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In his winding-up remarks, the Minister used a very surprising phrase, which I will check later in Hansard. He said that,

As we on these Benches see it, we have the freedoms and sometimes the Government take them away, with the consent of Parliament, when really necessary.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, if I did say that, I apologise, because I agree absolutely with the noble Baroness’s perception.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am delighted that the Minister agrees, because it is an incredibly important point. We want to draw a line today and say that this is such an important issue and that the Government have failed in every direction to move towards due process in this case. For that reason, I beg to test the opinion of the House.

12.45 pm

Division on Amendment to the Motion.

Contents 48; Not-Contents 135.

Amendment disagreed.


Division No. 1


CONTENTS

Addington, L. [Teller]
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Bradshaw, L.
Burnett, L.
Chidgey, L.
Cotter, L.
Dykes, L.
Erroll, E.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Garden of Frognal, B.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Hylton, L.
Lee of Trafford, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Ludford, B.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Murphy, B.
Neuberger, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Sandwich, E.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Smith of Clifton, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stern, B.
Teverson, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomas of Winchester, B.


5 Mar 2009 : Column 866

Tonge, B.
Tordoff, L.
Tyler, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.

NOT CONTENTS

Adams of Craigielea, B.
Adonis, L.
Anderson of Swansea, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. [Teller]
Bilimoria, L.
Bilston, L.
Borrie, L.
Boyd of Duncansby, L.
Brett, L.
Brookman, L.
Butler-Sloss, B.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Campbell of Loughborough, B.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter of Barnes, L.
Carter of Coles, L.
Chorley, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cobbold, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Condon, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
Darzi of Denham, L.
Davidson of Glen Clova, L.
Davies of Abersoch, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dear, L.
Dixon, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Elystan-Morgan, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Filkin, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Ford, B.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Giddens, L.
Golding, B.
Goudie, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L.
Hannay of Chiswick, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Henig, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howarth of Newport, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Ewelme, L.
Jones, L.
Jones of Whitchurch, B.
Kerr of Kinlochard, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lewis of Newnham, L.
Listowel, E.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Luce, L.
McDonagh, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Malloch-Brown, L.
Mandelson, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
Mitchell, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Handsworth, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Morris of Yardley, B.
Myners, L.
Ouseley, L.
Pannick, L.
Patel of Bradford, L. [Teller]
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Prosser, B.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsbotham, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Rowlands, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Simon, V.
Slim, V.
Soley, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Swinfen, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Bolton, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turnberg, L.
Vadera, B.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Warner, L.
Warnock, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
West of Spithead, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Young of Norwood Green, L.

Motion agreed.



5 Mar 2009 : Column 867

Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) Order 2009

Copy of the Order
4th Report from JCSI

Motion to Approve

12.57 pm

Moved By Lord West of Spithead

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the Government are delivering the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for 45 years. Improvements and new services do not come for free, and our policy is that the burden of paying for them should not fall entirely to the United Kingdom taxpayer. In accordance with our legal powers, this order sets out new applications and services for which we intend a fee to be payable in future. The proposed fee levels have been published, and will be specified in subsequent regulations in the near future. The fees we intend to charge for each new service will be at or below the cost of delivering it.

We intend to charge a fee for the UKBA to issue a letter to confirm a person’s status in the United Kingdom when, for example, that person has lost their initial grant letter or the passport in which their leave had originally been placed. Those are currently provided free on request, at cost to the agency. We believe it reasonable that the applicant, who benefits from the letter, should contribute to the costs. I would like to clarify the position on these status letters, as there was some concern in the other place about whether charging a fee for this service would cause people either to go to their MP, or to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act to avoid having to pay the fee. My right honourable friend the Minister for Borders and Immigration will shortly write to reassure Members on this issue, and a copy of that letter will be made available to both Houses.

I would also like to offer assurances to your Lordships that we believe there will be no adverse impacts on MPs. If the UKBA receives a letter from an MP requesting confirmation of a constituent’s immigration or nationality status, the MP will be advised —without charge—of the new application process and will not be sent a status letter free of charge.

I can also confirm that a person could not receive this information through a freedom of information request, as such requests relate only to non-personal information. They could make a request for a subject access request under the Data Protection Act and would receive copies of what is held on file. If a status letter is on the file, they will receive a copy of it. However, this would only cover copies of historical documents on file and would not necessarily confirm current status.

The order also allows us to charge a fee when we provide one of the following optional services: attendance by a representative of the Secretary of State at premises other than at an office of the UKBA or Consular

5 Mar 2009 : Column 868

premises; or services provided by a representative of the Secretary of State outside office hours. These services are already charged for outside the UK. We want to be able to set a fee for this service in future within Home Office legislation, and also to have the enabling power to charge a fee for offering the same optional service within the UK. We will return to the House later this month to make further regulations specifying the actual fee levels, relying on the powers in Section 51 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc.) Act 2004, as amended by Section 20 of the UK Borders Act 2007. This will provide your Lordships with the opportunity to debate the actual fee levels the Government propose for the services and applications set out in this order. So there will be an opportunity to look at that in some detail. I commend the order to the House.

Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, as the Minister said, this order is in effect one of two parts. He said that we would look on another occasion at the actual fee levels to be paid; today we are looking at the question of the application and the services provided by UKBA, for which a fee should be paid.

We on these Benches have no objection as a matter of principle to the notion of payment for the use and benefit of the range of immigration and nationality applications and services; we believe that those who use the service should contribute proportionately to the costs of the system, rather than having the costs met entirely by the taxpayer. However, I should like to ask one or two questions about the effect of the application of the system.

The Minister has helpfully clarified some of the points that arose in another place, and I am grateful for the information that he has given. On the effect of the fee levels, Britain benefits from visitors and certain forms of immigration. Have the Government undertaken any kind of analysis to determine what effect implementing fees for these services will have on the number of general visitors or skilled migrants? If the number of applications for these services is reduced as a result of the charges that are applied, this money will also be available to contribute to the UK Border Agency’s running costs, which is presumably part of the point of making charges.

The Explanatory Memorandum notes that fees and charges are reviewed annually, and that application trends are monitored by a cross-Whitehall fees committee to ensure that fee levels generate sufficient revenue to cover the UKBA delivery costs without adversely impacting on the economy. Can the Minister say more about how this committee makes these assessments and calculations? It will be crucial that we get the balance right and do not end up either with damage to the economy or a reduction in revenue such that there is damage to the revenue base of the service.

Finally, the Explanatory Memorandum notes two things about consolidating fees for immigration and nationality applications and services. It notes that the Government intend to,



5 Mar 2009 : Column 869

and also that the Government are,

Unless I have misunderstood what that means, why are not the Government currently consolidating all previous changes? It seems an opportunity to do so, so I should like to know why it is not being taken. If it is not, when will consolidation of the fees regulation be completed and when will the new fees for application services that they are considering at the moment be set, so that we have a final system in place?

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we have obviously benefited somewhat from the debate and questions raised in the other place. I am sure that MPs will be glad for the reassurances that the Minister was able to give today. As he says, the fee levels will be subject to a further debate, which we will work on when it arrives. In the mean time, when UKBA is holding the documents and is asked to provide a letter confirming someone’s status, although it has all the other documents for various reasons, because it needs them, would the fee still be charged? If the person has to have letters because their status is not confirmed, because of delays, the UKBA would seem to be making money out of its own delays, which would be an immoral position. The Complaints Audit Committee noted that for 2007-08, there were 1,875 complaints about delays in decision-making. That is five a day, which is a very high rate.

We are discussing in the House—as we were last night and will again next week—the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. In Part 2 of that Bill the Government have been quite clear on their intention. The Minister himself said:

“We want to integrate migrant workers into the country in a way that benefits both the migrants and the communities that they join”.—[Official Report, 11/2/09; col. 1130.]

It would be a very unfortunate start to that process if there was a feeling of unfairness about it. While we entirely recognise that charging a fee is reasonable, it has to be in reasonable circumstances and not because of the one that I outlined, for example. It will have to be at a reasonable level, which is an issue that we will address when the matter comes back before the House.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses for their useful input to this debate. As I said, I am sure that we will be able to take advantage of further opportunity to discuss these matters when we return to them in the near future. So there is an opportunity for further discussion.

The concerns raised around charging for status letters will be addressed in a published response from my right honourable friend the Minister for Borders and Immigration. There is a cost to the UKBA for providing the service and, just as we charge for other applications and services, I believe that it is entirely right that we charge for the provision of these letters, which greatly benefit those who apply for them. Having used a lawyer for some private business, I know that the cost of these letters is dramatically less than the lawyers’ letters that have been provided to me.



5 Mar 2009 : Column 870

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, asked a number of questions, which I shall try to tackle. On the effect of the fees on numbers, we do not assess the impact of our fees on numbers when we set them. It is based on price estimates and market research and comparing our prices with those charged in other countries. It is a very interesting point that she raises, however, because these measures could clearly have an impact as she describes. I shall go and ask a few questions about that, because it would make sense to do so, even if done in only a rudimentary form, without putting too much effort and cost into it. I thank the noble Baroness for that point.

In setting the fee levels, we work and will continue to work within the strict financial limits agreed by the Treasury. Within that overall limit we set fees, bearing in mind the value of a successful application to the migrant themselves, while maintaining the UK as an attractive destination. We need to do a little more work on that last bit to see what impact it will have. We also take advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee and the Migration Impact Forum and will continue to work extensively with our stakeholders in the education, employment and arts and entertainment sectors as we introduce these new fees. These issues are addressed. We are working separately to consolidate fees regulations, which set fee levels in relation to this order to improve legibility for all stakeholders, customers, practitioners and officials. They will all have an oversight and a view.

