Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill

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Mr. Malins: I appreciate the tone of the Minister's reply enormously, though the content did not satisfy me. The fundamental difference between us is simple. The amendment seeks to permit the independent monitor to make recommendations to the Home Secretary concerning the reasonableness of any decision made. We want the independent monitor to be able to look at a particular case and, unless I have misunderstood the Minister, under his proposals the independent monitor will not be able to do that.

As we think that the ability to look at a particular case on behalf of an individual is so important I will press this to a Division. I see behind the Minister a number of Labour Members who have a track record of supporting the position of the appellant and who do not want to see anything at all done in their name that would damage those interests. I am therefore hopeful that the Division will be closer than the Government Whip may think.

Dr. Harris: On a point of order, Mr. Illsley, do the Ministers intend to debate amendments Nos. 59 and 60 and the new clause? If the hon. Member for Woking withdrew his amendment it might end the debate on this group. I thought that one of the Ministers want to speak to the Government amendments. I should be grateful for clarification about the options.

The Chairman: We are debating a group of amendments beginning with amendments Nos. 11, 20 and 21 and including Government amendments Nos. 59, 60 and new clause 2. If the Minister chooses not to debate those amendments in the contribution he makes to the Committee, it is entirely up to him. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise Government amendments Nos. 59 and 60 and new clause 2 he should initiate that debate as part of the debate on this group of amendments. There is nothing to prevent him from discussing the Government amendments. The confusion has arisen because the hon. Member for Woking spoke to his amendments, to which the
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Minister has responded. If the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon wants to illicit a response from the Government, he should speak to the Government amendments.

Mr. McNulty: Further to that point of order, Mr. Illsley. For the sake of clarity and completeness, I should say that I have responded to the hon. Member for Woking. I did not know that I had only one pot. I fully intended, after he had finished his remarks, at least to mention the two amendments, albeit very much in passing because they are simply consequential, and to say a little about new clause 2, if I may.

The Chairman: That is entirely appropriate.

Mr. Malins: I understand the situation. I shall respond very briefly to the Minister's very well intended comments on my amendment.

In a few minutes, I shall move my amendment formally and put it to the vote. This is my preliminary response to the Minister, and no doubt the debate will continue before I put my amendment to the vote. On that basis, I shall resume my seat, and no doubt the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon will want to say a word or two about matters that he discussed a second ago.

Dr. Harris: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for holding back from pressing his amendment to a Division, if he was ever intending to do so; I believe that the Minister intends to speak to the three amendments, as he said, and I shall wait for him to do so before I respond. I imagine that the hon. Member for Woking will decide what to do to dispose of the lead amendment before then.

Mr. McNulty: Let me say briefly in response to the hon. Gentleman's response to me before I respond to the exhortation to enact my intention of speaking quickly to the Government amendments and the new clause that the third element of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Woking could, as I read it, if it was written into the Bill, mean that every one of the 250,000 applications for entry clearance as a student in 2004 that was subsequently refused could be formally sent to the independent monitor for the further scrutiny that the hon. Gentleman suggests. Indeed, there is no provision in the Bill to do otherwise.

With my hand on my heart, I must say that if we want to go in that direction, we might have to reconsider the resources available to the independent monitor, because that is not part of the role of independent monitor, as currently envisaged. It would unnecessarily ramp up expectations that simply could not be delivered, despite the enhanced role that we are affording the independent monitor. I say that in response to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall move on.

I do not want to dwell on Government amendments Nos. 59 and 60, because members of the Committee will understand that they are consequential to many of the other elements in clause 4 and should have been included when we drafted the amendments. They are not new in the sense that they do not introduce
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anything new to the equation. New clause 2 does add to the equation, which is why I intended to speak to it after our brief debate within the debate on the previous three clauses.

