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Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) Order 2003

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Eighth Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

Wednesday 25 June 2003

[Mr. Peter Pike in the Chair]

Draft Nationality, Immigration and
Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls)
Order 2003

2.30 pm

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) Order 2003.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Pike.

The order gives effect to the treaty between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the French Republic concerning implementation of frontier controls at sea ports of both countries on the channel and the North sea. The treaty was signed at Le Touquet on 4 February and a copy laid before Parliament on 3 June. The treaty is one element of the strategy agreed with the French Government to assist in reducing cross-channel illegal immigration and to tackle wider problems of illegal immigration flows across Europe. The strategy included closure last December of the Red Cross centre at Sangatte.

The order is made in exercise of the powers conferred by section 141 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. That section enables the Secretary of State, by order, to give effect to an international agreement concerning immigration control at a European economic area port. The ports that will be designated for that purpose initially are Dover, Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne. Establishing juxtaposed immigration controls at those ports will mean that French officers exercise immigration control at Dover, and UK immigration officers exercise immigration control in Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne. The order provides the necessary powers for French and UK officers to operate in the territory of the others.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): Is the order being made under a similar power—I appreciate that we have a new Act—to the decision to allow controls at Eurostar terminals, which are, obviously, already in place?

Secondly, are proposals in the pipeline for other arrangements with other countries? The obvious candidates would be Belgium and the Netherlands.

Thirdly, does the Minister have, or could she obtain, figures showing how many people coming to the UK by sea use those ports, rather than the other ports—

The Chairman: Order. This is getting a bit lengthy for an intervention, although I am sorry to cut the hon. Gentleman short.

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Beverley Hughes: The treaty that underpins the order is somewhat different in detail but similar to the treaty of Canterbury, which was the international agreement that led to the channel tunnel. Discussions are taking place with Belgium and the Netherlands. In Belgium, we are at the stage of either having installed detection equipment or of being about to do so as part of an agreement that does not need the sort of legal basis that we have here and which we have already undertaken in France, as the hon. Gentleman will know. We shall have to wait and see whether that leads to the process that we are discussing today, with a formal legal agreement on juxtaposed controls. I say that with regard to the extent of any problems for those countries and whether this would be the best solution. It is certainly a possible way forward. Perhaps I can return to the hon. Gentleman on his point about the extent of usage.

At present, the UK operates juxtaposed frontier controls at four locations in France. Those are the Eurotunnel site at Coquelles and the three main Eurostar stations: Paris Gare du Nord, Lille Europe and Calais Frethun. The French authorities operate reciprocal controls at Cheriton and Waterloo, and will soon commence operations at Ashford International. The controls are provided for under the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 and associated subordinate legislation.

On 12 July 2002, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agreed with the French Interior Minister to establish juxtaposed controls at Calais and Dover to assist in reducing cross-channel illegal immigration. It was subsequently agreed to include Dunkirk and Boulogne, as ferry services also arrive in Dover from those ports. Unlike the juxtaposed controls on shuttle trains between Cheriton and Coquelles, which apply to customs and police checks as well as immigration control, the proposed arrangements for Dover and Calais apply only to immigration control. That is similar to the position on Eurostar trains between Waterloo and Paris.

Existing juxtaposed controls have proved successful in helping to reduce illegal immigration to the United Kingdom. For example, the introduction of juxtaposed controls on Eurostar services has reduced by approximately 90 per cent. the large number of inadequately documented passengers arriving at Waterloo. Establishing juxtaposed immigration control will reduce the number of inadequately documented passengers arriving at Dover, which should significantly reduce public spending on asylum support and processing.

Section 141(5) of the 2002 Act requires us to consult before making an order, which we have done. Phased consultation began on 16 August 2002, when an informal consultation letter was sent to a wide range of parties seeking their views on the Government's proposals. A formal consultation paper followed in November 2002. The responses were brought together in a report issued in March, and further consultations were held with affected parties on the Government's approach to how the French authorities—the police aux frontiers, or PAF—will be provided with essential facilities in Dover. The views of all consultees have

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been examined and taken into account in the draft order.

