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3.13 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with permission, I have a couple of points to make about business today. First, I remind the House that a Statement on benefits uprating and welfare reform will be repeated by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. We have arranged for the Statement to take place after the three opening speeches of the Second Reading debate; that is, after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia.

So far as timing is concerned, we have a Second Reading debate with 19 speakers. We also have to accommodate the Statement and to be clear for the Unstarred Question to start by 8.30 pm at the latest. My calculation is that that gives around 10 to 11 minutes for each Back-Bench speaker.

Constitution Committee

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Lord Goodlad be appointed a member of the Select Committee in the place of the Lord Monro of Langholm.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill

3.15 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Scotland of Asthal, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

In February this year, the Government published a five-year strategy on asylum and immigration. Implementation of the five-year strategy is now under way. Most of the measures in the strategy can be put in place through changes to our existing processes and the immigration rules. This Bill covers those aspects of the strategy which require primary legislation.

Migration presents undeniable benefits to this country. It is vital that economic migrants are able to fill the gaps in our labour market that cannot be filled from the domestic workforce, and that we maintain the valuable contributions that overseas students and visitors make to our educational institutions, the tourism industry and the wider economy. The Government will also continue to protect those genuinely fleeing persecution. However, we will not tolerate abuse of the system.

The five-year strategy contains a programme of measures to make our immigration and asylum systems simpler, clearer and robust. There are four key elements to this work.
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First, we will introduce a new, points-based system for those coming to the UK to work or study. We have consulted widely to ensure that the system will be properly calibrated to target those workers whom we need most and that it will be straightforward for employers and applicants to use. This simplified system will be more transparent and objective, and robust against abuse. In line with the implementation of the points-based system, we are removing entry clearance appeal rights. Those measures are covered in Clauses 1 to 14.

Secondly, we are putting in place a new asylum process which will enable us to fast-track almost all new cases and to maintain contact with asylum seekers at key points in the process, so that we are in a better position to remove those whose claims are unfounded. That will be complemented by our new strategy on refugee integration launched in March of this year. Related measures are covered in Clauses 12, 29 and 44.

Thirdly, we will strengthen our immigration controls to make it harder for people both to enter and to stay in the country illegally. We are putting in place a fully integrated immigration control that is intelligence-led and uses new technology to check people before they depart for the UK, on arrival, while they are here and on departure from the UK. That will be supported by measures to target employers of illegal workers. That is covered in Clauses 15 to 42.

Fourthly, the modernised immigration control and new asylum process, together with major new investment in frontline staff, will enable us significantly to increase removal of failed asylum seekers. That will be facilitated through our expanding programme of co-operation on removals with major source countries. Clauses 45 and 46 cover those measures.

Your Lordships will be only too aware that following the events of 7 and 21 July, the Government undertook a thorough review of our immigration, asylum and nationality laws in the light of the heightened risk from terrorism. As a result, we have brought forward a number of additional provisions, which were added to the Bill during its consideration in another place.

Those provisions will deny asylum to those involved in terrorism and speed up the appeals process in national security deportation cases. They will also extend our powers to withhold and to remove British nationality and the right of abode in the UK where an individual is found to have engaged in behaviour which creates a climate in which extremism can take root.

I turn briefly to the detail of the Bill. Clauses 1, 3 and 11 are concerned with appeal rights for people in the United Kingdom who are refused a further period of leave or who have their leave curtailed. At the moment, many people in that position are able to appeal twice: first, against the decision which brings their leave to an end and, subsequently, against a decision to enforce their removal from the UK. Clauses 1, 3 and 11 replace that system with a single
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appeal at the removal stage during which the appellant can challenge any earlier decision which gave rise to the decision to remove them from the country.

An exception is made for people who have previously been granted leave in recognition of their need for protection. The provisions in Clause 1 will ensure that whenever there is a decision to withdraw refugee status, there will be a discrete right to challenge this decision. Clause 1 will also allow the Secretary of State to provide discrete rights of appeal against decisions to curtail or to refuse to vary other categories of leave. Those categories will be designated in secondary legislation.

