurance as to how it is intended the scheme will work. Would he be good enough to write to me or to the Committee, setting that out, since it is not in the Bill?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am happy to write to the hon. and learned Gentleman. That is now on the record.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.