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I would like the Minister to return to one detail. Although she has rightly emphasised the issue of proportionality of response—and she has talked a lot about the safeguards over the past few minutes—she said previously that our amendment was unnecessary and potentially disproportionate under article 8 of the European convention on human rights, especially in relation to widening the power to enter and search premises for relevant documents. We suggested expanding the scope of the provision to cover “any other premises”, to ensure that those searches were as effective as possible. Clearly, that is an extremely serious consideration for Ministers to take on board. Will she therefore reassure the House that the powers
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in the new clauses do not in any way breach article 8 of the ECHR, and explain why they do not?

With that one potential caveat about the new clauses—as I said, they grew out of amendments that we tabled in Committee—we welcome their inclusion in the Bill.

Paul Rowen: Like the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), I welcome the revised amendments submitted by the Minister, notwithstanding her detailed explanation about the safeguards and operation of the Bill.

In that regard, I have a question about the role of the chief inspector of the Border and Immigration Agency. If there is concern about an immigration officer’s pursuit of such searches, is it correct that the chief inspector can refuse to co-operate with, say, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons, the Independent Police Complaints Commission or other bodies that might be concerned about the operation of the clause? I have no objection to the use of the provision; it is important that the powers that officers have are clearly laid out. As I mentioned, however, I am concerned about the effect on community relations, which is why I asked about monitoring. If there are concerns, is it true that the chief inspector will be able to block any investigation?

Joan Ryan: The hon. Member for Ashford is right that the European convention on human rights was discussed in relation to the proportionality of the legislation. As I understand it, the amendment that he tabled would have extended the powers sought by the clause then in the Bill. The introduction of the seeking of a warrant helps to satisfy the requirement to protect people’s rights under the legislation. We are satisfied that the new clauses and amendments are compatible with the convention.

It was interesting to consider the examples given in relation to the new clauses and amendments. Of course, police already have powers to deal with the criminal offence outlined by the hon. Gentleman. The provision is about the seeking of documents relating to nationality, in order to effect removal and deportation at the appropriate time. With regard to that analysis, he had a point. We wished to address that, not leave a loophole in what we all agree is necessary legislation, or create an incentive for people to hide their documents with family, friends and so on. Although the majority of documents are found on the premises where the person is arrested, or on premises under the person’s control, we recognise the possibility of creating a perverse incentive for those documents to be stashed away somewhere else, so we wish to extend the powers. Given the analysis that we have undertaken, there is no question but that extending the safeguards to include the seeking of a warrant—which does not apply to the powers to search the premises where the person is found or premises under the person’s control—satisfies the requirements.

In response to the question of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Paul Rowen), the chief inspector will have oversight of Border and Immigration Agency activity, and will therefore oversee immigration officers exercising powers. The IPCC will oversee the police. I hope that that clarifies the relationship, but I can write
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to the hon. Gentleman in more detail if he still has concerns. I thank both hon. Gentlemen, and my hon. Friends, for their support for the measures.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Police civilians

‘In Part 2 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30) (powers exercisable by police civilians: investigating officers) after paragraph 18 (entry and search after arrest) insert—

“Entry and search for evidence of nationality after arrest

18A Where a designation applies this paragraph to any person—

(a) sections 43 to 44 of the UK Borders Act 2007 (entry, search and seizure after arrest) shall apply to that person (with any necessary modifications) as if a reference to a constable included a reference to that person, and

(b) a provision of the 1984 Act which applies to constables in connection with any of those sections shall apply (with any necessary modifications) to that person.”’.— [Joan Ryan.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 1

Deportation orders: provision of information

‘The Secretary of State shall comply with any request for information from the victim of an offence about a deportation order made under the provisions of section 31(5) in respect of the person convicted of that offence.’.— [Mr. Kidney.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 34, in page 16, line 6 Clause 31, leave out from ‘whom’ to end of line and insert ‘the condition under subsection (2) applies.’.

No. 35, in page 16, leave out lines 7 to 13 and insert—

‘(2) The Condition is that, in the opinion of the sentencing judge, there is no public interest or other lawful reason why the person should remain in the United Kingdom.’.

No. 15, in page 16, line 7, leave out ‘of at least 12 months’.

No. 8, in page 16, line 12, after ‘criminal)’, insert

No. 2, in page 16, line 37 Clause 32, leave out ‘conviction’ and insert ‘the offence’.