I might have confused noble Lords a little about the immigration status letters. If an MP sends a request on behalf of a constituent, asking for confirmation of their immigration status, information is provided to the MP. We are removing the involvement of the MP in such an inquiry, so that the request is made by the applicant directly to the UK Border Agency, which provides the response directly to the applicant. When the new system is introduced, we will no longer provide a status letter to the MP but will request that the constituent submits an application. I hope that this clarifies that point, with which I probably confused noble Lords.

I am afraid that I do not have the specific answers that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked for, but I will write to her on those points. The proposals in this order are in line with our objective of recovering the costs of the Immigration Service from the users of the system, rather than relying on the UK taxpayer. I seem to have part of an answer for the noble Baroness. Where the UK Border Agency holds documents, would the fee still be charged as a result of any delays? No, these letters are optional and do not, in themselves, confer leave; they simply set out the current status of the applicant. We believe that the fee level is reasonable. I will get back to the noble Baroness on her other questions.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I have a further question about consolidation, following that asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones. As the noble Lord has frequently told the Committee on the Bill, there is a consolidated version of the legislation on the web. Why can that not also be done with the fees regulations? The Minister also did not explain to the noble Baroness,

5 Mar 2009 : Column 871

Lady Neville-Jones, why the consolidation that is planned for the fees regulations could not have been accomplished in respect of this order. Why could this order not have been consolidated with all the previous orders, instead of leaving it until some future date to achieve that purpose? My main question is about whether the existing regulations are consolidated on the web and where one might find them. Are they, for example, on the UKBA website?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I do not know the exact answer to that question, but I will write to the noble Lord and to other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I imagine that the regulations are on that website, but I do not know for certain. I will check and come back on that. I commend the order.

Motion agreed.

Africa: Governance and Law

Debate

1.14 pm

Moved By The Earl of Sandwich

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, today I want to portray Africa as a continent of hope and opportunity, where the UK retains considerable ties and influence. I greatly regret that conflict has so often taken over the headlines and even the debates in this House.

I would like this to be an Obama debate. Many noble Lords will be familiar with the President’s Dreams from my Father, which I consider an outstanding work of literature. Africa and America make a powerful combination and it cannot be long before the President turns his attention from the Middle East to the country of his forefathers, which is always ready to welcome him home. Gordon Brown and the President have Africa in common and they will be aware of the serious effects of world recession on Africa. It is likely that they discussed it briefly this week. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, in the foreign affairs debate last week, mentioned Africa’s advances in economic growth and regulatory reform over the last decade. The Minister will agree that Africa should have increased representation at international level, well beyond the G20 meetings.

Today I will concentrate on governance, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. I thank all noble Lords who have signed on for this debate. I shall not, of course, blame them for focusing on some of the negative aspects if they must. I will highlight one country—Kenya—but much of what I will say could apply to other countries where we have substantial interests. I visited Kenya with a CPA delegation last November, mainly interested in the strengthening of Parliament.



5 Mar 2009 : Column 872

I am just old enough to remember the zebras in Nairobi’s streets, the last throes of colonial power and the feared Mau Mau. These themes are still echoed in the crossed spears and red-banded shield on the Kenyan flag. Post-election violence suddenly erupted in late December 2007 and January 2008. Hundreds died in Nyanza and other provinces. We visited Kisumu and met dozens of families still displaced in Naivasha, unable to return to their homes.

One year on, Kenya is still fragile under a power-sharing agreement between the major parties, brokered by Kofi Annan and a high-level panel last year. This involves, among other things, implementing recommendations by the Waki commission, which named culprits and demanded immediate investigations by a special tribunal of crimes committed during the violence. The problem is that this tribunal has still not met. Kofi Annan himself had to issue a statement last week that this failure could,

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Professor Philip Alston, last week even recommended, to the fury of Vice-President Musyoka, the sacking of the police commissioner and the Attorney-General for having condoned such killings over a long period. I hope that the Minister, who has been very concerned about these issues in Africa, will again urge Nairobi to press on with the Waki recommendations. It is vital that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga now remove this stain on their joint Administration, which will remain if nothing is done.

We found a panoply of international experts and donors, including the UK, ready to assist. I especially commend the FCO and DfID for following through on a range of projects to reinforce the democratic process, in line with the recommendations of the excellent report of the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group and the Government’s 2006 White Paper. The capacity of MPs has been strengthened; the Kenyan Assembly has had a younger and bolder voice since the 2007 election; and the select committee process is beginning to make Ministers accountable. Some NGOs and the media are demanding greater transparency by, for example, calling for the taxation of MPs’ expenses, which would not go down very well here, either. Citizens’ groups are analysing MPs’ constituency development fund projects to see whether they are really slush funds after all. Will the Minister confirm that throughout Africa our embassies are always looking out for African civil society organisations that can take a lead in governance and anti-corruption alongside international agencies?


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