Clause 21 - Priority Removal Notices: Expediated Appeals

Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 26th October 2021.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 2:30 pm, 26th October 2021

I beg to move amendment 155, in clause 21, page 24, line 21, at end insert—

“(2A) The Secretary of State must accept that there are good reasons for P making the claim on or after the cut-off date where—

(a) the PRN recipient’s protection or human rights claim is based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics;

(b) the PRN recipient is suffering from a mental health condition or impairment;

(c) the PRN recipient has been a victim of torture;

(d) the PRN recipient has been a victim of sexual or gender based violence;

(e) the PRN recipient has been a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery;

(f) the PRN recipient is suffering from a serious physical disability;

(g) the PRN recipient is suffering from other serious physical health conditions or illnesses.”

This amendment defines ”good reasons” for the purposes of section 82A(2) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (as inserted by this Bill).

If someone makes a protection claim after the PRN cut-off, then unless the Secretary of State is satisfied there are good reasons, she must certify the appeal right and it will be subjected to an expedited appeal straight to the upper tribunal. Tribunal procedure rules, then, must make provision for this. If it is in the interests of justice for an appeal not to be expedited, the tribunal may order that it is no longer subject to that process. This, too, prevents any onward appeal.

In the next debate I will set out our opposition to the clause as a whole, but amendment 155 sets out a situation where the Secretary of State must accept there has been a reasonable excuse, similar to before. It would surely be wrong to subject survivors of human trafficking, or gender-based violence or torture—to use but three examples—to an accelerated appeal, simply on the grounds that they were late making a claim in response to a PRN. We have heard very powerful reasons already today, including in Home Office guidance, why that can be an incredibly difficult process.

I suspect the Minister will again reject this amendment on the same grounds as before, but it is at least useful for him to state on record that these are the types of claimant that he envisages should not be pushed through any accelerated appeal process. I will listen carefully to what he has to say in that regard.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling amendment 155, which seeks to define good reasons for the purposes of proposed new section 82A(2) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. I appreciate the concerns this amendment is attempting to address but the Government must oppose it. The amendment would result in all individuals who meet any of the descriptors listed being exempt from the expedited appeal process, even where their reason for lateness may be completely unrelated and make redundant any need to submit a claim by the date specified in the PRN.

I acknowledge that the experiences and circumstances listed in the amendment can inform why a person has made an application late. However, the duty on the Secretary of State will see all and any reasons for lateness being considered. Guidance for decision makers will be published and made available when these measures come into force. For that reason, I invite the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I beg to move amendment 67, in clause 21, page 24, line 27, after “are” insert “brought and”.

This amendment and Amendment 68 clarify that the Tribunal Procedure Rules establishing the new expedited appeals process must aim to ensure that both the bringing of an appeal and its determination are expedited.

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 68 and 69.

Amendment 42, in clause 21, page 24, line 37, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment would protect the right to an onward appeal from an expedited appeal decision by the Upper Tribunal in certain cases.

Clause stand part.

That schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

The Government propose three amendments to clause 21. Two amendments relate to the timeframe for bringing an expedited appeal. Accordingly, they clarify that the tribunal procedure rules must provide that an expedited appeal is brought more quickly than a standard appeal. That will ensure that individuals bring appeals promptly. The third amendment provides that, where the upper tribunal exercises its discretion to order that an expedited appeal should not be treated as such, the appeal will be transferred to the first-tier tribunal. This amendment provides an important clarification about the impact of the upper tribunal’s discretion to remove a case from the expedited appeal route. I therefore urge the hon. Members to support the Government amendments.

I thank the hon. Members for tabling amendment 42, which concerns the finality of decisions by the upper tribunal in expedited appeals. However, the Government oppose the amendment. The expedited appeal process provides effective access to justice while protecting the appeals system from abuse by individuals who deliberately act to prolong their case, thereby delaying a final decision.

We believe that where recipients of a priority removal notice who have received an offer of enhanced legal advice bring a late human rights or protection claim without good reason, any subsequent appeal should be dealt with expeditiously by experienced senior judges, and that their decision should be final. We believe that that strikes a balance, ensuring that appellants have access to justice, while protecting the appeals system from abuse. Section 13 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 provides for various upper tribunal decisions to be excluded from onward appeal. It is appropriate that expedited appeals are included within the list of excluded decisions that are not appealable.

