Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Leech: In the light of what the Minister has said—he has stolen my thunder slightly—at this stage I do not seek to press my amendment.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): As the Minister correctly anticipates, when I heard the words “tidying and clarifying”, that led me to raise a couple of points that I would like the Minister to tidy up and clarify. They are not complicated matters.

I believe that I am right in thinking that amendments Nos. 43 and 45 are consequential on amendments Nos. 40 and 41. However, if the people mentioned in those amendments are under no duty to share information, surely there can be no order specifying the information that they must share. It is therefore unclear to me why amendment No. 43 does not also delete subsection (3)(c), which states,

    “which relates to such other matters in respect of travel or freight as the Secretary of State may specify by order.”

That subsection appears to be left hanging with the deletion of subsection (3)(b).

It is also worth asking what the effect of deleting subsection (4)(b) will be. Will the Minister respond to those two points?

Likewise, on Government amendments Nos. 48 and 49, and despite what the Minister said, I again presume that their purpose is to take information sharing for security purposes under clause 32 out of the code of practice. I am still unclear why that has been done. As nothing in the clause imposes a requirement to report on how the code of practice is used or could otherwise require the security services to disclose information, why are the amendments necessary?

Moving on, I have two small queries. First, the drafting in this subsection limits it to information provided by the Secretary of State

    “in so far as he has functions under the Immigration Acts”,

a chief officer of police, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Would there be any other Government agencies to which it could apply or be extended, such as information held by housing departments, the Department of Health or the Department for Education and Skills? Why is it limited to those three and not a broader category of operations?

In clause 28 the Government amendment added all vehicles to these categories and yet that does not seem to have happened in this area. I wondered whether for the sake of tidiness or keeping everything in order vehicles should be considered as a potential addition to this group under subsection (3)(a).

Column Number: 216

Lastly, I happened to glance at the long title of the Bill. It may not be a matter for now but as freight happens to be mentioned specifically under the clause, I wondered whether orders relating to freight are within the long title of the Bill as it stands. [Interruption.] The Minister is saying from a sedentary position that they are, but it is always worth checking at this stage and getting the answer from the ministerial team.

Andy Burnham: Perhaps I may deal with the hon. Lady’s last point first. It came up this morning. It is important to reiterate that the movement of freight is relevant to our considerations. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State made clear, there can be circumstances where freight movements involve people, but the movement of freight can also provide information about immigration issues or policing matters. That is why it is included. As he said, parliamentary counsel has satisfied us that it is within the scope of the Bill. I am happy to give her that assurance.

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s probing on the tidiness or otherwise of the clause as it is left. First, she asked why subsection (3)(c) is not deleted, given that (3)(b) is to be removed and the persons referred to in subsection (2)(d) to (f) have been deleted. It is not deleted and the clause is not untidy as a result because, as with clause 31, it is necessary to say what information can be passed from the border agencies to the security and intelligence services, where that does not fit in clause 32(3)(a). It is necessary to give further clarification on that point.

The hon. Lady also asked about the effect of leaving out subsection (4)(b). The subsection is unnecessary as this is no longer a two-way gateway. The Bill, as drafted, was about creating a two-way operation whereby information could pass in both directions. As amended, the Bill is a one-way street and the process in the other direction is now removed. The security and intelligence services have sufficient legislation to cover their operations—that is taken care of—so the provision is not needed.

The hon. Lady also asked whether the clause could be extended to other agencies, such as housing. We are considering whether it may usefully be extended to others in future but it is primarily concerned with the capture of data as it affects the cross-border movement of people. That is why it is so constructed. If there were a case to be made in the future, we would give thought to it, but at this stage it is right to limit the scope of the Bill and the clause as proposed.

I think I have covered most of the points raised by the hon. Lady. She asked about vehicles; the only relevant vehicles are those on ferries, which would be covered under passengers and freight, and vehicles coming through the channel tunnel. The Bill, especially the sections that relate to aircraft and vessels, does not mention trains. Trains passing through the channel tunnel are governed by separate legislation, and we shall lay out in an order flowing from that legislation similar provisions to those in the Bill in respect of other transport movements.

Column Number: 217

Mrs. Gillan: I raised the matter only because of the Minister’s own amendment No. 108 to clause 28, which applies to ships and aircraft, to

    “leave out ‘and aircraft’ and insert ‘, aircraft and vehicles’.”

For clarification, keeping in line with clause 28, I thought if the proposal did include vehicles it might be helpful. I was just tidying up.

Andy Burnham: I am very grateful to the hon. Lady. I thought that it would be useful to explain more broadly why the proposal is so drafted. The order relating to channel tunnel traffic will come in due course. “Vehicles” are the classes of vehicles that I mentioned; I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to clarify what is meant by that. Vehicles coming through the channel tunnel will be dealt with in secondary legislation. For the purposes of the Bill, vehicles on ferries are covered under passengers and freight.

