Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Dholakia: I am grateful to the Minister. He is even kinder than the noble Lord, Lord Williams! I understood the Minister's explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Russell: I too am extremely grateful to the Minister for those comments. However, I have a further

12 Jul 1999 : Column 130

question. Will he consult with his noble friend Lady Hollis of Heigham about the defects in the national insurance computer? I remember that there was a great deal of discussion in 1996 about the difficulty of obtaining national insurance numbers. I believe that last week's report of the Public Accounts Committee has indicated that that difficulty is now much greater than it was.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: That point is noted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Monitoring refusals of entry clearance]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 14, line 16, at end insert ("; and
(b) the imposition of penalties and the power of seizure in accordance with sections 25 and 29").

The noble Lord said: The intention of this amendment is to provide Parliament with a progress report on the imposition and levying of fines on carriers who are held accountable for the arrival of clandestine entrants. It also seeks to ensure that the monitor who is to monitor refusals of entry where there is no right of appeal can also monitor the imposition of penalties under Part II of the Bill. I hope that this amendment will appeal to the Committee. It is obviously not a central matter, but it forms part of our keeping track of how this difficult and complicated legislation works. It is a matter in which this Chamber takes a great interest. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: The amendment enables us to ask a small number of questions about the position of the proposed monitor. We will get through the Bill extremely speedily if Ministers are as gracious over all the future amendments we propose to move as they have been over my noble friend's amendment, for which we are very grateful indeed.

Perhaps I may ask something about the powers, if any, that the monitor is expected to have in addition to those proposed in the amendment. In particular, is there any prospect of the scope of the operations of the monitor being extended beyond seizure, which is mentioned in the noble Lord's amendment, to take in some other areas where a report of that kind would be extremely helpful? For example, it would be very useful to have the monitor look at issues that may arise over the return of people to third countries and matters of that kind. Perhaps the Minister will say a little bit more about the monitor and whether the monitor will be independent, and seen to be independent, in his activities.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful for the noble Lord's explanation of Amendment No. 34. I think I encapsulate his points fairly by saying that he wants the independent monitor to have a much wider role, biting on Clauses 25 to 30, relating to seizures.

Where the power to detain has been used under those clauses, then under Clause 30 the owner and so forth of a transporter that has been detained can apply to the courts for its release. That is the mechanism provided for remedy if there has been an inappropriate, unlawful

12 Jul 1999 : Column 131

or wrong detention. The role of the independent monitor is quite different. That role is to check the standards being applied to entry clearance refusal decisions, where there is no right of appeal. So that must include--rightly, I believe--looking at the overall quality of the decision making, with particular reference to consistency, fairness and the procedures leading to the decision to refuse.

That role was devised solely in the context of the operation of the entry clearance system. It would not be right to extend the functions to cover the very different issues of civil penalty and the detention of vehicles pending payment of that penalty.

We have no plans to extend the scope of the monitor in the Bill. We expect that he or she may well want to comment on the bond scheme and we expect the monitor to take a wide view of his or her responsibilities, but not relating to Clauses 25 to 30, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, invited me to do. He or she will have his or her hands quite full enough dealing with the matters I have specified.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am grateful to the Minister for setting the matter out at some length. I shall reflect on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 14, line 24, leave out subsection (6).

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 35 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 138, 139, 173 and 174. These are all straightforward amendments to remove from the Bill unnecessary statutory provision for the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of the Treasury for the remuneration of persons appointed to various posts provided for in the Bill. It does not mean that the Home Secretary can pay what he likes to people appointed to these posts; his officials will consult the Treasury in the usual way about the remuneration attached to public appointments to ensure that it is consistent with overall government policy. I commend the amendments and beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I used to be Minister at the Treasury, and I was deeply shocked to see these five amendments on the Marshalled List. At an earlier stage in my political career, I was Lord Commissioner at the Treasury. As such, I attended the only meeting that there has ever been of the commissioners in the past 70 years. It was not a bad glass of sherry!

It seems remarkable that we should be told by the noble and learned Lord the Minister that the Treasury will approve these matters, but that it is not necessary to include that in the legislation. To my recollection, that has never happened before. Subsections stating that the Treasury's approval is required are littered throughout the statute book in practically every statute I have ever seen. The Treasury must presumably have understood that this provision would be removed from

12 Jul 1999 : Column 132

the Bill. I hope that the noble and learned Lord can confirm to me that the Treasury approves of these five amendments. The Minister is nodding to suggest that it does. In that case, I shall not pursue my objection to them.

Earl Russell: The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has pursued the deletion of such clauses with the endless patience for which he is renowned. In the absence of the noble and learned Lord, perhaps I may congratulate the Minister on his persuasive powers with the Treasury and recommend him for the Simon of Glaisdale medal for reducing the prolixity of the statute book.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 20 [Duty to report suspicious marriages]:

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 15, line 5, at end insert ("if possible before the marriage is solemnized and otherwise within seven days").

The noble Viscount said: With the leave of the Committee, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 37 and 38.

Clause 20(3) provides that a registrar must report to the Secretary of State a suspicion that a marriage will be a sham marriage,

    "in such form and manner, and ... within such period, as may be prescribed by regulations".

The power which is conferred on the Registrar General is not subject to parliamentary control. In its report, the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee accepted the case for regulations making procedural provisions for the notification of suspected sham marriages, but not that the Registrar General should have the power to make regulations prescribing a time limit.

These amendments remove the power in so far as it relates to the time limit, and place on the face of the Bill a requirement that a registrar should report any suspicion "within seven days", as in Amendment No. 36, or "within a reasonable time", as in Amendment No. 37. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think I am able to be helpful--which is a great shock. I appreciate the reasoning behind these amendments and the way in which the noble Viscount has put them forward. We had intended that there would be regulations to require registrars to make reports within two working days.

There is much to be said for the amendments in principle. They are an alternative, as the noble Viscount pointed out. We believe that there is more drafting work to be done. Seven days is probably too long a period, but registrars ought to prepare and send reports while the facts of each case are fresh in their minds. "Within a reasonable time" may be acceptable. We shall consider that before bringing forward an amendment. "Forthwith", as suggested by the committee, may be an option. I shall bring forward an amendment on Report, if that is agreeable to Members of the Committee. We shall also wish to ensure that the power to make

12 Jul 1999 : Column 133

regulations retains the provision to set out the form and manner of reports while removing the timing provision. I am obliged to the noble Viscount for raising the matter. I hope that my response has been helpful.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page