Clause 21 creates a new expedited appeal that will be heard in the upper tribunal. Frequently, those who face removal or deportation from the UK utilise delay tactics, such as bringing late claims and launching repeated appeals, to thwart removal action. That leads to unnecessary costs to the taxpayer and increased burden on the courts and tribunals system. The clause will ensure that appeals in relation to late human rights or protection claims brought by recipients of a priority removal notice, as provided by clause 18, are determined quickly, with decisions being final. By creating an expedited appeal, the clause will also remove the incentive for bringing claims late, and protect the appeals system from abuse.

The clause provides the safeguards needed to ensure that the expedited appeals route is fair and provides access to justice. Where a person provides good reasons for a late claim, their right of appeal will not be certified as an expedited appeal. In addition, the upper tribunal will have discretion to order that an expedited appeal is no longer to be treated as such, when it is in the interests of justice to do so.

Schedule 2, which is supplementary to clause 21, creates a new expedited appeal to the upper tribunal under proposed new section 82A of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Schedule 2 makes several consequential amendments to part 5 of that Act to ensure that the relevant provisions apply to the upper tribunal in expedited appeals.

Schedule 2 is a necessary accompaniment to clause 21. This important part of the Bill will disincentivise the use of delay tactics to thwart removal actions, while protecting appellants’ access to justice by establishing an expedited appeal for persons who bring unjustifiably late claims.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

When we discussed the previous clause, there were a lot of complaints about the time it took to process people whose claims were rejected and who were removed, and those who had genuine claims. Should the hon. Gentleman not welcome the expedited process because it will enable people to get their decisions more quickly and stop those whose vexatious use of the law delays things?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office)

There is such welcome generosity from Conservative Members. The measures will do no such thing; all they will do is clog up the upper tribunal system, which I will address later.

The Bill’s system of penalisation includes curtailing appeal rights, as set out in clause 21. The clause creates an expedited appeal route for those who have been served with a priority removal notice and who have provided evidence or a claim after the PRN cut-off date. Most importantly, the right of the appeal will be limited to the upper tribunal.

According to the Law Society, the proposals would essentially result in single-tier appeals with increased pressure on judges and more appeals to the Court of Appeal, as well as undermining access to justice, which is crucial in asylum cases. The Government’s proposals on priority removal notices and expedited appeals risk impinging on people’s rights and access to justice. In many instances, asylum seekers are highly vulnerable and may experience difficulties when it comes to the legal intricacies of the asylum process—studying legal determinations, gathering evidence and preparing submissions for appeals, for instance.

It is also worth clarifying that when unfounded or repeat claims are made, accelerated procedures as part of the asylum process are necessary and important safeguards. The difficulty is that more complex cases—where there are legitimate reasons for evidence being provided at a later date, for example—may be included in those accelerated processes, with devastating consequences. The Committee has heard some of examples of that today.

The Committee heard from Adrian Berry of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association about clause 21 during our evidence session. It is worth revisiting his evidence and the severe concerns that he raised on 23 September. First, he spoke about the expedited appeal, which begins in the upper tribunal. Therefore those who introduce a claim for asylum and provide evidence after the cut-off date in a priority removal notice receive an expedited appeal and lose their right of appeal and a hearing in the first-tier tribunal. Secondly, he raised concerns that the upper tribunal hearing is final. There is no onward appeal to the Court of Appeal. That is wrong for a number of reasons.

Mistakes, unfortunately, do happen in asylum claims, but under the current provision, individuals would be left, in the words of Adrian Berry, “one shot” to appeal and correct the mistakes. The fact that the first instance tribunal decisions cannot be reviewed has serious implications for the rule of law. It also creates a wider time-pressured, accelerated decision-making process operating on the tribunal system, which is likely to have a negative effect on the quality of decisions made. That is well documented and an issue that we have touched on previously, but it is worth repeating for the benefit of the Committee.

Appeals have been rising for many years. Between 2016 and 2018, 57% of first-tier tribunal asylum appeals were dismissed. It was only 52% in 2019-20. The right of appeal is fundamental in protecting individuals’ rights and preventing potential miscarriages of justice.

