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19 Jan 2004 : Column 1053Wcontinued
Mr. Bacon: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs if he will make a statement about the Government's proposals for the judicial review of the decisions of immigration appeal tribunals. 
Mr. Lammy: The Government has introduced measures in the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants Etc) Bill to establish a new single Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. This will merge the two current tiers of appeal in asylum and immigration cases. The judicial determinations and decisions made by the new Tribunal will be final and can only be challenged in the higher courts on the grounds that a Tribunal Member has acted in bad faith.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether a case remitted by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal may be returned to the original adjudicator. 
Mr. Lammy: Pursuant to Rule 22 of the Immigration and Asylum Appeals (Procedure) Rules 2003, the Immigration Appeal Tribunal may direct a remitted appeal to be returned to the original adjudicator to determine in accordance with any directions given by the tribunal.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what proportion of appeals remitted back from the Immigration Appeals Tribunal to the adjudicators in 200203 were subsequently upheld by adjudicators. 
Mr. Lammy: Statistical assessment of cases remitted by the tribunal to the adjudicators indicates that in approximately 25 per cent. of remitted asylum cases this leads to the initial adjudicator decision being changed. Between 1 October 2002 to 30 September 2003 (the last full year for which information is available) this equates to 1.6 per cent. of all adjudicator asylum decisions having a different outcome following remittal and re-hearing.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the possible outcomes of the remittal process are, with respect to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. 
Mr. Lammy: Once an appeal has been remitted from the Immigration Appeal Tribunal to the adjudicator tier of the Immigration Appellate Authority the appeal is most commonly heard by a different adjudicator, or more rarely, by the original adjudicator. The possible outcomes from the remittal process are for the appeal to be allowed, to be dismissed or withdrawn by the appellant. Following a fresh adjudicator determination, parties again have rights to seek permission to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs in what circumstances appeals are remitted back from the Immigration Appeals Tribunal to the adjudicators;
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what guidance is given to the tribunal on remittals; and what training tribunal members have had on remittals. 
Mr. Lammy: Appeals are remitted from the Immigration Appeal Tribunal when a defect in the original adjudicator determination is revealed which the Tribunal cannot correct itself. The President of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal has not issued a formal Practice Direction relating to the remittal of appeals, but Tribunal members will take the decision to remit a case where there is no practicable alternative. Decisions are taken in the light of the overriding objective in rule 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Appeals (Procedure) Rules 2003: "to secure the just, timely and effective disposal of appeals and applications in the interests of the parties to the proceedings and in the wider public interest". Training for Tribunal judiciary includes reference to the application of procedural rules and guidance.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what proportion of appeals which are (a) successful, (b) dismissed, (c) withdrawn and (d) remitted back to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal are (i) appeals by asylum claimants and (ii) appeals by immigration authorities. 
Mr. Lammy: At the adjudicator asylum appeal, the two parties are the asylum seeker and the Home Secretary (as the initial decision-maker). Either party can apply for permission to appeal to the Tribunal and, if permission is granted, the appeal will be substantively determined. As either party can appeal, "allowed" and "dismissed" at the Tribunal do not equate to the grant or refusal of asylum.
In 2002, the Immigration Appeals Tribunal substantively determined 5,565 asylum appeals. The information requested is contained in the table below and is taken from the published Home Office asylum statistics. These figures are provisional and rounded to the nearest five. Certain elements of information relating to remitted appeals are not available and this is indicated where appropriate:
|Proportion by asylum claimant||410||1,880||210||(31)|
|Proportion by Home Office||215||130||15||(31)|
(31) Not available.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what plans he has to impose automatic sentences on those who are overdue in paying fines by a set period; 
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Mr. Leslie: There are no automatic "sentences" for fines. However the Courts Act, 2003 provides a number of new arrangements to facilitate the enforcement of fines, including mandatory automatic attachment of earnings orders if the defendant is in employment, or deductions from social security benefits if they are not working which will be applied upon first default. The Act introduces "fines officers" (who will have delegated powers), an automatic increase (to a maximum 50 per cent. of the fine) for continued non-payment of the fine, and a range of new sanctions as further steps for non-payment. These include clamping the defaulter's car and registration of the fine in a new combined register of judgments and fines. There will also be new offences for not providing means information or for providing false information to the court or fines officer. The increase and new sanctions will be piloted in six local pilot areas in a phased rollout from 23 February 2004. The new mandatory application of the Attachment of Earnings Orders and Deductions from Benefits will be piloted nationwide, together with the rollout of the new offences for non-provision of means information from 5 April 2004. Where the court is satisfied that an offender is genuinely unable to pay a fine, schedule 6 of the Courts Act introduces the alternative new sentence of fines payment work, where an offender can work off the value of the fine through unpaid work. This new provision will also be piloted in selected local pilot areas from 5 April 2004.
Persistent offenders fined in the new fines collection scheme provided by schedule 5 of the Courts Act, 2003 will be deemed "existing defaulters" (defined in paragraph 3 of schedule 5) if they have already defaulted on previous fines payments. They will be subject to automatic mandatory attachment of earnings orders (if they are employed) or deductions from benefits (if they are in receipt of benefits) upon conviction. If they default on the current fine as well, they will be subject to an increase (up to a maximum of 50 per cent.) of the fine which will only be disapplied if they stick to the required payment terms for the life of the fine. These defaulters will then be subject to the same range of further steps as the new defaulters in question (1) above, with the ultimate threat of imprisonment for wilful non-payment of the fine.
Norman Lamb: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs if he will make a statement on the Department's procurement policy with regard to offshore IT and call centre outsourcing; whether the Department is outsourcing IT and call centre jobs to offshore companies; to which countries the Department has outsourced these jobs; how much the Department has spent on this outsourcing in each of the last two years; and how much has been budgeted for this purpose for the next two years. 
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My Department will keep the position under review, in the light of any emerging Government policy, as part of its overall aim to ensure that its procurement activities are based on obtaining best value for money.
Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) how many complaints have been received from (a) judges, (b) barristers and (c) parties to a case about the quality of video equipment and its impact on the quality of evidence in a case; 
(3) what evidence the Department has received that poor video links are affecting the quality of prosecution evidence. 
Mr. Leslie: My Department does not specifically monitor or record complaints about video playback or video link equipment. My Department has received no formal complaints to date about the quality of the equipment. Maintenance contracts are in place with the suppliers to provide after installation support should any difficulties with the equipment be encountered. Any complaints or difficulties over the quality of the equipment will be referred by the court to the suppliers.
Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what system of monitoring is in place for parties in a case to report concerns about the quality of video equipment provided to courts. 
Mr. Leslie: A Judicial Advisory Group, comprising judiciary from the Crown court, magistrates courts, county courts and tribunals, has been established to review and provide feedback on courtroom technology. This group meets on a regular basis and represents the views of the judiciary on matters such as video equipment.
Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs on what quality criteria video equipment is chosen for use in cases which involve vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. 
Mr. Leslie: The Judicial Advisory Group has been consulted about the specification for video equipment installed in Crown court centres. The Department is working with other Criminal Justice organisations to develop a standard for visual recording and playback across the Criminal Justice system. The standard is due to be published at the end of January 2004.
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Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs how the video equipment selected for pre-trial hearings differs from that selected for criminal trials; and what criteria are used for this selection. 
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