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The second type of automated gate is based on a pre-enrolment scheme, which requires users to provide biometric and biographic data before they can use the system. I think that the noble Lord was talking about that type. The Explanatory Note to the order states:
"In principle, regular travellers from any country may apply to be enrolled on the scheme".
Can the Minister expand on that point? Which categories of regular traveller might not be allowed to enrol, because it suggests that there may be excluded categories? Can he also tell us what information will need to be supplied at the face-to-face interview with a border force officer that individuals apparently must have before being allowed to enrol, and what criteria are used by the officer to judge whether an individual is unlikely to abuse the scheme? It seems that the viability of the whole scheme and the notion of the automated gates providing us with adequate protection depends on the accuracy of the information that is taken at the first instance, and therefore the interview, right at the initiation of the scheme. It is important to understand
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I understand that the type of gate that is to replace the present system will be simpler and easier to use, and I absolutely agree with that. But again, quite a lot of preparation has to go into getting this right. It would be helpful to know the timescale over which the next generation of pre-enrolment gate schemes will be rolled out. Is it to be a five or 10-year scheme, or one that will take six months? I gather that individuals who actually get enrolment will receive a form telling them the conditions that are applicable to their visa or entry conditions, but only when they have been granted their enrolment. Can the Minister say how the Government will ensure that these conditions-this comes to the business of how we monitor what happens when people get into the country-will not be abused? I mention the length of stay granted, prohibitions on employment, recourse to public funds and so on. We do not necessarily solve all these problems simply by having an automatic gate system.
I am glad to see that the automated gates will not apply to student and marriage visitors as these are two categories which are heavily abused, and therefore it seems to us that we must have a different system for them. Presumably a lot depends ultimately, as I said earlier, on the authorisation that is received at the automated gate. How long will such an authorisation remain valid for? Will it be a standard period of time or is it going to vary according to the individual, and will there be any kind of checking system?
The second order introduced by the Minister sets out the fees. We agree that it is sensible for the costs to be covered by the fees, and we accept that they therefore need to be realistic. Given the fiscal situation, that is doubly sensible. We have no objection to the principle of the notion of payment for the use and benefit of the range of immigration and nationality services, and we believe that those who use them should contribute proportionately to the costs. However, with a maximum increase, as I understand it, of 2.5 per cent for the majority of application routes versus a 6 per cent increase in UKBA costs for processing these applications over the past year, is there not likely to be a shortfall? Will the fees now actually cover the costs?
My other question might be called a sensitivity analysis. It could be that the fees might be set at a level which is so discouraging that instead of encouraging people to come to this country, we act to deter. Has any work been done on this kind of sensitivity which tells us what effect the level at which the fees are set might have on the number of people who choose to visit or come to this country for various purposes? This probably applies to a lot of government services, so it would be helpful to know whether any analysis lies behind the fee levels mentioned by the Minister.
I turn finally to a topic that the Minister did not mention but which it would be helpful to know about-the Migration Impact Fund, towards which some of the fees go. Can he tell House for which routes the fees
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Lord Avebury: My Lords, I start with the order which facilitates entry, as the noble Lord explained, into the UK by non-visa nationals who are lawfully entitled to enter by extending the automated gate system already in operation at certain UK airports for granting leave to enter. People coming in under this order will get prior authorisation by an immigration officer and will then be granted six months' leave to enter as they pass through the automated gate. They will no longer receive, as the Minister explained, a printed notice at the time of entry because the printing system currently in use frequently goes wrong and is put out of action for all other entrants until an engineer rectifies it. I shall come back to the question of the printed noticed no longer being made available to the person who is given leave to enter in a few minutes.
The assumption, I suppose, is that only people unlikely to abuse the system will get through the checks by UKBA staff- but there will always be some exceptions and if someone remains, for example, beyond the permitted six-month limit and is stopped by the police for a reason not connected with his immigration status, how would the officer be able to verify that he is within his permitted leave to remain? He will no longer have the date on the written statement. There may be other circumstances in which a person is required to prove the,
as provided by the amendment to Article 9 of the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order 2000 made by Article 5 of this 2010 order. Again, it is not clear how this can be done without some kind of record.