No. 14, in page 17, line 32 Clause 33, leave out from ‘requires’ to end of line 33 and insert ‘the Secretary of State to—

(a) make a deportation order no less than one month before the end of the individual’s sentence, and

(b) ensure the deportation of an individual against whom a deportation order has been made occurs not more than six months after the making of the order.’.

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No. 9, in page 19, line 21 Clause 37, leave out subsection (1).

No. 10, in page 19, line 23, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b).

Government amendments Nos. 17 to 22 and 27.

Mr. Kidney: New clause 1 is grouped with a large number of amendments, none of which I tabled, so I shall leave their explanation to others.

New clause 1 sets out a simple proposition: when foreign nationals are deported because they have committed relevant crimes, their victims should be entitled to know about the deportation. In the Bill as amended in Committee, clause 31 provides for what the heading calls “Automatic deportation”. At its most basic, my argument is that if the deportation is automatic, what is the problem in telling the victim that it has happened?

The truth, however, is that not every foreign national convicted of an offence and sent to prison will be deported. For some offences, there will be a sentence of less than 12 months, which will not trigger the power. Clause 32 provides for a number of exceptions that will mean that others will not be deported. To my mind, the fact that, in some instances, uncertainty remains as to whether a deportation will take place strengthens the case for victims to know what has happened. I want to illustrate that argument with reference to the constituency case that first attracted my interest in the issue.

In 2005, a young female adult was walking home from work on a Saturday night. She was followed by a man for two miles until she was in a road where no one else was about. There she was brutally raped. The offender was arrested. He was a foreign national. He was tried and convicted, and the judge, sentencing him to six years in prison, said that he had shown absolutely no remorse. It was at that point that I was asked by my constituent’s family to find out whether the offender would be deported from prison.

The young female was understandably suffering not just physical but mental trauma because of her experiences. She wanted to know whether there was any risk at all that the offender might one day be back on the streets where she lives. For her that is an ever-present, uncomfortable thought. I was quite willing to help to try to put her mind at rest.

I wrote to Home Office Ministers several times to find out about the fate of the foreign national in prison. To my surprise, they responded each time that they could not disclose any information to me. Here is a typical response, in a letter dated 22 August last year:

the offender

the victim

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For obvious reasons, I have omitted the names of the two people involved.

My response to being told that the offender had the right to block the victim’s access to information that she wants only because of the offender’s wrongdoing was that it offended my sense of what was right. I double-checked the Home Office’s stance by tabling a parliamentary question, believing that an hon. Member asking a parliamentary question would be entitled to information about the deportation. Once again, however, my request was stonewalled, as can be seen at column 1044W of the 16 October edition of Hansard.

Not wishing to give up, I spoke in the debate on the Queen’s Speech on 23 November 2006, again raising the specific case of my constituent and the point of principle about access to information for victims. That can be seen at column 780 of Hansard. The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, my hon. Friend the. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne), who is in the Chamber today, responded sympathetically, and I subsequently corresponded with him on the subject. However, his reply also relied on human rights and data protection as reasons for his inability to provide the information.

After my contribution to the debate on the Queen’s Speech, I learned that I was not alone in experiencing this difficulty. Other Members, and indeed journalists, contacted me about many similar stories. Obviously my research has not been extensive or systematic, but it has left me with the impression that just beneath the surface the problem experienced by my constituent and by me is a common one. That, surely, is a very undesirable state of affairs.

New clause 1 is an attempt to give the Home Office parliamentary authority to break through the obstacles and give victims information to which I believe they should be entitled. In recent years, we have legislated to give more entitlements to victims. The Domestic Violence, Crimes And Victims Act 2004 enables victims of some sexual offences, for instance, to obtain information from the probation service about licence and supervision conditions when an offender is released from prison. New clause 1 is an attempt to nudge the law slightly further in favour of relevant information for victims, in this case on whether a foreign national has been deported.

2.45 pm

In a written statement on 23 May 2006, the present Home Secretary said:

It is worth recalling that at that time the deportation of foreign nationals who had committed serious offences in the United Kingdom was a topic of intense public interest. In part at least, the furore arose because the record keeping of the Home Office and its agencies was not very good. Perhaps if there were more openness, and more access and exposure to public scrutiny of these matters, there would be fewer problems of this kind. I hope the Minister will tell us what arrangements he envisages in the context of the deportation power in clause 31, not just in respect of access to information
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about deportation for victims, but in respect of what information Parliament and individual Members should have.