Clause 4 removes the full right of appeal against refusal of entry clearance for work and study routes. That policy was set out in the five-year strategy and was a manifesto commitment. Appeal rights will be focused on cases that raise fundamental issues of rights and protection. Full appeal rights will be maintained for people who are refused entry clearance as a family visitor or a dependant.

The introduction of the points-based scheme will ensure that the rules for entering the UK to work or as a student are clear and transparent. As was said in another place, the withdrawal of appeal rights will form part of the wider programme of work to implement the points-based system.

Clause 5 limits the right of appeal against refusal of entry clearance or leave to enter if someone fails to provide a medical report or certificate when required. It will have no effect on the appeal rights of someone who provides the requested report, whatever its contents may be. I will explain the purpose of Clause 7 later alongside other provisions which have been inserted in the Bill following the July events.

Clause 9 prevents appeals from being abandoned due to a grant of leave when the appellant may wish to continue with his or her challenge. Clause 13 ensures that a person who has complied with the terms of his leave shall not be committing an immigration offence during any appeal against a removal decision brought in the UK. A key provision is to tackle effectively illegal working by punishing those who use workers who are not legally allowed to seek paid employment in the UK.

Clauses 15 to 24 create a new civil penalty for employers of illegal workers and set out how the scheme will work. In particular, Clauses 15 and 16 set out the circumstances in which a penalty may be issued to an employer found to be using illegal workers; the requirements that employers must fulfil to be able to prove that they have taken reasonable steps to assure themselves that employees are entitled to work in the UK; and grounds—

Baroness Shephard of Northwold: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for graciously giving way. Before she finishes this section, how will these proposals tie in
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with gangmasters legislation? Clearly, the abuses of migrant workers illegally employed have shocked everyone in both Houses.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising that point. I had planned to do that specifically in my closing remarks. Perhaps I may deal with it then. The noble Baroness is right that we need to do everything that we can to prevent the kind of illegality that we have seen in those circumstances.

As I indicated, there are also grounds on which an employer can object to the issue of a civil penalty, so there is a range of circumstances in which employers will be brought into this legislation, which I am sure that noble Lords will wish to discuss. Clause 19 requires a code of practice to be issued covering the criteria to be used in determining whether a penalty should be issued and the amount. The maximum amount to be paid per employee would be £2,000. Clause 21 creates a new criminal offence of employing a person knowing that they are not legally entitled to work in the UK. It provides that the maximum penalty for conviction following indictment is two years' imprisonment and/or a fine.

Clause 23 requires a code of practice to be issued specifying how employers avoid contravening the Race Relations Act in carrying out their duties to avoid liability under the new scheme. We are clear that those provisions do not give employers licence to discriminate against employees or potential employees on the grounds of race or nationality. The Bill makes a number of amendments to existing legislation to facilitate the enforcement and transparency of the immigration and asylum systems. In order to improve our immigration control, in addition to tackling illegal working, we will introduce measures to enhance the data capture powers of the border agencies and enable greater inter-agency co-operation to support an intelligence-led approach to border control.

Clauses 27 allows immigration officers to require passengers who present biometrically enabled travel documents to provide biometric information to allow their identity to be checked against the documents. That is necessary to support the global roll-out of fingerprinting visa applicants by 2008. Clause 29 reduces the notice period given to asylum seekers and their families who cannot be fingerprinted on application. This supports the new asylum model by ensuring that claims are considered more swiftly.

Clause 30 amends the list in the Immigration Act 1971 of documents that may be used to prove an individual's right of abode in the UK. It adds to the list ID cards issued to British citizens as proposed under the current Identity Cards Bill, and appropriately endorsed passports issued to British subjects with the right of abode here. Clauses 31 to 33 and 35 provide for the Immigration Service, police and Customs and Revenue officers to acquire passenger, crew, service and freight data from planes and ships in advance of their arrival in and departure from the UK. Clause 34 sets out the offence for failing to comply with a
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request for data. Clauses 36 to 39 cover who the information must or may be shared with and the purposes for which it may be shared.