The amendment to Article 9 treats the legal requirements as if they apply equally well to the new gates as to the current methods of entry. However, in other entry methods the passenger always has either a stamp in his passport or a print-out from one of the old-style gates. This order ignores that difference. If later there is any dispute or query about the person's entry to the UK, the passenger, like others, is still required to prove the manner and date of his entry in circumstances where, unlike the rest of the entrants, he is given no means of complying. When he comes to reply, I hope the Minister will explain how that problem will be solved.
Secondly, why did the UKBA decide on a next-generation scheme based on face images when there is already an iris recognition system in operation at all Heathrow and Gatwick terminals as well as at Birmingham and Manchester? Would it not have been simpler to have one method of verifying a person's
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Thirdly, in relation to IRIS, the Minister said in the Delegated Legislation Committee in another place that capacity was the reason for requiring re-registration by persons who had not used the system for longer than a given period. That system was due to improve, implying that at some point in the future the requirement could be dropped. Can the Minister give an estimate of when that point is likely to be reached?
The £9 million cost of the ACS plus gates was paid for, we are told, by BAA. The Minister in another place told the Delegated Legislation Committee that that was in recognition of the benefits to the passenger. Is there not an inconsistency between making the ACS plus system free when services to providers by the UKBA for all passengers who are not entitled to come through automated gates are charged, in many cases at well over the rate needed to recover the cost of the service itself? If we are now looking to ensure that services enabling qualifying travellers to enter the UK are all self-funding, why exclude the automated gates, which in general are used by those who can well afford to pay?
In addition, there was a cost of £1.4 million to install IRIS, which was paid for UKBA, plus an amount for the enabling background which is said to be commercially sensitive but which nevertheless the Minister said would be released as soon as possible. Has that moment now been reached? Can the Minister explain why this one element should be kept secret when the other components have all been published? If IRIS is highly reliable, as I understand, I underline the question of why we need two different recognition systems to operate at all our airports.
I turn to the regulations. We were concerned at the extent of the powers given to the Secretary of State in Section 42 of the 2004 Act, mentioned by the Minister, to prescribe fees that are above the administrative cost of providing the service in question. That has enabled the Government to cross-subsidise to an extent that is unfair for certain users, and Parliament has no controls whatever over the levels charged in practice. We agree with the principle of cross-subsidisation while objecting to a particular charge, but we have to accept the package as a whole or vote against it, as my honourable friend did in another place. We would then have to oppose all the fees that are being charged, while certain of them may be perfectly acceptable.
We also deplore the fact that while all fees have risen steeply since 2004, many people are not being given an adequate standard of service by the UKBA. If we are asked to approve these fees, there should be some guarantee of service standards, including, for instance, the timeframes within which applications are processed. The UKBA continues to fail to meet its own timeframes, and it considers that it has done a good job if it makes decisions promptly over an arbitrary percentage of cases, as set out in the customer charter. The Minister in another place said:
"We are on track to be within all our service standards in all the key areas of work by March",-[Official Report, Commons, Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee, 24/2/10; col. 16.]
but he means a percentage of cases being dealt with inside the timeframe, not 100 per cent. There should be timeframes for deciding 100 per cent of the cases and, if deadlines are missed, there should be refunds to the individuals concerned.
A related point is that where a decision is taken after the change in rules on an application made before the change, and the application met the old rule but not the new one, the UKBA should at least refund the fee. Preferably, though, the fair way to handle those cases would be to abolish retrospection entirely and to treat the application as being valid if it meets the requirements of the old rule, despite the fact that it was processed after the new rules had been introduced.