I should like to cite an example to illustrate that point and wider concerns about the priority removal notices regime introduced in part 2. I will call my example AT, a Gambian national who unsuccessfully sought asylum in the UK. He was married to a Gambian woman who had been granted indefinite leave to remain in July 2016 as she was unable to return to Gambia. His wife was heavily pregnant with their child but their relationship had not been raised or considered by the Home Office as part of his asylum claim. He was given a “notice of liability to removal” and was detained after the notice period had ended. Before his detention, he was unsuccessful in securing an appointment with his solicitors.

During AT’s detention, his wife gave birth to their son—a British citizen. The Home Office refused AT’s human rights claim based on his family life, focusing on the late stage at which he raised it. He was removed from the UK before he could access legal advice and challenge that decision. His subsequent judicial review proceedings were successful and he was allowed to return to the UK to exercise his right of appeal to the first-tier tribunal against that decision. The Home Office subsequently conceded his article 8 family life claim, and granted him leave to stay in the UK with his wife and son. If the priority removal notice provisions of the Bill had been in force in this case, AT’s right of appeal, even after he had succeeded in a judicial review, would have been severely circumscribed. He would only have been able to appeal directly to the upper tribunal. The appeal would have been decided on an expedited basis and the tribunal would have been required to treat AT’s claim to a family life as lacking credibility. If the upper tribunal had found against him, he would have had no right of appeal to the Court of Appeal.

That case highlights some of the severe consequences of clause 21. Are Committee members, on all sides of the debate, happy to put speed over justice? That is what the Bill’s attempts to expedite appeals seeks to do, and without acknowledging the harm that that will cause. It risks people having their human rights violated as a result of a truncated appeals process for asylum claims.

Clause 21 has serious consequences for the rule of law, procedural fairness and the rights of individuals. It will inevitably lead to the wrong being decisions made that will then go unchallenged. Closing off avenues for appeals risks closing off access to justice. An incorrect decision can cost an individual their safety, security and livelihood. Therefore the clause presents an unacceptable risk of breaching the UK’s non-refoulement obligations under the refugee convention and the European convention on human rights. As such, the Opposition will oppose that clause 21 stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I agree with everything the shadow Minister said. I want to speak in support of amendment 42, which would preserve onward rights of appeal in certain circumstances.

The overall danger of clause 21 is that it risks expediting appeal processes so that mistakes are made and people are denied justice. Given the dangers that are posed by speeding up such processes, it is all the more important that there is access to the supervisory jurisdiction of the higher courts in case errors are made. We are not talking about minor issues; these are matters of life and death. Assessments have been made about a risk of persecution. Errors will have catastrophic consequences for individuals concerned.

All tribunals make mistakes, so in such circumstances, it seems reckless not to have any right of appeal. I absolutely accept that there can be restrictions and that the grounds for such an appeal can be phrased in a way to try to prevent abuse, but to exclude it altogether goes way beyond what can be justified. Expedited appeals without any possibility of onward appeals creates a double danger of getting those decisions wrong. The fact that claims are made late does not remotely mean that they are necessarily without merit, nor does it mean that they can be decided any quicker than another claim and it should not automatically lead to accelerated appeals processes.

Again, I think that all this is missing the point. The tribunal was actually functioning pretty well. It is the Home Office that has to focus on getting its house in order, and the whole clause is completely misconceived.

Amendment 67 agreed to.

Amendments made: 68, in clause 21, page 24, line 28, after “be” insert “brought and”.

See the explanatory statement for Amendment 67.

Amendment 69, in clause 21, page 24, line 32, leave out from “is” to end of line 33 and insert

“to be continued as an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal and accordingly is to be transferred to that Tribunal”.—(Tom Pursglove.)

This amendment is a drafting amendment to clarify that where the Upper Tribunal is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so it has power to order that an expedited appeal is instead to be heard subject to the usual procedure by the First-tier Tribunal.

Amendment proposed: 42, in clause 21, page 24, line 37, leave out subsection (2). —(Stuart C. McDonald.)

This amendment would protect the right to an onward appeal from an expedited appeal decision by the Upper Tribunal in certain cases.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 22 Nationality and Borders Bill — Clause 21 - Priority Removal Notices: Expediated Appeals

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 8 MPs

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The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Division number 23 Nationality and Borders Bill — Clause 21 - Priority Removal Notices: Expediated Appeals

Aye: 8 MPs

No: 6 MPs

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Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 6.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.