Previous SectionIndexHome Page

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) for initiating the debate. As he said, it deals with a terrible tragedy and some difficult issues. He spoke, however, in a characteristically measured and assiduous way, and I want to help him in whatever way I can to secure the full facts of the case.

I extend my sympathies and those of the Government to the Bishop and Payling families, who have suffered greatly from the loss of their son in terrible circumstances, but have not yet been able to see a legal resolution of the tragedy.

My hon. Friend focused my attention on this specific case, and I thank him for doing so. I know that he wrote to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on 5 October, seeking answers to some of the questions that he has put before the House today. Work is ongoing in the Home Office to establish the full facts. I am afraid that I am not in a position today to answer all his questions in detail, but I assure him that we will conduct a full review of the circumstances that led to this situation. We will of course share the findings with my hon. Friend and the families concerned. I shall give some general information on the policy of removal and deportation where criminal charges are outstanding, and answer, where I can, some of the questions that my hon. Friend raised.

I should stress at the outset that, as my hon. Friend acknowledged, there is of course a difference between deportation and administrative removal of an overstayer by the immigration and nationality directorate. Since 2 October 2000, deportation has been reserved for more serious cases, with less serious cases—for example, overstayers who work in breach of their
28 Oct 2005 : Column 605
conditions, and those who seek, or gain leave, to remain by deception—being dealt with under section 10 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Since October 2000, the use of deportation has been mostly confined to cases where a foreign national has been convicted of a criminal offence and their deportation is recommended by the court as a part of their sentence. It is also possible for someone to be deported if doing so is deemed conducive to the public good: if, among other things, he has been convicted of a serious offence or has a series of comparatively minor convictions, and where the court has for some reason not recommended deportation; or if he has been deemed to represent a threat to public policy, public health or public security.

Deportation is not an alternative to a prison sentence, and the person concerned is normally expected to serve his full term of imprisonment before being deported. To do otherwise could be seen as treating a criminal from abroad more leniently than a British citizen. The victim or the victim's family could also feel that the person had not been suitably punished for his crime.

Immigration offenders—illegal entrants, overstayers or people who breach the conditions of their leave by, for example, taking employment when the terms of their leave prohibit doing so—are not deported. Instead, they are subject to administrative removal by the immigration service under the provisions of the Immigration Act 1971 and the 1999 Act. It is important to distinguish between administrative removal and deportation. I believe that the case that my hon. Friend has brought before us today was an administrative removal, rather than a deportation, and for that reason different processes will apply.

Keith Vaz: I know that when a person is deported from this country, a cross is put on their passport by the immigration authorities. Is there any indication on the passport of a citizen of another country that they have been removed, rather than deported?

Andy Burnham: I shall make the position absolutely clear to my hon. Friend when we reply to him with the full facts of this case, but I want to assure him today that when somebody has been removed from this country, the immigration service retains for future immigration purposes a record that would of course form part of their immigration history, should it be inquired into. I shall also get back to my hon. Friend on the specific issue of the passport.

The key difference between deportation and other forms of removal is that a deportation order prohibits a person from returning to the UK, as my hon. Friend said, until such time as the order may be revoked. Administrative removal, however, includes no such provision, and a person may seek to return to the UK at any time, so long as they comply with the requirements of the immigration rules.

There might also be some ambiguity about precisely when criminal proceedings commence. Strictly speaking, they commence when the accused is charged, but of course, he may well be arrested before that. It is not the policy of the immigration service to seek to
28 Oct 2005 : Column 606
remove someone from the UK once it is aware that the person has been charged with a criminal offence until such time—I stress this point to my hon. Friend—as the criminal proceedings have been completed. That being the case, it would not normally be necessary to inform either the Crown Prosecution Service or the courts of the arrangement for the person's removal as there would no longer be any involvement in the case.

Where an illegal immigrant or an overstayer is arrested for a criminal offence, consideration is initially given to prosecution, and the suspect is interviewed at a police station in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. In those circumstances, if it is clear that the person concerned has no right to be in the UK and the arrest is for a criminal offence under the Immigration Acts or is considered to be relatively minor, the immigration service may decide administratively to remove the person from the UK rather than prosecute them. At that point, the person is taken out of police custody and detained or released, using non-criminal immigration powers.

I want to stress another point to my hon. Friend. Before a person is placed in immigration detention, it has been the normal procedure of the immigration and nationality directorate over the last two to three years—a recent change—to check the individual's details on the police national computer database. That now happens in all cases. It should show up whether or not there is an outstanding arrest warrant or any charges laid against the person concerned. In this particular case, we have to find the full facts of what exactly happened—whether such checks were made and what information came back to the IND. I can assure my hon. Friend that he will receive a full and clear answer.

I should also emphasise to my hon. Friend that removal action would not be appropriate where the person concerned is accused of an offence, particularly a serious offence. That is the policy of the IND today. In those circumstances, the Government's position is that, pending the completion of those proceedings, the individual would not be removed. That being the policy, those questions go to the heart of the matter and we must get to the bottom of what happened.

My hon. Friend said that if the Home Office had made the necessary inquiries into Mr. Yin's criminal record and liaised with the CPS, it would have been able to identify that he was in the midst of being tried. I was listening carefully to my hon. Friend when he made those remarks and I shall ensure that he receives satisfactory answers to those points when we respond to him in detail.

My hon. Friend set out before the House some nine or more questions that are germane to the issues before us. As I said earlier, the IND carries out checks on all people placed in detention and it is possible that, in this particular case, the immigration service was unaware of the ongoing charges against this particular individual. That is the nub of the matter and we will try to supply my hon. Friend with the fullest possible answer.
28 Oct 2005 : Column 607

My hon. Friend asked what steps were being taken to ensure that the lack of co-ordination never happens again. If there are lessons to be learned, it is vital that we learn them. That is also crucial for the Bishop and Payling families: like any other family, they would accept nothing less and are determined to ensure that it does not happen to another family.

Keith Vaz: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks. I understand that he does not have all the facts today and that he will contact me, but may I have some timetable for that? I wrote to my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General in August and it is now nearly November. My hon. Friend will need to investigate before he can write to me with the
28 Oct 2005 : Column 608
information, but we need a timetable so that we can achieve closure on this matter; otherwise it could just go on for ever.

Andy Burnham: The case has only recently come to my attention as a result of this debate. I give my hon. Friend my personal guarantee that I will get back to him at the earliest opportunity to place the full facts before him. Once we have those full facts and we know the full circumstances of this sad and tragic case, and if lessons need to be learned and action taken to prevent it from happening again, I categorically guarantee that that will happen.

Question put and agreed to.

Next Section IndexHome Page