Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill

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Mr. Turner: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We are nearly there, Mrs. Roe. The new clause deals with some of the problems relating to the destruction of documents, but places on an individual a clear responsibility to deliver the people whom he

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transports to the United Kingdom to the immigration services, so that they can properly be interviewed and, if appropriate, admitted to the UK.

I am prepared to accept that some parts of the new clause may be unnecessary, but I wrote it in response to earlier debates, in which we concluded that it was possible for people to disappear airside and at airports, only emerge a considerable time later and then possibly bypass immigration control. If that is true in airports, I am sure that it is equally true, or perhaps more true, in sea ports and, particularly, areas that are not canalised.

Subsection (1) asks for a manifest—a list of people, whether passenger or crew, from wherever they come—which is dealt with to a certain extent in the Government's new clause 16. It also suggests that an immigration officer should be able to control the removal of a vessel.

Subsection (2) makes it an offence not to provide the manifest and subsection (3) gives certain instructions about when a vessel might be removed. They are not exclusive and they do not prevent an immigration officer granting permission for a vessel to be removed under other circumstances. Their purpose is to ensure that those people who disembark could be re-embarked if they do not have the necessary papers, do not claim asylum and are therefore not admitted to the United Kingdom.

Subsection (4) provides the masters of vessels with some authority over people to ensure that they are delivered to immigration control. It is built on the hypothesis that anyone who disembarks should either report to immigration control or re-embark. The Minister might say that other people control matters airside sufficiently well to ensure that when people disembark an aeroplane, they reach immigration control and do not find their way around it. If she can provide that assurance, she will have demonstrated that the new clause is unnecessary.

Subsections (5) to (7) describe some of the powers that masters of vessels have, whether their vessels are ships provided for both in common law and in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, or aeroplanes covered by section 94 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. For the most part, those powers would need to be extended, and subsection (5) provides the Secretary of State with the power to make that extension. Subsection (6) provides him with the power to amend regulations. I have been unable to find any enactment that addresses the situation of the master—if that is the appropriate word—of Eurostar or the driver of a bus, so I have included them in subsection (7).

The purpose of the new clause is to elicit from the Minister whether she is satisfied that the situation between the time when somebody leaves a vessel and arrives at immigration is foolproof, and whether she accepts that those people who deliver people to the United Kingdom have some responsibility for ensuring that they reach not only these shores, but, where provided, immigration personnel.

Beverley Hughes: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman because he is trying to think beyond the scope of the Bill, consider problems and take the

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opportunity of new legislation to deal with them. I applaud that spirit, but with regard to initial provisions of the new clause, we already have sufficient powers, and the later provisions address problems that are not of a high priority in the Bill.

Paragraph 27(2) of schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 allows the Secretary of State to make an order requiring captains of ships or aircraft arriving in the UK to furnish to immigration officers a passenger list and particulars of members of the crew of the ship or aircraft. The relevant order to the legislation is the Immigration (Particulars of Passengers and Crew) Order 1972, as amended. It states that, if so required by an immigration officer, the captain of a ship or aircraft must furnish to that officer a list of the names and nationalities of all passengers arriving on the ship or aircraft. In the case of a ship, the captain must furnish to an immigration officer, within 12 hours of the arrival of the ship, a return in the form attached to the order containing particulars of all members of the crew arriving on the ship. In the case of an aircraft, if so required by an immigration officer, the captain must furnish to that officer a list of the names, dates of birth and nationalities of all crew members as soon as is practicable after arrival. The order has also been extended to apply similar provisions to trains arriving in the UK.

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A captain who fails without reasonable excuse to furnish that information when required to do so commits an offence under section 27A(1) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1971, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than level five on the standard scale or a maximum of six months' imprisonment, or to both.

We discussed paragraph 27(b) of schedule 2 to the 1971 Act in relation to carriers. The paragraph allows immigration officers to request carriers to provide ''passenger information''. That applies to ships or aircraft that have arrived or are expected to arrive in the UK and to ships or aircraft that have departed or are expected to depart from the UK. It has also been modified to apply to trains. As Members will know, because we talked about it earlier today, a request may be made in relation to a particular ship or aircraft of the carrier, to particular ships or aircraft of the carrier, or to all the carrier's ships or aircraft. A request must be in writing, and it must specify the date on which it ceases to have effect, which must be no more than six months from the date on which it is made. It also specifies what is meant by ''passenger information'', although we will of course amend that as a result of today's discussion.

Existing legislation therefore covers the provision of information covered in subsection (1) on a request basis, and failure to comply with such a request is an offence. To date, no need has been identified to require the information on any basis other than by request. The extra burden that the new clause would place on the master of a vessel would not be proportionate to any defined immigration control need, nor would it be proportionate to prevent a vessel departing until

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specifically authorised to do so by an immigration officer because of the consequent loss of time and money.

Equally, it is not proportionate or necessary to grant the master of a vessel authority over passengers or crew until he has reported to an immigration officer. Again, that would meet no identified immigration control need. The problem is not that people do not report to an immigration officer, with or without documents, but that they do not have their documents when they claim asylum. That is the sort of immigration need that we have been discussing today and throughout our consideration of the Bill. That is the problem that we are trying to solve. Therefore, we do not need to legislate to give masters of vessels authority over passengers and crew. I am not even sure that it would be practical.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be assured that the Bill already provides us with the necessary legislation, and that he will be persuaded to withdraw the new clause.

Mr. Turner: How frequently have the powers have been used?

Beverley Hughes: I cannot answer that off the top of my head and without being able to obtain the answer from my officials. I will write to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Turner: I look forward to receiving the Minister's letter. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Beverley Hughes: Before you complete proceedings, Mrs. Roe, I thank you and Mr. Taylor for the excellent way in which you have chaired the Committee. You have taken us efficiently and expeditiously through our business, some of which was very difficult, in a calm and constructive atmosphere.

I thank members of the Committee. We have had some difficult issues to discuss. This is an emotive area for many people. As we have discussed today and in previous sittings, some of the issues before us raise real dilemmas for members. I am particularly grateful for the way in which members have approached that. Although some members of the Committee had reservations, were unable to agree with me in the end and are not fully satisfied with the Government's point of view, they nevertheless entered in to the spirit of the debate in a constructive and courteous way. I thank them for that.

Even before the Bill leaves us for another place, we clearly have a fair bit of business to carry out on Report. I look forward to continuing our discussions then, but I thank everybody at this point.

Mr. Malins: I add my thanks to you, Mrs. Roe, and to Mr. Taylor, not only for the efficient way in which you have chaired the Committee, but for the very human way in which you have both done so. I also express all our thanks to those others who have been

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of support and help to us: the Hansard reporters, the Doorkeepers, the police and in particular the Clerk of the Committee, Mr. Alan Sandall, who has been a tower of strength to all of us. I share the Minister's thoughts; we had good debates in a rational and calm fashion. I would like to thank her personally for the way in which she approached the Bill.

On these Benches, we appreciated hearing from Government members, who had quite a lot to say on various aspects. Everybody on the Committee has played a full part. In particular, I would like to thank my hon. Friends and other Opposition members for their contributions.

We all leave a Committee with only one word on our minds, depending on the Committee. This time, my word might be ''rocket''. Perhaps I can challenge my hon. Friends to produce the same amendment on the Floor of the House, as it would be a most interesting debate. I have found this a good humoured and sensible debate, well whipped by everybody concerned, if I am allowed to say so. We look forward to returning to some important issues at a later stage.

 
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