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Mr. Garnier: At the outset of their respective speeches, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) both claimed political ownership of a fondness for the rule of law and respect for our system of justice, and they were right to do so. Both our parties have a long and proud tradition of respecting the rule of law. I paraphrase what they said, because I am trying to be as quick as I can. Respect for the rule of law is not a matter that belongs to either party. I hope we share it, irrespective of our party political allegiances, and I am reasonably sure that the hon. and learned Member for Medway would hold those views regardless of whether he happened to be a Labour Member of Parliament. I know for a fact that my hon. Friend does as well.

What the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Tony Wright) said at the beginning of his remarks also struck me as true and right, when he referred to the report of the Constitutional Affairs Committee led by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). It is, in some senses, remarkable that we have to remark on what that report says. It points out things that to me and, I hope, to most civilised Members of the House, are unarguable and which ought to be wholly unremarkable and uncontroversial. Why do they need restating?

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Because we are dealing with a very strange Government indeed, who seem to have forgotten everything and learned nothing.

I shall do the Minister a favour by not referring to anything he said in Committee. The Government have crafted clause 11, which flies in the face of the accepted standards that the hon. and learned Member for Medway, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed and the hon. Member for Cannock Chase take for granted. They are seeking to do what, for example, Lord Scarman in the case of the Crown v. Home Secretary ex parte Khawaja—a 1984 case in the House of Lords—remarked upon. He said:

He was not saying anything that was new. The great Lord Mansfield, in setting free the black slaves in the 18th century, recognised exactly the same. Judges in the 18th century, the late 20th century or today do not recognise the colour, creed, nationality or origins of the applicant for asylum before them—or, at least, they should not.

The Government cynically introduced into our domestic law the Human Rights Act 1998, which brings the European convention on human rights into our law, and now they are prepared to strip it out completely. I shall analyse clause 11 briefly, as it demonstrates the eminent good sense of amendment No. 93 and new clause 8 which were moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield. I do not need to repeat what he said. I ask the House to consider amendment No. 93 and new clause 8, whereby controls can be placed upon bad appeals, worthless appeals and time-wasting appeals by means of a requirement for permission and for speed, while none the less maintaining an attachment to justice and the rule of law.

7.15 pm

We should bear in mind the content of clause 11. First, there is a requirement that the tribunal

That is presented as though it were a tremendous bonus to the people of this country that if the court is requested to review its own decision on an appeal, it will consider whether to do so. If that is a bonus, the benefits are soon removed when one turns to the following page, page 12, which states:

reviewing itself, of course—

So if the tribunal is not persuaded that it has made a mistake, it will not enter into any sort of review.

Matters get worse. The Bill states:


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a host of things that higher courts exist to question and to impeach if necessary. A court is specifically prevented by the Bill

This is a Bill that was drafted by the close advisers of some African despot, not by a British Government interested in the rule of law. It is an absurd, disproportionate and wrong piece of legislation, yet we have to debate these clauses because the Government think it right and proper to do such things. The Government are like a group of small boys ripping up a beautiful butterfly—our constitution—pulling off its wings to see how long it takes before the beast is dead. As a Member of Parliament, I am appalled to find that I must even consider legislation containing clause 11.

David Winnick: There is merit in what the hon. and learned Gentleman says and I do not disagree with many of his arguments, but as a Conservative Member, does he not accept responsibility for the fact that asylum seekers have been demonised, not least by his party at constituency level and sometimes in the House of Commons? If the Government are acting in a way about which I have many reservations—I shall have to decide how to vote, or whether to vote at all, on this group of amendments—it is because they are responding to the manner in which asylum seekers are demonised by the media and the Conservative party, and to the constant pressure on them as a result.

Mr. Garnier: I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman's point was helpful to him or his Government, but others will be able to consider it as and when they wish to.

I shall explain briefly why I think that clause 11 is so strange and so absurd. Having learned that no court may look at matters that affect jurisdiction, or at matters that were decided irregularly, or were in breach of the law, or in breach of natural justice or any other matter—whatever that may be—we are told that the court may consider

in reliance on an earlier subsection, but

It is all right if the tribunal was slightly dishonest or slightly corrupt or slightly biased, or perhaps not at all dishonest but completely corrupt, and just a teensy-weensy bit biased.

If that is the position, the tribunal can, if it thinks fit, look at itself again. I wonder whether the Government will find a judge who will think it proper to allow himself to be appointed president of the tribunal.

We have seen the remarks of Messrs. Justices Collins and Ouseley, the two most recent presidents of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. In their judicial

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pronouncements, they have underscored the value of the appellate system that they have headed up. They are not making political points, but simply giving judgment on cases that have come before them from the lower tiers. Such people will not be available to sit on the tribunal, because most judges, I suspect, will find it a thoroughly objectionable and unprincipled tribunal to be in charge of.

The Government have told us that they have to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor because it is offensive to the doctrine of the separation of powers. We are also told in the Bill that abolishes that office that the way in which judges will be appointed in future will underscore the separation of the Executive and the judiciary, whom it will free from the influence of political appointment. Nobody, of course, has ever suggested that our judges are appointed on anything other than merit, but none the less the Government think that that is appropriate. However, under this Bill, we will have a system under which the appointment of judges and members of the tribunal is subject to the influence of the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, and citizens of our country can deal with asylum seekers in such a way that their human rights are expressly denied.

I shall conclude with an illustrative example, as I appreciate that many other hon. Members wish to speak. The Government want to do away with the appeal process in the immigration and asylum system on the ground that it is offensive to the Treasury and some sub-editors and editors of some of our national newspapers. They also want to attract votes away from the British National party. However, not once but twice and now a third time they have required an asylum-seeking constituent of mine, Captain Rogelio Viteri, the former Ecuadorian naval attaché who, along with his wife, has been threatened with death, to attend a hearing. Both of them have been subjected to terrible personal anguish, both in this country and in Quito, where he was imprisoned without trial or access to due process. He was eventually told that he could stay in his home country and die or go away and live. I am happy to say that he chose to live in this country, and to apply for asylum here. He was granted it at the first tier. The Home Office, not content with that decision, appealed. At the appeal hearing, the Home Office did not submit evidence nor did it cross-examine my constituent's witnesses. It sat on its hands and lost the appeal, only to appeal that result. The next hearing is on 18 March. The Government are cynically removing the appeal rights of asylums seekers in the Bill, but they are prepared to exploit the appeals system at vast public expense and without any idea of what justice is or means, let alone what the cost is to the Exchequer.

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