Examination of Witnesses (Questions 175
TUESDAY 20 JUNE 2000
Chairman: Good morning. Welcome. I think you
have been sitting at the back, so you are familiar with what we
are doing. Mr Russell.
175. We have been told by the Home Office witnesses
earlier this month, that clandestine entrants at Dover have fallen
by 32 per cent in May, compared with the first three months of
the year; and that 181 civil penalty notices have been issued.
Do you now feel that the introduction of the Code and the civil
penalty notices was justified?
(Mr Green) Could I respond in two ways to that, Mr
Russell. First of all, I think there is some evidence to show
that the numbers have changed, but I would advise the Committee
that the numbers themselves are confusing. In our evidence to
you, we said that you should elicit more information on the numbers.
It is not at all clear to us what the numbers actually mean. Lots
of figures have been bandied around. A much quoted 2,000 a month
figure has been bandied around a lot. It was not clear to us whether
those 2,000 all related to entry in trucks or whether they related
to entrance by other means. So I find it difficult to comment
on the detail of the figures but, that said, the whole purpose
of the penalty scheme is to act as a deterrent: to encourage drivers
and businesses to do the right thing; and to prevent the movement
of clandestines illegally across the border. Even if there has
been a 32 per cent reduction, I would put it to you that there
is still a substantial number who are moving across. Clearly,
if I could say, it was not a deterrent that prevented the tragic
events of this weekend. So it needs to be looked at in this context
when you talk about the success of the penalty scheme.
176. Is it working to a degree? Is it an improvement
on what the situation was hitherto because of the introduction
of the scheme?
(Mr Green) I am not trying to be evasive about the
numbers. Frankly, I do not know the numbers well enough to be
able to make a conclusion. Clearly, there is some initial evidence
which shows that there has been a reduction, but the numbers themselves
are not clear and are confusing.
177. In the evidence we have been given on behalf
of the Freight Transport Association, with your 11,000 British
businesses and 200,000 heavy goods vehicles, reference is made
to the constant battle to keep the illegal immigrants from gaining
access to the vehicles. We are told that French authorities do
not appear to be willing to co-operate with any private security
companies. Also, Members of the Committee have received a letter
from one of your members which states: "We desperately need
France and Belgium to do more about the security of the service
areas and the docks." What knowledge have you of that?
(Mr Green) There have beenand I think it is
widely recordedproblems with security in some of the port
areas the other side of the Channel. The perspective, which we
were trying to put to you in our evidence, was that an effective
solution to this problem, as was being said in your previous hearing),
is going to require better and proper checks at the frontiers.
There is the issue of: where do those checks take place? Do they
take place at the point of embarkation or at the port of disembarkation?
Largely, that is an academic argument. It is linked with: who
wants to have the responsibility of dealing with what emerges
from those checks? Undoubtedly, that has been a problem which
we face, in trying to get better checks introduced the other side
of the Channel. We have consistently said to Ministers, for the
last two years, that an effective checking scheme needs to be
introduced. Ministers have said to us. "We agree. You go
and introduce it in Calais." I put it to you that it is not
within the ability of private enterprise to introduce checks of
that sort without the co-operation of the authorities. That would
certainly be the case within the United Kingdom and that certainly
is the case within France. We have not had that level of co-operation.
If you want me to cite an example of the level of co-operation
where it has been lacking, when we spoke to Home Office Ministers
in February of this year about this aspect, they promised help.
Their officials did make contact with their opposite numbers,
but I can tell you that there is correspondence going back to
February, which is unanswered.
178. At which end?
(Mr Green) At the French end. Now I have to say that
reading the reports of the press yesterday, following the weekend's
tragic events, there would appear to be some changes occurring
as we speak, but this need for proper checks to counteract this
problem needs to be done on an intergovernmental basis with the
support of the industry and, as we said in our evidence, with
the industry prepared to pay for it. Let us be clear. It is not
a question of money we are talking about here. It is a question
of means and method.
179. Mr Green, if you are unable to quantify
the success (or otherwise) of the new measures being brought in,
could you tell us what steps your members have taken, since the
beginning of this year, to prevent clandestine entrants climbing
aboard their lorries.
(Mr Green) We have been issuing advice to our members,
for several years now, as to the actions and precautions that
drivers should take to endeavour to ensure that there are not
clandestines on their vehicles. There are a whole range of checks.
Inspections of seals. A whole range of processes that we advise
people to undertake. Clearly, responsible proper organisations
are undertaking these. But it would be wrong to assume that even
with those checks in place you can completely deny access to vehicles
who have the aid, as we know, of criminal gangs in gaining that
access. There is a whole range of measures, not dissimilar to
those in the Code, which emerged as part of the legislation which
was introduced on 1 April. Those are measures on which we have
been advising for many years.