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Immigration Bill (Draft)

Volume 714: debated on Thursday 12 November 2009


My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration (Phil Woolas) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today published the draft Immigration Bill, copies of which are available in the Vote Office

The Bill consolidates and simplifies nearly 40 years of legislation and will ensure that Parliament and not case law determines immigration policy. This Government have created a dedicated UK Border Agency which combines customs and immigration powers in a strong new border force at the frontier. We now count migrants in and out of the country to ensure visa compliance. The points-based system allows us to raise or lower the bar for entry to ensure that migration continues to benefit the United Kingdom and avoid the negative impacts of sudden change.

We need to ensure that the law which underpins our work is in the best shape to support a fair and effective immigration system. Our legal framework needs to reflect the changes we have made and support continuing reform. It must enable the system to work more efficiently and effectively.

In taking forward our reforms we have already made specific changes to the law which were necessary to support the wide-ranging changes of policy, process and organisation we have put in place. We have also been clear that a wider reform and consolidation of the whole legal framework for immigration from the Immigration Act 1971 to the most recent Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, is now needed, to build on those changes and ensure that the law as a whole is clear, consistent and comprehensible.

Immigration law is very often subject to legal challenge. The current legislation needs to be considered together with the case law which interprets that legislation. We now have an important opportunity for Parliament to take stock of what the law is and decide the path forward, bringing clarity to an increasingly difficult area of law.

The draft Bill we are publishing today is the next step in a continuing process to meet the objective of a simpler legal framework—thereby providing a clear basis for the operation of our controls, and increasing our effectiveness in protecting our borders and removing those who do not have our permission to be here. As this document makes clear, we began that process two years ago as part of the reform of the then Immigration and Nationality Directorate and have consulted widely on our developing proposals. We are setting out now what we have achieved so far and what further work remains to be done.

The draft Immigration Bill introduces new and far-reaching concepts for the future immigration system strengthening our borders, simplifying immigration processes, and increasing our effectiveness at removing those who do not have permission to be in the UK:

Permission will become the basic authorisation given or refused by the UK Border Agency—in an embassy overseas, on arrival at a port, on application after entry. It replaces the outdated and overlapping concepts of leave to enter, leave to remain, entry clearance, the right to abode and exemption from control. It will be easier to use and understand—a migrant either has permission or does not.

Expulsion will replace the current separate procedures for deportation and administrative removal. All those expelled can be banned from returning—for a fixed period, or indefinitely. As now, expulsion will be the automatic consequence of specified prison sentences.

Immigration bail will replace separate provision for temporary admission, temporary release and current bail procedures and provide a strong alternative to detention. It brings with it a broad menu of conditions to ensure contact and control of those awaiting decisions or expulsion. Those on immigration bail will remain liable to detention at any time.

The immigration appeals system has been simplified to improve its clarity and speed for those who need to use it while reducing the number of cases where repeated challenges create obstructions to enforcement. The Bill limits the grounds of appeal to whether the decision in question is in accordance with the Immigration Rules and otherwise in accordance with the law. It will not be possible to win an appeal on the grounds that discretion should have been exercised by the Secretary of State.

The draft Bill is accompanied by the Command Paper Simplifying Immigration Law which explains the approach which has been taken in the draft Bill and what further work there is to be done. This document also sets out the Government’s intention to reform the route for those wishing to enter or stay in the UK on the basis of marriage or another long-term relationship. Decisions in the courts have weakened the current scheme for issuing certificates of approval before ceremonies take place; the courts have also found certain elements of the current scheme to be incompatible with human rights law. The scheme is no longer effective and it will be withdrawn: we will be bringing forward a remedial order to achieve this.

I am today also publishing a consultation on the future of the support provided while an application for protection is being concluded. The consultation focuses on how asylum support powers can be used to continue to ensure that genuine asylum seekers are not left destitute, while also enabling and encouraging those who are refused asylum and no longer have any right to be here to go home.

I have also made available today a consultation on the framework for the Immigration Rules which will be made under the new Bill. This consultation sets out proposals to make these rules simpler and easier to use.

Copies of both consultation documents have been placed in the House Library and in the Vote Office.