To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve the assessment of immigration applications by UK Visas and Immigration, given that 40 per cent of immigration appeals heard by the Immigration and Asylum Tribunals in 2016 were granted.
My Lords, UKVI is focused on improving the quality of all decision-making. While appeals are allowed for a variety of reasons, and many of the appeals being heard are now fairly historic, we recognise that continued improvement is necessary. That is why investment is being made via a stronger assurance regime, better and more frequent training, strengthened feedback loops, and creating new governance and structures. Additionally, we are working with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service on reducing the number of outstanding appeals and the time taken through the appeals system.
I thank the Minister for her response, but this whole scenario shows that we are in a very desperate situation. For instance, I was told by the Minister that, in 2005, 17% of decisions went to appeal. That was 13,221 decisions. By 2016 this had doubled to 40%. That means that 40% of folk were dissatisfied and, on appeal, won. I imagine that, over the past 10 years, we have had perhaps 200,000 successful appeals. Does this situation not undermine confidence in the Government and in the initial decision system of the immigration process? Is it not time that we did something about this? Forty per cent is not something to be played about with. Can I ask another question?
I do not have the Companion with me, so I will leave that for another time. The noble Lord rightly makes a point about the number of appeals increasing. Actually, they went down slightly in the past year, but the number of applications is increasing over time and that is something to be mindful of. He also asked about better decision-making. I have several things to say about that. First, the average age of appeals being determined by the First-tier Tribunal is, according to HMCTS statistics, 50 weeks. That is a considerable length of time. The latest data on win rates is certainly not where we would like it to be.
Appeals are allowed for a variety of reasons. Often it is because new evidence is presented before the tribunal that was not available to the decision-maker at the time. Often, the information is presented very shortly before the hearing and too late for the Home Office to withdraw the case. But one specific reason for the higher rate of allowed appeals is that many cases going through the appeal system are now quite old. The average age of a human rights case is over a year. In that time, often appellants have built up new rights.
My Lords, given that we heard on the news last night that over 60 of the Windrush generation may have been wrongly deported, and the recent observation of the UN special rapporteur that shifting from the rhetoric of a hostile environment to one of a compliance environment will have little effect if the underlying legislative framework remains intact, will the Government now review that legislative framework as a matter of urgency?
I will refer to the cases that the noble Baroness asked about—63 people who may have been wrongly deported. As the Home Secretary said, the department has been checking records back to 2002, some 16 years ago, when electronic records began, looking at all removals and deportations of Caribbean nationals aged 45-plus. So far, 63 cases have been identified where Caribbean individuals could have entered the UK before 1973. This means that, of the 8,000 total deportation and administrative removal records that came up, so far there is a focus on 63 because something in their record indicates that they could have entered before 1973. Of those, there are 32 foreign national offenders and 31 administrative removals. So it does not mean that 63 people have been wrongfully removed or deported; it is the number of cases that merit further investigation. But I thank the noble Baroness for bringing that point up.
My Lords, there has been much discussion about targets for the number of removals over the past few weeks, which we are all aware of. As the average length of time that these appeals are taking is increasing, is it not the case that we need some targets to reduce the length of time, because people are being left in limbo with their lives on hold as these are going through?
The right reverend Prelate is absolutely right to point out what we are endeavouring to do, which is to reduce the amount of time that people spend in limbo, to use a Christian term, while their appeals are heard or indeed while their cases are heard. I thank him for making that point. It is what we are endeavouring to do.
My Lords, is it not correct that, from time to time, we review the criteria that are applied in the appointment of tribunal chairmen and members? Will my noble friend indicate whether that review has taken place recently and what the basic criteria are for appointing the chairs of tribunals?
I think I tried to explain that to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. It is noticeable that one of the specific reasons for the higher rate of allowed appeals is that many of the cases going through the appeals system are very old. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, the average age of a human rights case is over a year, and appellants have often built up new rights over that time.