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I add my voice to the condemnation of clause 11 that we have heard from every speaker. I shall not go through all my reasons, but the key reason is of course the fact that the clause will oust the jurisdiction of the courts. It is not acceptable to remove a whole swathe of administrative decisions from legal scrutiny. That would confer virtual legal immunity on those charged with the operation of our asylum and immigration system.
The proposal is therefore unconstitutional, sets a dangerous precedent and, as hon. Members have pointed out tonight, effectively creates a second-class citizen in the UK. That is wholly unacceptable and is not the tradition of legal principles in my country of Scotland. It was patently clear in Committee that the Government are adopting such a draconian position simply for administrative convenience. However, administrative convenience cannot cure the fundamental defects of the Government's approach.
The Under-Secretary has heard every speech tonight, and every speech has been critical. I hope that he has been listening; he has said nothing yet. I look forward to hearing what he has to say, but he must accept that when every hon. Member makes such negative comments in a debate about his clause, surely the Government must think again.
Mr. Gerrard: I shall be brief, as we need to give the Under-Secretary time to reply. It has been mentioned several times already that no one has spoken in support of clause 11, so let me reassure the Under-Secretary from the outset that that is not going to change. I am sure that he would not have expected me to say anything different.
This is the most serious issue in the Bill by far because this part of the Bill will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people. It is unprecedented for judicial oversight to be removed completely from any tribunal. No other tribunal in the whole of our legal system is not subject to judicial oversight.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) mentioned earlier in a brief and powerful speech that we could expect this to happen only to people who were not British. In fact, it will happen to relatives of people who are British. As hon. Members have pointed out, the provisions will apply not just to asylum claims, but to immigration cases. Our constituents will tell us about their relatives, who will be affected by the clause.
The Government's arguments have been twofold: delays and numbers. I have yet to hear on Second Reading, in Committee or now on Report any argument of principle from the Government. The delay argument does not stand up, as has been pointed out many times in this evening's debate; nor do the numbers. The Government have not really played a numbers gamemy hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway was not quite right on thatas much as a percentage game. They have said that only 3, 4 or 5 per cent. of appeals end up being won at the end of the process. However, if that small percentage is turned into real numbers, it is clear that we are dealing with 2,000 to 2,500 people every year, and the decisions taken could well affect their very existence. I do not believe that we should be taking any chances whatever in respect of getting it right on that sort of issue. A clear issue of principle is at stake hereensuring that justice is done and taking cognisance of the consequences of a wrong decision.
Finally, I shall say a few words about Government amendments Nos. 79 and 80. In some cases, a right of appeal to a tribunal would not exist in any case, but the amendments will take away judicial oversight from people who might be removed from the country and unable to challenge the decision. There could be grounds for a challengethat the wrong person is being removed, for example, or that someone is being removed to the wrong place. We all know of examples where that has happened.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy): What the Government propose has to be fair, principled and effective. Those have to be the watchwords of the Government's reforms, and clause 11 is central to our objective of delivering a streamlined appeals system. Appellants can be sure of independent and high-quality decision making and the system will deliver justicebut also finality.
We have heard the concerns of hon. Members on both sides of the House, which have been expressed on Second Reading, in Committee, in the Constitutional Affairs Committee and again on Report tonight. We have listened to them, and the Government amendments, to which I shall return in due course, are directly intended to deal with them.
In responding to amendments Nos. 30 to 32, it is also appropriate to cover amendments Nos. 92 to 96. Those amendments would effectively prevent the introduction of the single appeal tier, so I am afraid that I cannot accept them. They would allow the continuation of a multiple-tier appeals system and would retain existing routes to the higher courts or would introduce variations of the new review and appeal arrangements. In a sense, that is exactly what we are trying to avoid. It is vital to have early finality.
Ms Abbott: My hon. Friend said that he had listened to the objections to clause 11. In that case, he will know that one principled objection is to the removal of a whole tier of appeal rights. Apart from administrative convenience, does he have any other reason for removing that whole tier?
Mr. Lammy: May I tell my hon. Friendshe is my hon. Friendthat I am coming to that? It is not about taking away an additional tier, because we want to be satisfied that there is quality in the single tier. In fact, we meet and go beyond our human rights obligations under article 13.
As I was saying, it is vital to have early finality, which will benefitthis is an important pointthe genuine applicant, who will receive a prompt decision on the application and will be able to start life in the UK. At the same time, it will also deter those applicants who hope to play the system to their advantage to frustrate removal. There must be a fair balance, and it is right to secure that for members of the public.
Mr. Grieve: Does not the Minister agree that the tight wording of amendment No. 93 would, in fact, provide a streamlined system while still preserving independent judicial supervision of it? If the Minister goes down the road that he proposes, far from delivering finality, there will be endless arguments in the courtsthe Minister's drafting will not be able to prevent itin which one challenge after another will be mounted to the entire legislation. How will that help good government?
Mr. Malins: If the Minister is against having a long protracted process, will he accept our new clause 8, which introduces an element of speed into the process, particularly in the early stages? If he will not, why not?
Let us examine what a person challenging an immigration decision can reasonably expect in this country. A person clearly has a right to expect an appeal to be heard fairly in a court, where the facts of the case can be put forward. If the case has merit, and the people do not have sufficient funds to meet the cost themselves, they can expect to be legally represented. Under our system, they will be able to do so.
That is what appellants will be able to do under our system. Our measures fully deliver all that a person challenging an immigration decision could reasonably expect. We have designed a new system to ensure that there is improved quality, end to end, which builds on existing best practice and expertise in the current system.
Mr. Grieve: Will the Minister at least acknowledge that the system that he is putting in place is entirely different from that which a person would reasonably expect if they were going through a court procedure? If a market trader is denied his market stall, he can go to the magistrates court. If he does not like the decision of the magistrates court, he can go to the Crown court, and then have his case judicially reviewed. However, the Minister is proposing an entirely different system, which will deny all access to the higher courts. How can he say that that is compatible with our legal system?
Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman has referred to principles, so let us return to fundamental principles, and look at the European convention on human rights. I have that document here. Article 13 of the ECHR says that the applicant should be able, in seeking an effective remedy, to have independent scrutiny of the original decision. What in the system that we propose will not give the applicant independent scrutiny? In fact, our system contains not only the single tier of appeal but the review tier, so we meet and go beyond our obligations, and the applicant will have the fair hearing that the hon. Gentleman wants him to have.