Clause 17 - Asylum or human rights claim: damage to claimant’s credibility

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 26 October 2021.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 11:00, 26 October 2021

I beg to move amendment 39, in clause 17, page 20, line 22, at end insert—

‘(1A) For subsection (1) substitute—

In determining whether to believe a statement made by or on behalf of a person who makes an asylum claim or human rights claim, a deciding authority shall take into account any behaviour to which this section applies.”

This amendment would mean that – whilst attempts to conceal information, mislead, or delay the processing of a claim would still be taken into account – it will be for the deciding authority to assess what impact this has on the claimant’s credibility.

Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration 2004 is hugely controversial, both on a point of principle and in its practical effect. It tells decision makers, whether at the Home Office or an independent judge, that if an applicant behaves in a certain way that must be taken as damaging their credibility. Clause 17 adds to the list of behaviours.

Amendment 39 would take us back to the point of principle by saying it is not for Parliament to tell decision makers, judges of fact, what to think about evidence that they have seen and we have not. Are the Government saying that they do not trust them to do their job properly? If we take a step back, the clause would represent the Home Office using legislation to tell decision makers what to think about evidence, in a dispute that it is party to itself. In that light, it is an outrageous principle.

The amendment would mean that those decision makers are asked to take into account the behaviour, rather than being told what to think about it. It is up to them to decide what they should read into late provision of evidence. What if the late provision of evidence is not the claimant’s fault? What if the lawyer made the mistake? What if a medical expert took too long to finalise a report? Ultimately, decision makers have to decide whether the person is at real risk of persecution. If late evidence provides compelling proof of that, they need to be recognised as refugees. Again, get on with fixing decision-making times and quality. From the point of view of principle, we should leave decision makers to weigh up the evidence themselves, without direction from legislators. It is as simple as that.