I hope with that clarification that I have answered the hon. Lady’s legitimate questions.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made:No. 36, in clause 32, page 16, line 44, leave out ‘a function specified in’.

No. 37, in clause 32, page 16, line 45, leave out ‘a function specified in’.

No. 38, in clause 32, page 17, leave out line 1 and insert—

    ‘(2)   The persons who may disclose information in accordance with subsection (1) are—’.

No. 39, in clause 32, page 17, line 4, at end insert ‘and’.

No. 40, in clause 32, page 17, line 6, leave out paragraphs (d), (e) and (f).

No. 41, in clause 32, page 17, line 8, at end insert—

    ‘(2A)   The persons to whom information may be disclosed in accordance with subsection (1) are—

      (a)   the Director-General of the Security Service,

      (b)   the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, and

      (c)   the Director of the Government Communications Headquarters.’.

No. 42, in clause 32, page 17, line 11, after ‘State’, insert ‘and the Treasury jointly’.

No. 43, in clause 32, page 17, line 16, leave out paragraph (b).

No. 44, in clause 32, page 17, line 22, leave out ‘may’ and insert

    ‘and the Treasury may jointly’.

No. 45, in clause 32, page 17, line 23, leave out subsection (4).

No. 46, in clause 32, page 17, line 34, at end insert—

    ‘(5A)   An order under subsection (3) may not specify—

      (a)   a power of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs if or in so far as it relates to a matter to which section 7 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (c. 11) (former Inland Revenue matters) applies, or

      (b)   a matter to which that section applies.’.—[Mr. McNulty.]

Clause 32, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Column Number: 218

4.45 pm

Andy Burnham: I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 16, line 39, transfer Clause 32 to after Clause 33.

I shall be very brief. The amendment is a tidying amendment in the truest sense of the word. It simply moves clause 32 so that it follows clause 33, as clause 33 will be applicable only to clause 31 as a consequence of Government amendments Nos. 48 and 49. If that is clear, I ask the Committee to accept amendment No. 34.

Mrs. Gillan: I simply congratulate the Minister on a good piece of tidying up of the Bill.

The Chairman: I congratulate the Committee on dealing with the matter with considerable expedition.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 33

Information sharing: code of practice

Amendments made:No. 47, in clause 33, page 17, line 42, leave out ‘shall’ and insert

    ‘and the Treasury shall jointly’.

No. 48, in clause 33, page 17, line 43, leave out ‘or 32(1)’.

No. 49, in clause 33, page 17, line 46, leave out ‘or 32(4)’.

No. 50, in clause 33, page 18, line 4, after ‘State’, insert ‘and the Treasury jointly’.

No. 51, in clause 33, page 18, line 5, after ‘State’, insert ‘and the Treasury’.

No. 52, in clause 33, page 18, line 5, after ‘shall’, insert ‘jointly’.—[Mr. McNulty.]

Clause 33, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34

Disclosure to law enforcement agencies

Mr. Leech: I beg to move amendment No. 130, in clause 34, page 18, line 18, leave out subsection (2).

Clause 34 gives chiefs of police the power to disclose information to

    “any other foreign law enforcement agency.”

The amendment in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) is a probing amendment designed to find out what safeguards will be in place to ensure that information is not shared in a way that breaches UK obligations under the 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees. I seek assurances from the Minister as to how he can guarantee that information sharing will not put anyone under further fear of persecution. A number of people who are just passing through this country could be subject to this provision. In fact, people who are not currently subject to persecution may find themselves subject to persecution. The chance of their being persecuted by a foreign Government will massively increase as a result
Column Number: 219
of information being passed on, and they could end up becoming refugees. I seek reassurance from the Minister as to how that can be avoided.

Mr. McNulty: I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has introduced his amendment, which he describes as probing, in the way that he has. On paper at least, I was going to refer to it as an “untidying” amendment rather than a tidying amendment, given that, by removing the definition of a foreign law enforcement agency, it would do precisely what he seeks not to do. If we take the amendment at face value, police, without being defined, could pass on information to anybody they so choose. I am glad he does not seek to pursue the amendment.

I am a bit worried, too, by the notion that the hon. Gentleman thinks that people who are “just passing through”, to use his terms, should be allowed to “just pass through” regardless of their position in other jurisdictions or of crimes that they may or may not have committed. I am sure that he did not mean it like that, but that is the way in which he phrased his introductory remarks.

We could almost put a tape recorder here in place of Ministers to respond to any number of the Liberal Democrat amendments. I repeat that anything in the Bill, not least in clause 34 will be implemented—we can do a chorus—entirely in accordance with the UK’s obligations under the 1951 convention, not to mention the 1951 European convention on human rights. That is at the root of the Bill.