Part 1 relates to definitions and commencement. With the exception of article 10, the order comes into force on the date on which the treaty comes into force after the completion of ratification procedures by both states.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): The Minister spoke about the consultation arrangements. What does she have to say about criticism voiced by the British Ports Association that there was inadequate consultation with the port of Dover on the physical arrangements needed to allow for what she is suggesting?

Beverley Hughes: I am somewhat surprised by that. I met representatives of Dover Harbour Board. My officials have talked, and continue to talk, to the board's representatives about the detail. Discussions about the facilities and what we require have not yet concluded, so it seems premature to say that they were not adequate. I want extensive consultation. We want to proceed constructively and openly with the board, which is what my officials and I have been trying to do.

Article 10, which allows the Secretary of State to require a manager of a designated port in the UK to provide accommodation and other facilities for the use of French officers, comes into force on the day after the order is made so that we can ensure that the facilities required by the French authorities are available as soon as the treaty comes into force. The Government recognise that that will place demands on Dover Harbour Board, but it is in line with the usual, long-standing practice at ports that port operators are required to provide facilities for immigration control free of charge, using powers under section 25 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. That is the approach adopted at the existing juxtaposed controls on rail routes. Section 141(3)(n) of the 2002 Act empowers the Secretary of State to impose a similar requirement by order in respect of juxtaposed controls at sea ports.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): Will the Minister say whether the boundaries of the control zones have been fully agreed between the British and French Governments?

Beverley Hughes: We have not yet fully agreed the boundaries, but the boundary of the control zone at Dover will be contiguous with existing security fences, although it may have to be extended slightly to allow a link between what I believe is the eastern entrance to that port and the Hoverspeed port, which we want to include.

Mr. Sayeed: The proposal gives the French police considerable authority, but we do not know in what area they will be entitled to act. Is the Minister asking the Committee to agree to an order without our knowing what powers a foreign Government will have on British soil and in what area they can exercise those powers?

Beverley Hughes: The boundaries will be agreed before the order is made but the powers are a different matter. The respective orders that the two

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Governments make will specify the powers, as the proposal before us shows.

I shall come to part 2 of the draft order when I have explained that a regulatory impact assessment setting out the costs of establishing the juxtaposed control at Dover would fall to Dover Harbour Board under the arrangements. The assessment has been prepared and lodged in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. We firmly believe that the direct costs associated with the introduction of juxtaposed controls and the provision of facilities for PAF on this side do not exceed £260,000.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): I appreciate that the regulatory impact assessment has been placed in the Library, but as it is important to the Committee, I would have expected the Government to make it available to us for this sitting, which would have been helpful. That would also be best practice, given that the Government are responsible for providing the relevant papers on statutory instruments.

Beverley Hughes: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I understood that the Committee had been provided with the RIA and I accept that members would expect to see it. If it did not arrive in the usual way with the other papers, I shall try to find out what happened and write to the hon. Gentleman.

Part 2 of the order relates to what will happen in Dover and is about the exercise of immigration control by French officers in a control zone in the United Kingdom. Those officers are permitted to carry out their functions in such a control zone, including arresting and detaining people who are being examined for purposes of immigration control. It will be an offence to obstruct such an officer without reasonable excuse when he is carrying out his functions. A French officer will not be liable to prosecution in the United Kingdom for an offence committed in the exercise of his or her functions in a control zone. A claim for compensation by, or against, such an officer will be subject to French law.

A French officer will be permitted to carry a firearm while exercising his functions in a control zone. The carriage of firearms is to be regulated by a separate firearms agreement, which is being negotiated with the French authorities. Certain provisions of UK law will no longer apply in the French control zone at Dover.

 
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