§ Lord Gainford
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What plans they have for the future funding of the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service.
My honourable friend the member for Fareham announced in another place on 29th January (col. 566) that, although the Government had a high regard for the service which UKIAS staff provided to their clients, we were not satisfied with the manner in which the general council and executive committee oversaw the organisation.
The Government and the London representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have since transferred the funds available for refugee work from UKIAS to the New Refugee Unit. This unit was formerly part of UKIAS. It is, however, now a separate independent voluntary body supervised on an interim basis by a hoard, chaired by Mrs. Usha Prashar, which is devising proposals for a long-term constitution for the unit.
My honourable friend also gave UKIAS notice in January that continued payment of the grant for the service's general immigration work depended on its making changes to meet the standards expected of an organisation receiving grant-in-aid. The necessary changes have not been made and the Government have now decided to terminate the grant to UKIAS.
The Government attach importance to the provision of satisfactory counselling services and representation for people with rights of appeal under immigration legislation. We would wish to apply the funds which have hitherto been applied to UKIAS under Section 23 of the Immigration Act 1971 to a new voluntary body which would take over the general immigration work of UKIAS. My right honourable friend has invited Mr. Humfrey Malins to lead a small planning group, outside Government, whose task will be to draw up proposals for such an organisation. Others will be invited to be members of the group, which will be encouraged to complete its work as soon as possible.
In drawing up its proposals, the planning group has been asked by my right honourable friend to have particular regard to the need for the trustees of the new body to be able to meet their responsibilities under charity law and to satisfy the Home Office that there will be proper accountability for the grant paid. Provided these criteria are met, we would hope that the group would then take steps to implement its proposals and establish the new body.
In the meantime, the Government hope that it will prove possible for advice and representation to continue to be available to appellants. We are, however, not prepared to provide any further funds for UKIAS while it is overseen by the present executive committee. We have today written to members of UKIAS General Council explaining that we would be prepared to fund UKIAS to provide legal advice and representation during this interim period only if the executive committee were replaced by a 73WA new, separate administration acceptable to the Home Office. We hope that the general council will respond positively, so that the service to UKIAS clients can continue while plans for the new body are being made.