My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I have today placed in the Library a copy of the report by Mrs Linda Costelloe Baker, the independent monitor for entry clearance refusals with limited rights of appeal, covering the period 1 October 2007 to 31 March 2008. A copy is also being made available on the UKBA website at www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/independentmonitor/imparliamentaryreports together with the UK Border Agency's response to the independent monitor's recommendations.
I am most grateful to Mrs Costelloe Baker for this positive report based on the 860 sample cases which she has reviewed for the period 1 October 2007 to 31 March 2008, and the 445 cases reviewed during her monitoring visits to visa issuing posts during the period April to September 2008.
In the report Mrs Costelloe Baker comments that of the file sample analysed this year, 85.6 per cent of the cases were reasonable and had the correct information on appeal rights, an improvement on 83.7 per cent for the previous report covering the period 1 April to 30 September 2007; and that 91.2 per cent of decisions were reasonable, an improvement on 91 per cent for the last report.
She notes a big improvement in evidence-based decision-making: “There has been a marked improvement in the way entry clearance officers handle evidence. In this sample, 98 per cent of the refusal notices contained applicant specific evidence”.
She further notes that, “[the] overall appearance [of refusal notices] has improved tremendously. Most refusal notices now look neat and tidy and few have typing or spelling errors ... I am pleased to report almost no ridiculous reasons [for refusal]”.
Mrs Costelloe Baker also makes a number of constructive recommendations as to how the UK Border Agency can continue to improve the quality of decision-making, guidance to entry clearance staff, and correspondence and complaint handling. The UK Border Agency welcomes these comments and is keen to use these recommendations to drive up the quality of its service to customers while maintaining a high level of immigration control.
I wish to record our thanks to Mrs Costelloe Baker for the work and effort she has put into producing this, her third report as independent monitor for entry clearance refusals with limited rights of appeal. The independent monitor's next report will cover the period 1 April to 30 September 2008 and will be published in the first half of 2009.