Clauses 40 and 41 allow authorised persons other than Immigration Service officers to search vehicles at ports for individuals and documents relating to possible immigration offences. This would allow the searches to be carried out by private contractors to enable immigration officer time to be used more effectively. The provisions would also allow authorised persons powers to search and detain people and documents. Authorised persons will include police constables and officers of HM Revenue and Customs. Clause 42 requires a monitor to be appointed to oversee the search functions of these authorised persons.

Clause 43 allows local authorities to provide accommodation to recipients of benefits under Section 4 of the 1999 Act if they desire. The clause also prevents the creation of secure tenancies for Section 4 recipients across the UK.

Clause 44 amends the statutory framework creating the refugee integration loan to reflect the change in policy announced in the five-year strategy granting refugees an initial five years' leave to remain.

Clause 45 puts HM Chief Inspector of Prisons' voluntary oversight of short-term holding facilities and escorts on to a statutory footing, bringing it into line with the oversight exercised in respect of immigration removal centres.

Clause 46 provides that where a person has breached the conditions of limited leave, or has obtained leave to remain by deception, leave is invalidated when he is served with the decision to remove him from the United Kingdom.

Clause 47 allows the requirement for certain applicants under the British Nationality Act 1981 to be of full mental capacity to be waived where it is in the applicant's best interests not to enforce that requirement.

Clauses 48 to 50 provide a power to prescribe procedures to be followed and fees to be paid when making particular applications under the Immigration Rules. They also enable, subject to the appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, the designation of particular services as chargeable to users. These measures will allow the Home Office, where appropriate, to recover more of its costs from the users of its services.

Clauses 7 and 51 to 55 provide a concrete set of measures to tighten further our asylum, immigration and nationality controls in light of the heightened terrorist threat highlighted so graphically in July. Clause 7 will ensure the swift deportation of those who are a threat to the UK's national security. It will achieve this by requiring that the often lengthy challenges to our assessment that a person is a threat to national security take place after a person leaves the UK rather than before. There will remain an in-country right of appeal against deportation on human rights grounds unless the Secretary of State certifies that removal would not breach our obligations under
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the European Convention on Human Rights. Where such a certificate is issued the deportee will be able to challenge the Secretary of State's assessment of the human rights claim before removal. The clause therefore balances our responsibilities to abide by our international obligations with our responsibilities to protect the public.

Clause 51 confirms that the power of arrest in deportation cases is available when notice of intention to deport is ready but has not yet been given to a prospective deportee. This will ensure that immigration officers and constables can continue to seek a warrant to enter named premises in order to search for and arrest a prospective deportee and serve him with a notice to deport.

Clause 52 provides an interpretation of the 1951 Refugee Convention to make it absolutely clear that acts of committing, preparing or instigating terrorism or of encouraging or inducing others to do so will result in exclusion from asylum. Although the Refugee Convention already provides the necessary framework for denying refugee protection to those who engage in acts of terrorism, we consider that a more explicit interpretation of Article 1F(c) is required in order to clarify who falls within the scope of that exclusion clause. The clause reflects the provisions of relevant Security Council resolutions which set out the types of acts that are considered to be contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Clause 53 will replace an existing criterion for deprivation of British nationality—that the person concerned had done something seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom—with the criterion that it is conducive to the public good to deprive a person of their British nationality. The proviso that the individual could not, by this means, be rendered stateless will continue to have effect, as will the provision for a right of appeal.

Clause 54 will confer on the Secretary of State a power, subject to a right of appeal, to remove a right of abode in the United Kingdom where such a right derived from possession of citizenship of another Commonwealth country and it was deemed conducive to the public good to remove or exclude the individual from the United Kingdom.

Clause 55 will require those seeking to acquire British nationality by registration to satisfy the Secretary of State that they were of good character before nationality could be granted.

Clause 56 exempts immigration detainees from the national minimum wage in respect of work done in a removal centre. Exemptions will allow detainees to be provided with opportunities to engage in paid activity.

We have made great strides already in improving our asylum and migration systems and in strengthening our border control. Implementation of the five-year strategy will consolidate these successes to ensure that we have effective, transparent and equitable migration processes which the public can understand and have confidence in. The Bill will provide the legislation for doing this. I commend the Bill to the House.
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Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

3.30 pm

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