I do not blame the hon. Gentleman—he is only here for a temporary four-year term—but I am sure that he will learn that he cannot look at any piece of legislation in isolation. It sits within the terms of all other existing legislation, whether that be human rights legislation, conventions to which we are signatories, an assorted range of other treaties, the Data Protection Act or whatever else. This is not a little game in which one looks at the substance of a Bill on its own without understanding its legislative context.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): I plan to be here for a good deal more than the next four years.

The Minister will be aware that the police in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are used to co-operating at great length and in great detail with different constabularies and with other law enforcement agencies on the mainland. Those islands have a special relationship with the UK. Surely it is not necessary, given that long-standing relationship and the close links among those police forces, to refer to those islands’ police forces in the Bill. Will he elaborate on that?

Mr. McNulty: It is entirely necessary. Those police forces are established not only under different jurisdictions but under a different statutory base. Specifically in the context of clauses 27 and 28, it is germane, appropriate and necessary to mention them
Column Number: 220
deliberately in the Bill. I accept entirely the hon. Gentleman’s point about our relationship and co-operation with those police forces.

I hope, not via a chorus or a tape recorder, that the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington will take the assurances given about the 1951 conventions—European and United Nations—in the manner given and will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Leech: This time, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Malins: I have one or two brief questions. I seek the Minister’s indulgence because, a moment ago, my mind wandered on to the next clause. I missed an earlier exchange, so if my question has already been asked, I hope that he will forgive me. Most of my best family holidays have been on the island of Alderney. I wonder whether, since Guernsey and Jersey have been mentioned, Alderney, Sark and Herm should be mentioned separately.

Although the chief officer of police may disclose information to other foreign law enforcement agencies, I should be interested to hear whether many foreign law enforcement agencies have legislation in place to permit them to exchange information with us, and whether they do so. Can the Minister explain why it was decided not to specify by order the relevant foreign law enforcement agencies, whether by name of agency or by country? Can he also say a little more about the reference in the clause not to police forces but to those with

    “functions similar to . . . functions of a police force.”

I take it, for example, that in America, we would be talking about the CIA, the FBI, the federal police and the state police. Are those all included? What about other countries?

In relation to the issue of police purposes, have any purposes been specified under section 21 of the 1999 Act? Can the Minister confirm that the sharing of information under the clause will also be limited to sharing for police purposes as defined by that section? Could that limitation as to purpose be specified in the Bill on Report?

Those are my questions on the clause which, otherwise, I think is sensible.

Mr. McNulty: On the hon. Gentleman’s final question, we think that there is already sufficient explanation and definition of the information and the sharing thereof in the Bill without including it in this clause.

I am not told, but I suspect, that the formal titles “States of Jersey” and the “Island of Guernsey”, as used in the clause, cover Alderney, Sark and Herm. I am assured by a Government Whip that there is one policeman on Herm, so we may write to him to see whether he can share information with us, and under what terms he can do so. On a more serious note, I think that those areas are covered and captured by the
Column Number: 221
reference to the “States of Jersey” and the “Island of Guernsey”—[Interruption.] I do not know the policeman’s name, but I am sure that we can find out if we need to know it. I shall write to hon. Members to confirm the general point.

Two other points were made about law enforcement agencies: first, whether we share with everybody or whether we can share specifically with one agency on behalf of the others; and secondly, the degree of reciprocity. I think that I am right in saying that thus far, other states are working towards such a joint sharing arrangement and, as and when we deal with other states, there is a mutuality that would almost demand reciprocity. However, I am not entirely sure—I cannot give chapter and verse—whether other states have reached the level of legislation that we have. However, there has been significant progress at the European Union level in working towards data sharing and to a common standard in terms of biometrics and other dimensions.

I hope that my answers to those valid questions—except for the question about the name of the policeman on Herm—have satisfied hon. Members.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 35

Searches: contracting out

Mr. Leech: I beg to move amendment No. 120, in clause 35, page 19, line 1, leave out subsection (5).

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 121, in clause 35, page 19, line 12, leave out from ‘(1)’ to end of line 15.

No. 122, in clause 36, page 20, line 19, leave out subsection (3).

No. 125, in clause 36, page 20, line 27, leave out subsection (4).

5 pm

Mr. Leech: The clause is serious in that it gives new powers to workers who are contracted out to other security forces. I have two questions for the Minister. First, do the Government intend to create an unregulated security force, as elements of the clause suggest? Secondly, why are we not limiting the powers to existing customs officers and police officers?

