Clause 32 - Continuation of leave: repeals

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 5th November 2015.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

Clause 32 repeals section 3D of the Immigration Act 1971, which extends a migrant’s leave where that person’s leave to enter or remain is revoked or was varied with the result that he or she has no leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, and an appeal or administrative review of the variation or revocation decision could be brought or is pending.

Following the changes to the appeal system introduced by the Immigration Act 2014, it is no longer possible to appeal against the revocation of leave or the decision to vary leave where the consequence of that variation is that the person has no leave; it is also not possible to seek an administrative review of those decisions. Where somebody still has a pre-2014 Act appeal pending against the decision to revoke immigration leave or a relevant variation decision, there are transitional arrangements in place so that their leave extended under section 3D continues until their appeal is finally determined.

In a nutshell, given that section 3D no longer serves any purpose, it is right that it and references to it be removed from the statute book to avoid unnecessary confusion, and indeed to nod to a recent judgment by the Court of Appeal in which Lord Justice Elias said that he was concerned about over-complexity in the law in this area. It is in pursuance of that important function that I move the clause.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

The clause will also cause problems for anyone seeking to have their claim handled in a just manner, because leave can be revoked if a person no longer meets the requirements for leave: for example, if someone is here as a spouse and they split up with their partner. Often, nobody is at fault, but imagine being the injured party who, to add insult to that injury, is then considered not to have the right to live where they have been living. By forcing the departure of those whose leave has been revoked but who are already well integrated into society and are law-abiding citizens and who have freshly been deemed illegal for whatever reason, including the one that I just mentioned, but who may in fact not be here illegally, the Government are making it difficult for justice to be done.

No immigration worker will make a correct judgment in all cases. I think we have all accepted that the accuracy of far too many judgments has been shown to be wanting by an appeal. The Minister talked about his frustration that Opposition Members seem to refer constantly to wrong decisions by the Home Office, and he is right—it is not always the Home Office’s fault—but sometimes it is about things that, although they may be the fault of the person applying, are trivial. For example, I had a friend who was married to a Sri Lankan and wanted her husband to live here with his wife and child, understandably. She was refused, and she had to start the entire process all over again because she inadvertently enclosed a photocopy of the wedding certificate instead of the original. [Interruption.] I can see from the Solicitor General’s response that we all agree that that is trivial. Sometimes it is the fault of the person applying, but the reasons are silly.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am very familiar with cases of that nature, as I have many such constituency cases; I know exactly what the hon. Lady is talking about. There is an important policy purpose behind ensuring that we have original documents. I think that she can see the obvious point about the danger of relying on a copy that might not be a true representation of the original. If that is explained clearly to people—the guidance discusses the need for original documents rather than copies—hopefully such misunderstandings will cease. Probably in the case in question the application is entirely genuine, but there is a need to rely on original documents, and that is important.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

I do not disagree, and my friend was very aware of the need to submit the original document; she just put the photocopy in accidentally without realising, but that meant that she had to start the entire process over again—and, if memory serves me correctly, she had to pay all over again. As well as people understanding how important it is to do the correct thing and provide the correct information, it would be useful if the Home Office could take into account the fact that someone made a mistake, and just ask them to sort it out. That is just one example.

The Government are looking at this situation the wrong way around. Instead of improving the accuracy of the original judgments or taking into account what we just talked about—the fact that problems could be sorted out relatively quickly—if feels as if they are trying to hinder reviews and appeals, worthy or not, by hampering appellants in submitting their claims. Human error alone will lead to faulty judgments which—given the consequences, such as having to appeal from overseas, or criminalisation for remaining in the UK—will inevitably lead to human suffering that could have been avoided. That is why previous legislators included a workable administrative review and appeals system. Those of us who have knowledge of that system will be familiar with its problems, but they pale into insignificance in comparison with the general policy of appeals from overseas and the criminalisation of those whose leave has expired.

There should be no doubt: those who support part 4 of the Bill will needlessly split up families. The fact that it will be impossible for families to stay together while appeals are dealt with makes a mockery of the Government’s professed support of family values.  The family life of British citizens with foreign family members could hinge on such minor matters as faulty judgments, typos, stray documents or, to use my recent example, the accidental submission of a photocopy, which should be picked up during the appeal. Tat is no way to run an immigration system.

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

I want to make sure I have understood the measure. As I understand it, section 3D leave was for people whose leave had been cancelled or curtailed by the Home Office for various reasons including deception, so that they could bring an appeal—so they would be entitled to remain to bring an appeal. That seems sensible. There might be an error and it is usually best to put errors right. I have worked in a big organisation of 9,000 staff making hundreds of thousands of decisions. There is an always an error rate, however well trained the staff. It seems sensible therefore that if there has been an error the person in question should have the right to remain and appeal.

