Clause 24 - Accelerated detained appeals

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 26 October 2021.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:45, 26 October 2021

Clause 24 establishes a system of fast-track appeals for those in detention. The explanatory notes state that in 2019-20 it took almost 12 weeks on average for detained immigration appeals to progress from receipt in the first tier tribunal through to disposal, and the aim is for faster decisions in certain cases

“to allow appellants to be released or removed more quickly”.

That sounds almost benign, and who does not want appeals to take place as quickly as possible? But the key issue is whether they can be decided fairly within the timeframe set down in the clause. We are talking not about trying to take three or four weeks off the average time, but about reducing it by almost three quarters. Clearly, the Government believe that the tribunal is wasting a lot of time but I do not see any evidence for that, and I do not see any analysis of why that 12-week average exists.

Five days is an incredibly short timeframe in which to launch an appeal, particularly when a person is detained in an immigration detention facility, often in the middle of nowhere, and where the chances of securing proper legal advice and consultation in that time are incredibly slim. Amendment 45 would delete that requirement.

Amendment 46 would also mean that the tribunal would be required to stop treating an appeal as an accelerated appeal if it was in the interests of justice to do so. Again it is not clear to us why the tribunal should be empowered to continue an accelerated appeal when that is not in the interests of justice. More generally, the clause gives rise to the question of why the Secretary of State should have any say in which appeals can be disposed of expeditiously. Why is she not required just to assess the fairness of a case or give consideration to how complex a case is? Why not leave the tribunal to make those determinations? It would be far better placed to make that assessment.

As Members will know, in 2015 the Court of Appeal found similar rules to be unlawful and held that they created a system in which asylum and human rights appeals were disposed of too quickly to be fair. The Court said that the timetable was

“so tight that it is inevitable that a significant number of appellants will be denied a fair opportunity to present their cases”.

It also said that the policy did not appreciate the problems faced by legal representation obtaining instructions in such cases or the complexity or difficulty of many asylum appeals, and the gravity of the issues raised by them. I have absolutely no reason to think that the proposed policy is any better than that one.

The Government now intend to replace the entire clause with new clause 7, principally it seems to expand the categories of appeal that could be subject to the proposed procedure. My party opposes that expansion and opposes the clause.