Just as the noble Lord, Lord West, said in the context of the fees orders that historical legislation needs to be made easier to understand, the same should apply to the regulations. The Minister said that the consolidated fees regulations were available on the OPSI website, but I was unable to find them in the time available, so they are not very easy to access. Perhaps we simply need an improvement on the website concerned.
In the impact assessment, the net benefit of the increased charges, after taking into account the expected reduction in the number of applications and the loss of income from migrants who will be deterred from coming into the UK, is given as £109 million. The accompanying text says that the projections made are regularly reviewed. Can the Minister provide a table of previous impact assessments, with the actual changes in the year after the increased charges were imposed, so that we can assess the accuracy of the forecasts that were made? On the particular increases which are now being imposed, how did the actual fees income in the most recent period for which the figures are available compare with the costs of providing the services? Are these increases, which are expected to generate an extra £147 million from immigration and visa fees, intended to restore break-even, as the noble Baroness was inquiring, or is the intention to make a profit on these activities?
The fee charged for application for registration as a British citizen of a child born abroad to a UK mother and foreign father is kept for the time being at the £540 set last April. I take it there is no intention to put it up again this year, because it is not mentioned in the regulations. So far, since these children were first allowed to register-but only if they were born after 1983-almost 17,000 of them had done so. If all had been charged the £540 fee currently imposed, it would have cost them a total of £9 million. The children of foreign-born mothers and British fathers born over the same period got their citizenship for nothing. Now, the 1983 cut-off date has been abolished, but those who waited the longest for the gender discrimination in this part of our law to be removed will have to pay the full whack. That is manifestly unreasonable.
My honourable friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon raised the question of the fee for a dependent relative settlement visa, which is being almost trebled from £585 to £1,680-that is about six times the cost of providing the service. He got no explanation from the Minister as to why the dependant should have to pay two and a half times as much as the head
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The Minister agreed to look at my honourable friend's point that more women were dependent relatives than vice versa for the primary applicant. The public sector equality duty in Clause 148 of the Equality Bill, which we have been discussing, applies to the exercise of immigration and nationality functions as defined in paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 18, including the immigration Acts on which these regulations depend. If the Minister's inquiries show that there is gross gender disparity between primary and dependent visa and ILR applications, how will the Government bring these regulations into conformity with the public sector duty?
The Minister has just written to those who took part in the debate in another place. Among other things, he said that this would be explained in the impact assessment, and he gave the relevant web address. However, when I came to look it up I saw that the impact assessment gave no details at all about the relative numbers applying in head of household and dependent relative categories. On page 8, it says that there were no results in the evidence base, and no results were annexed to this impact assessment. I am afraid that the letter from the Minister to my honourable friend in another place was a little misleading.
Finally, we are concerned about the absence of any power to permit the waiver of fees in specified circumstances for in-country applications, coupled with the limited classes of exemptions. My honourable friend also raised that matter. It is not a new feature of the regulations, but there is a general power of waiver for entry clearance applications, and there is no logical difference between the two classes. It is estimated that several hundred thousand irregular migrants are living in the UK. Some of them would like to submit applications to regularise their stay on grounds of long-term residence and family connections built up here over the years, but cannot do so because the payment of the fee specified for the application is well beyond the means of anybody who is not working, including those who are prohibited from working. If the person in that category has a job at all, it is in a low-paid and probably casual occupation. If the UKBA catches up with him or her and seeks to deport them, only then can they invoke Article 8 and-if successful-acquire the right to remain without payment of any fee. Surely it is perverse to make the assertion of a human right and the waiver of the application fee conditional on going through arrest and detention while the claim is considered.
