Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Home Secretary

Thank you for your recent letter (received in Barbara Roche's office on 23 July) about the use of x-ray scanners. Given the media and public awareness of these matters I am pleased to take this opportunity to update on current arrangements and public future developments.

  2.  Firstly, on co-operation between the border agencies (the Immigration Service, Customs and the Police), a Border Agencies Working Group exists comprising officials from the three organisations. Through this Customs has kept the Immigration Service fully informed of their proposals and the agencies are developing a protocol which will provide an operational framework ensuring that each control agency is clear on roles should clandestine entrants be detected.

  3.  As you are aware, Customs own the scanning system to search for contraband, tobacco, alcohol and prohibited drugs. The x-ray units are fully compliant with United Kingdom Health and Safety legislation with regard to the exposure of people and animals. They have no intention of using the equipment if there is any indication that the targeted vehicle contains people or animal livestock. If Customs of clandestines are detected procedures will be put in place for handing them over to the Immigration Service.

  4.  More widely, we continue to examine a range of mechanisms which might help us to detect clandestine entrants at United Kingdom ports. We are re-examining technologies including x-ray which might be used to detect people safely and efficiently in a number of environments including the Channel ports.

  5.  A major means for addressing illegal entry has been introduction of the civil penalty for vehicles used to transport clandestine illegal entrants to the United Kingdom. In parallel, we are pursuing measures with our European Union colleagues to curb the growth in illegal migration into the European Union generally through action against the criminals involved. We very much welcome the fact that port security at ferry terminals, particularly in France, have recently been significantly tightened, and further action is in hand.

Jack Straw

2 October 2000

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