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Mr. Garnier: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way because I know that he is keen to finish his speech. Clause 6 contains a list of things that will be used to decide a claimant's credibility. I do not know whether they will satisfy the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird), but clearly the Government are worried about people telling fibs to officials.

Mr. Redwood: My hon. and learned Friend is exactly right. The more provisions there are in the clause—there are quite a number—the more complex things will be for the courts and the more worries I have about how enforceable the offence will be. The Minister must tell us why prison must be the result, how enforceable the offence will be, and whether it is right to reverse the burden of proof on this occasion, because that might not work with the result that she has in mind.

Beverley Hughes: In the small amount of time that I have left, I would like to address a question that several hon. Members asked: why clause 2 is constructed as it is. I am again grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) because she asked questions of hon. Members that revealed the answer to that question. Let us consider the situation that we would face if the clause created the offence of destroying or disposing of travel documents. A prosecution would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that that had occurred. My hon. and learned Friend and I made it clear that that would require the prosecution to be able to say in court who had destroyed or disposed of the document, and when, how and where that had happened.

We are, of course, talking about a situation in which people travel from countries far across the world and thus spend a long time in a plane. They will also be airside in a British airport for some time, so they will have hundreds of opportunities to dispose of or destroy their documents during the journey. As I said, some of those opportunities will arise outside the UK, so even if it were possible to prove that people had disposed of their documents by handing them to an agent immediately after boarding a plane, that might well not be in a British court's jurisdiction. The potential for proving an offence would be negligible if the clause were constructed differently.

Similarly, under the clause as it stands, for the same reasons, it is virtually impossible for the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt the fact that the defence put forward is not true. The present construction of the clause reflects the reality that we are dealing with. This is not like a police investigation within the confines of the United Kingdom, in which the authorities can adduce and search for evidence, and put it before the court to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt.

1 Mar 2004 : Column 635

4.45 pm

We are not in that situation, and it is impossible for the prosecuting authorities to do that, so the clause is not sloppy. Neither I, nor my officials, nor parliamentary counsel are complacent because we constructed the clause in that way. We did so because that is the only feasible way of constructing an offence that will catch some people who have disposed of their documents.

The burden of proof in clause 2 means that it is for the prosecution to establish that someone has arrived without a document, and the defence of reasonable excuse is open to the applicant. On the balance of probabilities, the burden of proof is for the defendant to establish, because only the defendant knows what has happened. It is virtually impossible for the prosecution to know what has happened, or to be able to establish that with any degree of credibility.

In response to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), I should explain that the main purpose of the provision is deterrence, and if hon. Members are serious about agreeing that we need a sanction to prevent people from disposing of or destroying their documents, and to enable us to take action when they do, they should realise that this is the only feasible way of constructing such an offence. Anything else would be impossible for the prosecuting authorities to operate.

Mr. Heath: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady—as I now know her to be, and I congratulate her on that status—for giving way to me. However, the limited range of opportunities to exercise the reasonable excuse defence means that there is a limited number of options for the prosecution to prove. Given that, as she said, only the defendant knows what has happened, it will be equally difficult for the defendant to establish to the satisfaction of the court, even on the balance of probabilities, that there is a reasonable excuse. In that case, surely it is a basic principle of British law that people are presumed to be innocent unless they are proved guilty.

Beverley Hughes: The hon. Gentleman must consider what I said about the reality of the situation here. I concede that it is possible that the reason why someone has no document when they arrive is that they have never had one—and I am happy to give the right hon. Member for Wokingham an assurance that we are not interested in prosecuting people in those circumstances. However, we had a considerable debate on that subject in Committee, and the fact is that the vast majority of people who arrive without documents have destroyed them or disposed of them. There is only a very limited range of excuses. [Interruption.] If people have a reasonable excuse, it is up to them to put it forward and establish it on the balance of probabilities.

Mr. Garnier: As the right hon. Lady now has only 30 seconds left in this rather important debate, will she briefly deal with the argument that I put to her about the passport as opposed to the means of identity?

Beverley Hughes: We cannot accept other documents because people cannot travel on other documents. They must a have a travel document—

Mr. Garnier: I used my Visa card.

Beverley Hughes: They must have a travel document—

1 Mar 2004 : Column 636

It being one hour and fifteen minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day] .

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Amendment proposed: No. 99, in page 2, line 30, at end insert—

'(4A) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsections (1) and (2) above, and relies on a defence under subsections (3) and (4) above, if the person adduces evidence which is sufficient to raise an issue with respect to the matter, the court or jury shall assume that the defence is satisfied unless the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt that it is not.'.—[Mr. Heath.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 56, Noes 309.

Division No. 61
[4:49 pm


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, rh A. J.
Best, Harold
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Carmichael, Alistair
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Dawson, Hilton
Doughty, Sue
Ewing, Annabelle
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gidley, Sandra
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David
Holmes, Paul
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Mallon, Seamus
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Moore, Michael
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Öpik, Lembit
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Willis, Phil
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bob Russell and
Mrs. Annette L. Brooke


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burnside, David
Byers, rh Stephen
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leslie, Christopher
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, rh Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morris, rh Estelle
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Jim Murphy and
Paul Clark

Question accordingly negatived.

1 Mar 2004 : Column 639

Amendments made: No. 49, in page 2, leave out from beginning of line 9 to second 'an' in line 11 and insert—

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