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Baroness Williams of Crosby: The noble Baroness is involuntarily shaking her head and the Minister should not read anything into it. I wish to draw his attention to one aspect of Amendment No. 155A. The phrase used is:
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: In so far as the application to the Court of Appeal arises as an appeal from the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, support will continue in any event. I do not wish to take a drafting point, although I can hardly resist it. The effect of the last three lines of the amendment is that if there are any proceedings pending it would include a further application for leave and then support continues.
Let us ignore that and take the noble Baroness's point that all we are dealing with is a case where leave has been granted for judicial review. The way it should be dealt with is by the voluntary sector providing support in hardship cases. That can be an emblem to them of when they should provide support.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: That is the weakness of the Minister's argument. We all accept that there are hardship cases that fall outside the process of review. Those properly fall to the voluntary sector. I find it difficult, even impossible, to accept that while a court has granted judicial review to an asylum seeker--and in some parts of the Bill judicial review is recognised as being the acceptable route--the Immigration Appeal Tribunal is not open to the asylum seeker though there are parts of the Bill of which that is true. It also covers convention appeals. In those instances it is incumbent on any government to provide adequate support to enable the appellant to be sustained while he completes his legal rights. He cannot misuse them because he is dependent on the court giving him leave to make that further step.
Earl Russell: Before we go any further I should like to clear my name from the suggestion that I was arguing that the principles of natural justice overrode statute. I may have inadvertently misled the House because I took trouble not to repeat myself. It seems that I was mistaken. I think that I dealt with the point on Clause 9. The principle on which I was relying was that stated by the Master of the Rolls in R v. Home Secretary ex parte Fayed. If Parliament wishes to confer a power to act unfairly it must say so in express words. That respects parliamentary sovereignty, and it was and is my position.
The Home Office's record in predicting the results of judicial reviews should not inspire us with confidence on whether that will interfere with the course of justice. One cannot know what the result of a case will be before the case is over. One may often vehemently suspect that there will be a particular result, but favourites do not always win, as all bookies know. It is not possible to tell the result of a case without hearing it. The deprivation of support may prevent a hearing and may therefore deny justice. It is argued that we cannot give such people support because it only encourages them. We have all been careful to moderate our language, but I cannot find that acceptable.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: The Minister has said several times that the Government intend to grant funds to the voluntary sector for the hard cases that have been discussed. Have the voluntary organisations been consulted on that and have they given their consent to be involved in that way?
The Earl of Dartmouth: I do not know whether I am out of order, but I want to point out that, despite my earlier remarks, I was struck by the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. If leave for appeal has been granted, a large proportion of the argument that I put forward earlier falls away and there
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The persuasive powers of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, are unrivalled to have secured the agreement of the noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth. It is an unholy alliance, if I may say so.
The noble Baroness has moderated her position. She appears to have accepted that it would be right for the voluntary sector to support certain hard cases. Her argument appears to be that when leave to apply for judicial review has been granted, it is not appropriate for the voluntary sector to be involved, but there should be a right to continuing support.
That is one moderately small category of case, although the amendments are wide-ranging. Even in those cases--which will also be hard cases, but the easiest ones for the voluntary sector to identify--there should not be a right to support. The Government should make such support available indirectly through the voluntary sector.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: In response to some of the points made by the Minister, I should like to draw his attention to correspondence I have received from two groups I met here, along with other noble Lords. They are from the voluntary sector, and it may well be that the Government are still in discussion with them. I hope that the Government will take note of the kind of comments made by the Brentwood Diocesan Commission for Justice & Peace in a letter to me following last week's meeting. It states:
I welcome what he had to say about exemptions, and I am grateful for that. However, it raises an interesting point about the anomalies in the Bill. I am glad that we are showing compassion to families with dependants, who will continue to receive support. But why is it that someone, simply because he does not have dependants, will not have the same access to the judicial system? Is not that in itself discriminatory, and does that not put yet another anomaly into the system? We should be even-handed in this matter.
I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, for his subsequent intervention in the debate. I hope that he will continue to play an active part in our proceedings and will make further interventions like the second one he made. However, I am always arrested in my tracks when people talk of immigrants and asylum seekers as those who want only to take out of the system. In different terms, the Minister spoke of two-thirds coming here without merit. Those people are economic migrants who want to come here for a better life.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, who has spoken in these terms in other debates, I remember my own family history. That makes me feel that you should do to others as you would wish to be done by others. In my case, my mother came here at the end of the war as an immigrant. Her parents had died of meningitis and she left a large family in the west of Ireland. If it had not been for the generosity she was shown when she arrived here, I do not know what would have happened to her. Was she an economic migrant? Was she someone who would have been one of the two-thirds without merit? I do not know. However, I do know that many people who have arrived here for various reasons have made a significant contribution and have put a thousandfold back into the life of our nation.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, reminded us of our duties since Magna Carta. He also reminded us of our own Judaeo-Christian tradition of treating the alien in the land as you would wish to be treated yourself. It is written in the discourses on the Decalogue, where Jews, Moslems and Christians look to that system of values. We should always treat the alien in the land with justice.
The other side of the coin of justice is the word "mercy". If there is something missing in our debates thus far, I believe that it has been inadequate reference to the word "mercy". People who find themselves in the desperate circumstances described by noble Lords in speaking to these amendments should not only be treated justly but also mercifully. We have had a useful airing of the issues, and we may well wish to return to them at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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