There are serious questions to be answered about the training of such unregulated security officers who might be given the job of security. What level of training will be given to people to whom the service has been contracted out? Will they, for instance, be given training in racial and cultural sensitivities when conducting searches? Under section 155 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, detainee custody officers are authorised individually. Clause 35 suggests that a whole class of people, rather than the individual, will now be authorised.

Column Number: 222

Will the Minister also clarify whether the training of people to whom the service is contracted out will include understanding the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 codes of practice and the limitations on powers of search?

Mr. Malins: The hon. Gentleman makes a point about the powers of search, which are critical. I also serve on the Committee considering the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which contains very similar powers of search in relation to school children. The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill refers to a

    “coat, a jacket or a glove”,

which can be taken off, whereas the Violent Crime Reduction Bill refers to a

    “coat, a jacket, gloves and a hat”.

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that to be an omission from this Bill?

Mr. Leech: I am not quite sure how important the omission is, but perhaps the Minister will comment on that, too.

There is also the question of the definition of a coat. A lady might wear a jacket but not have anything on underneath, whereas I might wear a coat on top of my jacket.

Mrs. Gillan: I do not know what ladies the hon. Gentleman has been mixing with, but in my experience most ladies do wear something under their jackets.

The Chairman: Order. Ribaldry is not encouraged.

Mrs. Gillan: I understand that, Sir Nicholas. I simply refer the hon. Gentleman to subsection (7)(a)(i), (ii) and (iii), which state that part of the search is to prevent the individual from carrying something that might cause himself or another physical harm, or that might assist him to escape. That is why a hat is so important.

I served on the Committee that considered the Criminal Justice Bill back in 1993, and the one amendment that Conservative Ministers allowed us Back Benchers to make was to add the word “hat” in relation to searches. More importantly, however, restricting the list in subsection (8)(a) means that it might not be possible to discover the things that an individual carries that could cause them physical harm or assist them out of detention. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman might want to take that into consideration, because it appears to be a lacuna.

Mr. Leech: Clearly, from the information that the hon. Lady has given, I am sure that the Minister will want to take on board the issues raised about a hat.

My last comment relates to the ability to detain others for up to three hours. It strikes me that three hours is an awfully long time for an unregulated person, who does not have the experience of a police officer or a customs official, to be able to detain somebody in that capacity.

Gwyn Prosser: I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with many of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. I have some general concerns about the hiving out of duties carried out by public servants to
Column Number: 223
private agencies, although I am sure that you, Sir Nicholas, will not allow me to go too far along that track.

However, the problem is not just the generality of hiving out public duties, but the particular nature of the duties. Anyone who has witnessed the searching in, for example, my home port of Dover, and who has seen some of the tragic scenes of the back of a lorry opening and families of asylum seekers with young children coming down the ladder, will know that they are traumatic incidents, which must be dealt with sensitively. The idea is to hire private agency staff, although the Bill says that they must be properly trained and provide a proper service. What does the description “fit and proper” for the purpose and “suitably trained” mean? It describes a fully trained immigration officer or a fully trained customs officer. It is not by accident that they have to go through rigorous tests.

We do not have to look into a crystal ball to see what might happen, because we already have the situation in Calais, where private agency workers, who happen to be French nationals working for a French agency on very low pay that is close to the minimum wage, are required to help at berthside inspections, supporting the immigration officers. They have only a limited power, not the extended powers in the Bill and cannot carry out searches of people. The Bill mentioned inspecting the inside of a person’s mouth. That involves detaining someone, possibly against their will, and could give rise to all sorts of concerns. We only have to think about the debate that took place on whether community support officers should be given powers to detain and arrest to know that. We have gone through the process of providing fully trained customs officers and immigration officers, and that should be the end of that.

Last week I had a meeting with immigration officers who were members of the Public and Commercial Services Union. There are hundreds of such people in Dover, and I am a member of the PCS parliamentary group. They explained that one of the dangers of hiring agency staff is not just the sensitivity of health and safety matters, which we have discussed, but the greater propensity—I am not being xenophobic—for a foreign national, who is hired on a short-term contract, or even for the day, and given the new powers, to be open to corruption and bribery. Those were the words of the immigration officers.

Even if we do not go as far as that, agency staff certainly will not have the culture that is built into our customs officers and immigration officers—officers of the Crown—who look on their job as a point of duty. They are not just there to earn a crust of bread. That is very important, of course, but they are paid a professional wage to do a professional job and this aspect of the Bill dilutes that and could have serious ramifications.

I shall not do anything dramatic today, but I hope that the Minister will take those points on board in the serious way in which they have been delivered. If he
Column Number: 224
cannot give me real assurances that my concerns will not become reality, I and other colleagues will have to consider which way to approach the measure on Report.

Previous Contents Continue
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 26 October 2005