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Lord Borrie: My Lords, I am a little puzzled by this interesting amendment. No reference has been made by the noble Lord to provisions in Clauses 155 and onwards relating to competition scrutiny by the Director-General of Fair Trading of the various regulatory provisions, practices and so on under the
The new provisions are better in a number of ways, but the noble Lord will recall that the provisions in Clause 155 and onwards specify that if the Director-General of Fair trading finds some problem he should refer it to the Competition Commission. In other words, the Competition Commission comes in at the second stage.
The amendment seems to cut across that specific statutory ongoing duty by proposing this one-off responsibility (if I may so put it) by the Competition Commission two years after the commencement of the legislation. I do not see how the two different aspects will work together.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall have to discipline my noble friend Lord Borrie. He keeps making my speech for me--and better than I do! My noble friend is entirely right. There is no presumption against competition scrutiny in the Bill; and later parts of the Bill reflect that adequately.
Yes, we recognise that Don Cruickshank made this recommendation. He suggested a formal review two years after commencement of the legislation. We have already said that we shall respond to the recommendations of the report shortly. Clearly, I am not in a position to anticipate what the government response will be. It is a long and detailed report. It deserves, and Don Cruickshank would wish it to have, proper consideration.
Of course, there may be merit in conducting a formal review of the impact of the Bill after a period of time. But I do not think that it would be helpful for the Bill to require a review by the Competition Commission or to require it to take place on the second anniversary. The Competition Commission may be the right body. Two years may be the right period. But it may be that another body or person, earlier or later, should be responsible for it. For example, Andrew Tyrie and his helpful pamphlet gave us advance notification of many of the arguments that your Lordships would raise against the Bill as it appeared at Second Reading in the House of Commons. He suggested that there should be a report after three years. Who is to say that Mr Tyrie is right and that Mr Cruickshank is wrong?
Treasury Ministers are responsible for this legislation and will remain responsible for it. We will keep it under continual review. If we did not, Parliament would make sure that we did. If in two years' time we decide to commission a formal review from the Competition Commission, I hope that noble
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, the distinction between Chapter II of Part X and this amendment is simple. The amendment places an obligation on the Competition Commission to conduct the review after two years. As the Minister is aware, under Chapter II, Part X, the powers of the Director-General of Fair Trading to intervene are entirely discretionary. He has no obligation to intervene. He may if he wishes, but he is not obliged to do so. Therefore, there is a hiatus which we seek to fill by the proposal.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order covers an area that was discussed extensively during the Special Standing Committee stage of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, and on Report. During the passage of the 1999 Act through Parliament, the Government consulted widely and listened carefully to all of the issues raised. A number of amendments were made as a result of the consultation process. Indeed, one of those amendments was to ensure that the order-making powers in these sections would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. It may help your Lordships if I set out in some detail the order's purpose and effect.
What is the purpose of the order? Under current law, leave must be given to all non-EEA passengers arriving from outside the common travel area (UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) "in writing". In practice, that means stamping each and every passport on every occasion. In 1998-99, some 84 million passengers arrived at UK ports of entry and we estimate that that will increase by about 5 per cent each year over the next three years. Non-EEA arrivals accounted for 11.5 million. The vast majority of passengers are genuine and present no threat to the integrity of the immigration control.
In accordance with a general commitment that we gave during the passage of the Bill, I should like formally to state that in my view the provisions of the order are compatible with the convention rights, as defined by Section 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Part II allows for an entry clearance to have effect as leave to enter. Provided that practical arrangements are in place, we intend that that will apply to entry clearances issued from 30th July 2000 onwards. At present, anyone applying for an entry clearance in order to travel to the UK has their application considered by an entry clearance officer. This consideration normally takes the form of an interview. Having satisfied the entry clearance officer that he or she qualifies for an entry clearance under the Immigration Rules, the holder then travels to the UK. On arrival in the UK, the holder is interviewed again by an immigration officer.
Clearly, there is duplication here, but by providing for the entry clearance to have effect as leave to enter, this will be eliminated. The entry clearance officer will still consider the application in exactly the same way as now and a check will still be made against the warnings index. When the entry clearance is issued, however, Article 3 provides that if it contains the conditions under which the holder is allowed to enter the UK, it will have effect as leave to enter the United Kingdom.
The Foreign Office is also introducing new format entry clearances which will bear the conditions of entry on the face of the entry clearance. This leave will be effective for the period as specified by the entry clearance in its "effective" and "expiry" dates. This means, for example, that an entry clearance issued to a student intending to study at a UK university for three years will be valid for the full three years and will confer leave to enter for the full three years.
In recognition of the increased value being placed on the entry clearance officer's decision, systems will be put in place to monitor and evaluate the quality and integrity of the new arrangements. The joint entry clearance unit, currently being formed in co-operation with the Foreign Office, will play a significant role in this process. My colleague, Barbara Roche, will sit on the joint ministerial committee supervising the joint entry clearance unit.
Of course, there are sound operational reasons why the holder of an entry clearance can be seen by an immigration official on arrival. What we have sought to do is remove the requirement for that officer to "second guess" the decision of the entry clearance
The immigration officer has lost none of his powers of examination on arrival. In fact, the immigration officer's powers in this respect have been extended to include the power to cancel leave to enter and entry clearances.
Part III of the order enables immigration officers to grant or refuse leave to enter before a person arrives in the UK; to request information to make that decision; and to give notice of that decision in a form other than in writing. Notices giving or refusing leave to enter may be given by facsimile, electronically or, in the case of visitors, orally. The notice can also be given to a responsible third party; for example, a tour operator, an owner or agent of a ship, aircraft, train, hydrofoil or hovercraft, or to a port manager. How and when the Part III provisions are used will be a matter for local immigration managers, in consultation with carriers and airport managers, and will reflect the needs of the port on a local level and on a daily basis.
Perhaps I may give a few examples of how these powers will impact on the operation of the immigration control. The power to grant leave orally to a visitor, provided by Article 8(3), could be used to clear coach passengers on board their coaches. This would mean an end to the need to offload passengers who present no risk to the immigration control.
The power to grant or refuse leave to enter before a person arrives in the UK has benefits on two levels. For example, with the use of advance passenger information we could pre-clear certain low-risk school groups and recognised reputable tour groups, thereby speeding their progress through the immigration control and so removing the need for detailed, individual examination on arrival. Alternatively, we might wish to send immigration officers overseas, with the agreement of the government concerned, to address particular pressure points. It also allows us to take advantage of any future developments in technology such as biometrics, electronic storage of a person's physical characteristics--for example, hand geometry and eye scanning--encrypted into a card, that will enable the holder to pass through electronic controls. We believe that these measures will be to the benefit of the travelling public, the carriers and the Immigration Service alike.
The key to providing these flexibilities will be the provision of advance passenger information. Section 18 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 inserts a new paragraph 27B into Schedule 2 of the 1971 Act. This extends the existing power so as to enable an
I have spoken at length about the benefits to the immigration control and to the genuine passenger, but there are others who will benefit from these provisions. We have consulted widely within the travel industry, and carriers have welcomed those aspects of flexibility that they see as having the potential to allow them to deliver a much better service to their passengers. The British Tourist Association has commented that it "could not be more delighted" at the introduction of a more flexible arrivals control system.
Part IV of the order makes provision for leave to enter or remain not to lapse upon departure from the common travel area. This will apply to persons given leave to enter for more than six months, or holders of entry clearance other than a "visit" visa. This will be particularly welcomed by business people who hold work permits and by long-term students. However, the role of the immigration officer is not diminished, and he or she may still examine a person with continuing leave. I beg to move.
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