93. Information can be passed between the police,
Customs and Immigration Service under legal provisions called
statutory gateways. It is only legally possible to exchange information
about specific cases. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, when
fully implemented, will make it possible for bulk data to be exchanged
between Customs and the Immigration Service. Customs are also
seeking changes to legislation to make it possible for them to
do the same with the police and other agencies.
Furthermore the Immigration Service can only request from carriers
information needed for its own purposes, even if other border
agencies would like to have additional information for their purposes.
We were given two views of how this works in practice:
"We have a statutory gateway between
the Immigration Service and other agencies, the police, customs,
NCIS and the National Crime Squad. That was the result of secondary
legislation that came into force at the end of April. The statutory
gateway is the sharing of information; quite properly, it is a
strict requirement that if we need to collect information for
our purposes we may lawfully share it but the Immigration Service
cannot lawfully collect information on behalf of another agency
that the Immigration Service does not require." (Mr
Roberts, Home Office)
"The ready exchange of such information between
agencies, in practice, does not appear to be working well."
|"We can obviously see efficiencies associated with combining the control authorities. By way of example, we will soon be sharing passenger information with the Immigration Service and with Customs and possibly the police. This will probably involve us, although it is too early to say, in loaning computer equipment to each department. We are having to loan three separate pieces of equipment .... They are not stand-alone PCs, these are computers which are linked to our central processing unit of our reservation system, for example. So therefore dedicated equipment software has to be provided. We are providing that possibly in triplicate, whereas if there was one agency a single computer would suffice." British Airways QQ245-6.
94. We asked the Home Secretary whether he was content with
the sharing of data between agencies. He told us:
"In practice I do not think there are many impediments
in the Data Protection Act as far as sharing of data between these
agencies is concerned. There are impediments about the initial
collection of the data. I think this is something we will have
to examine about the exclusivity of data sharing and data collection
in this kind of area. If data emerges in the course of inquiries
for immigration purposes which it is obvious to anybody indicates
there is evidence of, say, a breach of Customs' obligations or
criminal law, then the other agencies are told and vice versa".
95. Another example of lack of joined-up working are the powers
of different officers on duty at ports. While Dover has customs,
immigration and police officers on duty, there are smaller ports
where all three agencies are not represented. On the west coast
of Great Britain there are several ports where the only official
presence is the police. Police powers are contained in schedule
7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
The status of "examining officer" under that Act can
also be conferred on an immigration officer or a customs officer.
But police officers do not have reciprocal powers under the relevant
immigration and customs legislation. Furthermore the Home Office
sees no reason to change this.
|"It works better in some ports than others. The relationship at an operational level can be dependent on personalities. It would be misleading for me to say that in every port in the country the relationship was as good as it is in some places. At Dover and Harwich it is particularly strong. The Border Agencies Working Group gives us the mechanism to address these areas where it needs some improvement. " Immigration Service Q 81