Section 88 of the 2002 Act limits the availability of a full right of appeal in cases in which unsuccessful applicants fail to meet certain basic requirements set out in the section. Those limitations apply where an application has been refused on the grounds that the applicant does not hold a necessary document or where he does not meet another specified requirement of the rules; for example, he has applied for leave to enter as a dependent child but is too old to meet the requirement of the relevant provision of the rules. The new clause extends the scope of section 88 of the 2002 Act so as to restrict the availability and full rights of appeal in cases in which the applicant has failed to supply a medical report or a medical certificate as required by the rules. The provision would apply where an applicant for entry clearance was required by the immigration rules to hold a medical certificate confirming that he was free of tuberculosis but failed to supply such a certificate. In that situation, an appeal against a refusal of entry clearance could be brought only on the grounds that the decision was racially discriminatory or a breach of the applicant's human rights. It is the absence of documentation that is the issue.

Dr. Harris: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McNulty: The amendment is fairly important which is why, for change, I am reading what I am told to read rather than doing things in my own way. I shall finish what I am reading and then I will happily give way.

The amendment of section 88 is designed in part to tie in with the Government's implementation—not roll-out—of the programme of targeted tuberculosis screening for entry clearance applications. The Government announced in our five-year asylum and immigration strategy to control our borders that we are implementing our existing powers by targeting health screening for tuberculosis in high-risk areas at the entry clearance stage. Those who are diagnosed will then need to seek treatment at home before being allowed to enter the UK.

The first phase of the programme, which covers four countries, has already begun. Immigration rules already provide for entry-clearance applicants or arriving passengers to be refused entry clearance or leave to enter for failure to produce a requested document or medical report. Despite what has already been implemented and what has happened under immigration rules, the new clause is required to complete the legislation.

Although, given that it is a matter of statute, the measure refers universally in the first instance, as immigration rules do, we are focusing the proposals on four countries—high-risk areas is part of the definition—and we seek fully to assess and evaluate that before we move beyond the four countries.

Dr. Harris: I have a series of questions and perhaps I can ask them by way of interventions, which will be quicker. The Minister said that it starts with TB; is he
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aware of any plans in the Department to include HIV testing in this sort of provision?

Mr. McNulty: I thought we were going to get the whole list, but I was wrong. Unless I am told otherwise, from my perspective the answer is no. It is rather like saying that it is in four countries at present but we need the universal provision; again there is the universal provision in terms of medical documentation as well as other documentation added by the new clause. In this instance, the pilot is purely for TB screening. The hon. Gentleman will understand why it is universal in terms of ailments, for want of a better phrase, rather than being specific to tuberculosis, as is the reality.

Dr. Harris: I understand that. Clearly, the statute is general; the Minister's intention in terms of implementing certain policies is specific. I am assuming that his Department and the Department of Health have evidence that implementing such a scheme for TB will reduce the incidence compared with not doing so. Will the Minister give an undertaking to provide the evidence, advice or information that he has from the Health Protection Agency if such information exists? Could he give that simple undertaking so that we can see what underpins the proposal with regard to TB?

Mr. McNulty: If I can, of course I shall. When I say high risk, it is commonly accepted that something like 40 cases annually in over 100,000 population is a notional measure of the high incidence of TB, which affects a range of countries. I add that caveat because I do not remember in their entirety every stick of paper we have seen in arriving at this position, but I shall put as much of it as I can, if not all of it, before the Committee.

Secondly, it is in order and appropriate to look at specific countries with very high risk to see if the correlation that the hon. Gentleman suggests can supplement the existing evidence. On the figures that I mentioned, there are currently 135 countries that would come under the measure of high incidence of 40 cases annually per 100,000. Clearly, it is not appropriate to include all 135 in the first instance but I am more than happy to provide that information if I can. It is very early days, but bearing in mind my caveat about the parliamentary timetable, if there is more to say and report on that matter by the time we get to the end of our deliberations, I will be more than happy to keep the Committee informed.

Again, there is no silver bullet to deal with tuberculosis in this country—absolutely not. The hon. Gentleman knows far more about the incidence of the disease than I do, given his background, but it is right and proper that we at least examine whether the new clause does what I think—and he suggests I think—it will in the context of the four countries. I hope that that is helpful.

2.45 pm
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