What happened, I think, is that the right of appeal was removed last year, but on an undertaking that there might be administrative review. Again, that might be quite sensible: we will remove the right of appeal but provide a different mechanism so that someone can simply correct a wrong decision. I understand that the administrative review procedure has not been put in place. Now, in cases where a decision is made to cancel someone’s leave, the Government want to strike out section 3D on the basis that since they will not let the individual affected do anything about it, there is no point in it. So when a wrong decision is made about an individual, what are they to do—in a nutshell?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am grateful to hon. Members for their contributions to the debate. The hon. Member for Glasgow North East is concerned about the availability of administrative review. I am grateful for her more general observations, and I hope I answered them in response to the debate on clause 31; I hope that she will forgive me for not repeating my observations on those points. I mean no disrespect.

On the hon. Lady’s specific points, we do not think that administrative review should be available where a person has their immigration leave cancelled or revoked. There are a number of circumstances where it would not be appropriate. One example would be where a migrant worked in breach of their immigration conditions and had their leave cancelled. Another example would be a person whose conduct or behaviour has made it undesirable for them to remain here—people who facilitate sham marriages, for example.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties)

Did the Solicitor General just say that the reason there should not be administrative reviews is because there are a number of circumstances in which they would not be appropriate? Surely we can surely write out the right for cases where it would not be appropriate, but still allow administrative reviews? If there are some cases where review would not be appropriate, there must be some where it would be very appropriate.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I will come to that point and the point that the hon. Lady made about error. It is an amplification of the intervention she kindly allowed me to have. In place of administrative review, the Home  Office has an error correction policy for when immigration leave is cancelled. So an application for error correction under the policy does not extend the immigration leave, but it does allow errors to be raised with the Home Office. We are getting the balance right between effective immigration control on the one hand and the fairness point that the hon. Lady quite properly raised.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I will in a moment. I just want to finish this point. The Home Office contacts people who make applications and who have paid a fee to give them the opportunity to correct errors in their applications.

Anne McLaughlin rose—

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

There are examples. The case of Iqbal, which we cited yesterday, was an example where individuals were invited to correct errors. So the process works. Statistics show that only 2.45% of applications were found to be invalid—invalid is when an application is made, but because of error it is of no effect, so the process is having an impact, which is good. I accept the point that the hon. Lady made about the case that she raised, but we believe that the error correction policy fills a particular gap and addresses the mischief that hon. Members have raised.

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

An error correction mechanism is a very good idea. I tried to introduce one in the Crown Prosecution Service to avoid people having to go to court. It provides a much quicker process and allows staff to understand where errors have occurred and correct them, but it is not foolproof by any stretch of the imagination, and there will be wrong decisions that are not picked up by an error correction mechanism. What happens in such cases? Simply saying there are some people who might bring inappropriate appeals, therefore there should not be a right of appeal, is, when broadened, an argument against any appeal in any case of administration decision. Of course some people will bring inappropriate cases.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

Let us not forget the context here. We are dealing with situations in which people have had their leave revoked or varied because of due process, and a trigger event will have allowed that to happen. It is not fair to say we should look at such cases as a blank page where an administrative review might be the first opportunity for the issues to be aired. There is a residual and important right to judicial review of Executive decisions as well, so the checks and balances are there.

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

I am interested in this because, as we have gone through the proceedings, every time we hit the problem that there is no simple appeal or review, the suggestion is to go for a long shot—judicial review, which everyone knows is a long and expensive process. Has there been consultation with the judiciary on the policy of requiring all these cases to go to the High Court by way of judicial review as the only avenue of review? I think there would be concern about all these cases going to the High Court when they could have been dealt with much more cheaply, swiftly and efficiently.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

in the context of how we approach judicial review applications, the hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that concern was expressed a few years ago by members of the coalition Government about the rise in judicial review applications. He will know that the lion’s share arose from immigration cases. As a result of the adjustments and changes made under the previous Government’s legislation, that rise will be checked. There will therefore be a situation in which, rather than adding to an additional upward trend, this measure will make little difference. To respond to his question, I do not have a formal assessment, but I am not overly alarmed or concerned about a potential spike in applications for judicial review.

There is a temptation for us to start moving away from the subject matter—I know you would be quick to intervene and rule that out of order, Mr Owen—so let us not forget that the clause is all about tidying up legislation. The purpose of section 3D no longer exists; in many ways, it is now an artificial construct. Bearing in mind the need for members of the public and legal representatives to be able to navigate their way through immigration law as clearly and effectively as possible, it is right for us to clear the decks and remove superfluous clauses and provisions so that immigration law reaches a state of clarity and simplicity, which we would all desire. For those reasons, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.