The Minister, in his reply to my honourable friend on that point, argued that it would be unfair to make the taxpayer foot the bill for applications made by
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In coming forward and asking for the application fee to be waived, a person makes himself visible to the UKBA and-if he does not have a good Article 8 case-for subsequent arrest and detention. More irregular migrants would have been detected and removed as a result of exercising such a waiver, which is supposed to be government policy. Far from wanting to discourage in-country applications, we would like to encourage long-term irregular migrants with solid Article 8 cases to come forward and submit them so that they can get on with their lives, either here if their claim succeeds or in their country of origin if it fails. Either way, it is a better solution for both the migrant and the taxpayer. We urge the Minister to consider that point seriously.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their input to the debate. With two speakers and just under 50 detailed questions, there is no doubt that anything to do with immigration and its rules is rather complicated. Maybe they are overcomplex, but in my short period in the Home Office I have learnt that one needs to have every option covered, which inevitably makes them more complicated. Trying to cover everything with an easy, sweeping statement does not do at all when working in this area, I am afraid.
The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, asked a number of specific points about gates. She was correct that there are two types of gates. There are 10 IRIS airport locations and 10 e-passport gate locations. The IRIS locations are Heathrow terminals 1 to 5, Manchester terminals 1 and 2, Gatwick north and south terminals, and Birmingham. The 10 e-passport locations are Manchester terminals 1 and 2, Gatwick north, Birmingham terminals 1 and 2, Luton, Stansted, East Midlands, Bristol and Cardiff.
Where may people enrol and how will we ensure that the conditions are met? We check their immigration history and watchlists and question persons to assess their intention. If we find that they are abusing conditions, authorisation to use the gates, and obtain leave by passing gates, will be terminated straight away. Which category of passengers can use IRIS? All passengers are eligible. Passengers need to be regular travellers with no negative immigration history. Their passports must be genuine and valid. They must not be on the watchlist. If they have visa needs, they have to be genuine and valid. How long does the authorisation last? It lasts two years in general, or is linked to the validity of the passport and visa if they have less than two years' validity. An authorisation can be terminated
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The noble Baroness raised a very valid point on data security. This has been an issue in the past. All the biometric and personal data collected or accessed by the UKBA in the operation of these gates are treated in confidence and are processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Under e-passport gates, the person's live facial image is checked against the facial image which is securely stored in an encrypted format on the chip within the passport. Under IRIS, a person's irises are photographed during enrolment. I am sure that a number of noble Lords have done that. These photographs are then converted into digital images. The photographs and digital images are stored in an encrypted format in a secure database which has very strictly controlled access. Under ASC plus, fingerprints are stored on a secure UKBA database, with very strictly controlled access. The BAA will not be able to access those databases.
Generally, on the data storage side, we have learnt a lot of lessons. One always hesitates to say that that means we will not have problems-I am sure we will-because there is no doubt at all-I know this from my job as Cyber Security Minister-that as soon as you start collecting data in large amounts, it is always extremely difficult. Everybody needs to understand all the rules that need to be applied to the data. However, I think that we are much better at that now than we used to be.
The noble Baroness asked about the fees covering the cost. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also touched on that. Our modelling ensures that these fees will generate about £800 million for 2010-11, so we believe that they will cover the cost. The noble Baroness asked about any modelling we have done on evidence of people coming to the UK and volume demand. We have no evidence to suggest that there is any link between visa fees and volume demand. I am not aware that we have done any sensitivity studies in advance of this, but we look to see whether there has been any such link. If I am wrong on that, I will get back in writing, but that is as I understand it.
I have a rather complex breakdown of the Migration Impacts Fund in relation to visa applications, leave applications, ILR applications, PBS applications and nationality applications, so rather than go into it I will write to the noble Baroness with the breakdown of exactly how this is done. In broad brush terms, Scotland receives just under £3 million, Wales about £1.8 million and Northern Ireland about £1 million. As regards the breakdown within England, the totality is something like £54 million. I shall give a full breakdown of that.
I think that covers most of the points the noble Baroness raised. If there is anything that I have missed, I shall be very happy to come back in writing. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked a number of questions. As regards not getting notice of leave, the automated gates are used voluntarily. People can always use manual immigration to enter the country and obtain evidence of their leave. I was asked what would happen if a non-visa national was stopped by the police, given that he will not receive notice of leave. When he uses
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