Schedule 3 - Bank accounts

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

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General 2:00 pm, 3rd November 2015

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.