Clause 16 - Provision of evidence in support of protection or human rights claim

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 26th October 2021.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 10:45 am, 26th October 2021

Of course, the situation will be set out clearly in guidance. We think that is the better approach, because it allows greater flexibility on the sorts of factors that might be relevant to the disclosure of late information, and obviously on matters that are relevant to individuals circumstances.

We tend to think that taking a less prescriptive approach than what the hon. Member is suggesting is the best way to address that, because we want to focus on individual cases and on ensuring proper consideration on a case-by-case basis, which is very difficult to capture in the circumstances being suggested here or by adopting the approach necessary to achieve that. That is why clause 16, together with clauses 17 and 23, allows for good reasons why evidence might be provided late.

As per the amendments directly commented on, rather than facilitate engagement in the process, amendment 153 would exclude claimants from it. This would have the perverse impact of some vulnerable claimants facing different evidential requirements simply because their particular vulnerability was not included in the list of exceptions. In addition, the amendment could create a situation where individuals who do not fall into one of the categories identified by the amendment were able to abuse the process by falsely claiming that they did. This would perpetuate the issues these clauses are designed to address to the detriment of genuine claimants, undermining their usefulness.

I am mindful that a number of detailed points were raised during the debate that I want to come to. The issue of deviation from the Home Office’s existing policy was raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield Central. I would not accept that depiction. I would say that the Home Office will have discretion over who is served an evidence notice and the extent to which credibility is damaged by late evidence. Where there are good reasons for late evidence, credibility will not be damaged. There is nothing automatic about this. Credibility is also not by itself determinative.

Building on that point, there are various safeguards in the clauses that mitigate a decision that could lead to removal in breach of the rights afforded by the conventions. First, claimants who raise matters late will have the opportunity to provide reasons for that lateness—and where those reasons are good, credibility will not be damaged. Decision makers will have the discretion to determine the extent to which credibility should be damaged, and that determination need not by itself be determinative of a claim, as I have already said.

The point was raised, understandably and quite rightly, about how we intend to deal with potential victims of trauma. Of course, how decision makers reach decisions is important in all this, and they should treat claims from vulnerable people in accordance with the guidance that we will set out. Extensive training will of course be put in place alongside that. Decision makers are already accustomed to ensuring that complex factors relating to trauma are properly considered.