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Lord Williams of Mostyn: A little while ago the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said that on occasions an injection of fact tended to lower the temperature--I see that he is not present at the moment--but if he had hoped that, I think that he would be sadly disappointed.
I do not think that there is any useful point to be served in challenging motives. I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, did not mean to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, had said anything improper. I understood him to say that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Renton, had misunderstood the consequence of the figures which he accurately presented to the Committee.
The noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Phillips of Sudbury, were quite right to say that a good deal of ground has been covered on Clauses 7 and 8. I hope that I may indicate what Clauses 7 and 8 mean. Clause 7 offers those who have no lawful right to be in this country the opportunity to regularise their status. Far from being draconian, it is an offer to them--if they wish to take it up--to make their status lawful and settled. The idea that their status may be settled and lawful is extremely important. The new provision in Clause 7 gives overstayers who have no lawful right to be in this country an opportunity to make things right. However, if we make them that offer, we expect them to behave properly and to come forward--sometimes after a period of many years--to take advantage of a scheme which exists for their consideration.
I repeat the undertakings which I have already mentioned in the context of the amendments spoken to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. Clause 8 changes the procedure by which those who do not comply with the terms of their leave, or who obtain leave to remain by deception, are removed. At present someone who overstays their leave, or fails to observe a condition of leave, such as taking employment when the terms of leave do not allow it, or who has obtained leave by deception, is liable to deportation. Members of their immediate family, defined in the Act of 1971 as their spouse and any minor dependent children, are likewise liable for deportation. If someone is identified as an overstayer, or is working when not supposed to, the case is considered and then a decision is taken as to whether deportation is appropriate. The person concerned then has a right of appeal and it is only when any appeal has been dismissed that the deportation is made.
It is rightly said that we do not make these decisions on the basis of whether or not there is a certain class--as it was put earlier--of middle-class professionals who might benefit our economy. I turn that argument on its head. Is it to be said that those who have legitimate grounds to seek asylum from, let us say, Kosovo in the past six months, ought to be turned away because they are not middle-class professionals and do not have a medical or legal degree? However, that is not a point I turn against the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I turn it against those who will not attend to the fact that we must have a regime of control, the characteristics of which ought to be decency, certainty, efficiency, promptness and, above all, a decent fairness to those who find themselves in the situation we are discussing. That is what we are trying to achieve in Clauses 7 and 8. I believe that we are well on the way to delivering that. I have said--I repeat this--that if there is a possibility of genuine improvement to Clauses 7 and 8, I am willing to consider it.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes--I believe that my letter to her was correct on this matter--that speedy appeals and removals are addressed in Part IV of the Bill which it will be our delight to discuss on a future occasion, I think! We know perfectly well that the system at the moment is being abused. I do not accuse the individual who manipulates the system of particular wrongdoing. Such people are encouraged to abuse the system because of our systems and structures. They are often encouraged to abuse the system by those who want to prey on them. Of course, there is always the opportunity for judicial review in any system. However, I believe that the provisions of Clauses 7 and 8 are capable of reducing these appeals and attempts at judicial review. On an earlier occasion I told the noble Baroness that there would be an obligation on the Secretary of State to advertise and publicise the scheme under Clauses 7 and 8. That statutory duty is mentioned in Clause 7(4).
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton--in connection with Clause 8(4)--that of course people move around, but it is the obligation of someone who is applying for leave to remain to inform IND of his or her movements and whereabouts. I do not regard that as unusually harsh. If a person is applying for leave to remain, it is perfectly reasonable for the host country to ask that person to notify it of his or her whereabouts.
The noble Lord asked whether deception meant material deception. I confirm that it does because the key point is that leave has to have been obtained by deception and if it were trivial or not material, the leave
I do not have any precise figures to give the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I do not know how many people will apply under the terms of Clause 7 and I do not know what the consequences of Clause 8 will be. However, I am certain that a large number of people are living in this country irregularly. However, they are being given the opportunity to have certainty in their lives. This measure does not intend to scapegoat anyone. I believe that we are giving people ample opportunity to put their lives in order.
I have tried to explain--but obviously I have failed--the difference between deportation and removal. Deportation normally has the consequence that a person cannot return while the deportation order is in force. As many of your Lordships will know, that is a minimum normally of three years. Deportation differs because it gives right to an in-country right of appeal; removal will allow only an out-country right of appeal unless there are other claims for asylum under the ECHR, which I mentioned earlier.
We are requiring people to conform--I am not putting it brutally--to a regime which is there to serve a number of different purposes, including the purposes of those who may well be allowed to remain here. Those who are genuine--and are found to be genuine--should not suffer. They do so deeply at the moment because of the delays that are brought about in our system, significantly because other people's appeals prove to be unfounded and block up the system.
I believe that Clauses 8 and 7 cannot be looked at separately. I have tried to explain that, if one looks at them together, if one looks at the systems available and sees the benefits of speed, certainty and proper behaviour, I have no doubt at all--to echo the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley--one will conclude that Clause 8 should stand part of the Bill. It is linked inevitably and irretrievably to Clause 7. Both of them are a significant advance on the arrangements--or lack of them--that we have at the moment.
Lord Renton: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for the courteous and sensible way in which he has handled this matter. I hoped I was being helpful when I gave some of the background in the way of what has already been done in the 12 months ending 31st May. I never expected that the comments that I made would be distorted in the one or two ways that they have been. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has heard in the debate, he may not wish to press the Committee to omit Clause 8.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: Before the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, replies, perhaps the Minister would return to a question that I put to him during my remarks, and to which he alluded in his reply. The question concerned the linkage between regularising the situation of an asylum seeker or an immigrant in Britain with the issue of deportation. If those questions are linked too much in the minds of those to whom the Minister is appealing to
Lord Williams of Mostyn: One needs to focus on the differences that I have identified. There is no question of muddling up terms, I agree, between deportation, amnesty and the removal requirement. I have made it plain that deportation is a sanction which is graver than the removal sanction; it normally applies for a minimum of three years. We are retaining it for serious areas, on conducive grounds or on court deportation grounds, both of which are legitimate weapons in the armoury of any country's defence.
I have said on a number of occasions--for instance, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell--that we shall look at the kind of questions identified by the noble Lord. They are perfectly reasonable matters to be put forward. No one who approaches these matters on an individualised basis will be able to say that in circumstance "X" he will inevitably succeed. We are saying to people, "This is an opportunity for you to be free of uncertainty; for you to be free of the fear of the knock on the door; for you to know where you are; and, if you have got children, to be able to plan your lives". I think that is a proper way to behave.
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