There are victims of serious crimes who have a legitimate interest in knowing whether a deportation, as directed by clause 31, has indeed taken place. For the sake of those victims and, indeed, for the sake of the public’s confidence in our laws, it is in the public interest for the information specified in new clause 1 to be given to those victims. In weighing the interests of the offender and the victim, surely we should give the victim’s rights the higher priority. For those reasons, I urge the Minister to respond positively to new clause 1.

Damian Green: I shall concentrate mainly on the four amendments tabled in my name, but let me first comment on what was said by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney), who made a powerful case.

When the rights of the victim are balanced against those of the offender, it is clear that the victim’s rights should come first. I am sure the Minister agrees with that, but—coming fresh to the matter—I am puzzled by the response that the hon. Gentleman received from the Home Office, which told him that owing to a number of legal restrictions his constituent could not have the required information.

Given that we have been through a phase during which the Government were prepared to circulate posters and leaflets about hooligans who had received antisocial behaviour orders, and were making a virtue of naming and shaming people who were guilty of what I suspect were, in this context, relatively minor offences, and given that anyone who will be subject to deportation under the Government’s proposals must have been convicted of an offence and been in prison for more than 12 months—and must therefore have been convicted of a very serious offence—I feel that the hon. Gentleman made a good case for the new clause, or a similar measure. We need an appropriate balance that gives more weight to the victim’s rights than the current arrangement as explained to him by the Home Office. I hope that the Minister, who will have seen the new clause on the amendment paper for some time, will be able to respond positively to his hon. Friend.

Amendment No. 8 would add to those considered for automatic deportation people who have committed immigration offences. As it stands, the Bill provides for what it calls automatic deportation, but I think it was widely agreed in Committee that that is a misnomer. It is automatic deportation except when it is not automatic, and that means a huge number of exceptions. The deportation provision applies to foreign prisoners who are sentenced to more than 12 months in jail, yet the Bill itself sets the punishment at 51 weeks for the new immigration offences that it creates. That means that anyone committing an offence under the terms of the Bill would not be subject to the part of it that provides for what it calls automatic deportation, which strikes me as perverse. It is not credible that a Bill that purports to protect our borders excludes from its own provisions automatic deportation of those who commit serious crimes against immigration officials and those who seek to enter this country illegally.

As it stands, the Bill sabotages its own effects. I am sure that the Minister will say, as he did in Committee, that a dim view will be taken of people discovered in
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the UK illegally and that the chances of their being allowed to stay will be limited. However, the Opposition believe that a strong message needs to be sent: “We will stop you if you try to come to this country illegally, but if we cannot we will catch you and send you away again quickly.”

Previous mistakes in that regard are the main cause of problems in the entire immigration system. The number of asylum seekers has dropped considerably in recent years, mainly because of the end—thankfully—of wars on the continent of Europe, but there is a huge overhang in the system, which is one of the main problems the Government face. We want to prevent anything similar from happening in the future, if there should again—God forbid—be large-scale movements of refugees across Europe, which would inevitably end up with hundreds of thousands of people coming to this country, as we have found in the past. That is the purpose of amendment No. 8.

Amendment No. 14 would require the Secretary of State to make a deportation order at least one month before the end of a prisoner’s sentence and would provide for that person to be deported within six months of the order being served. The Minister assured us at earlier stages of the passage of the Bill that he had the right systems and manpower to ensure that the deportation system would work better in future than it has in the past. He said that resources in what was the IND and is now the BIA—the immigration and nationality directorate and the Border and Immigration Agency for those who are not keeping up with the fast-moving world of Home Office acronyms—had increased tenfold over the past year.

The amendment is designed to probe whether the Home Office’s systems will ensure the deportation of the individuals it wants to deport, precisely because the scandal that cost the still immediately previous Home Secretary his job arose in part because of the inability of the Home Office, the Prison Service and other agencies to communicate and work together to get serious criminals, out of the country. One fears that with the split in the Home Office, which we discussed in previous business today, those communication problems are likely to get worse, as the Prison Service has been even further removed from the ambit of the immigration service. The situation will certainly not get better and it may get worse, so the need for the amendment is even more urgent now than when we discussed it a few weeksago in Committee. The amendment would ensurethat arrangements were already in progress when an individual neared his or her release date, to make the whole process smoother and more efficient.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 and Government amendments Nos. 17 to 22 relate to exemptions from automatic deportation and share a common interest. We want to achieve the same things. At present, people who have been handed a suspended sentence are exempt even if they serve some of the sentence, and the amendments would close that loophole. We wanted to delete subsection (1) of clause 37 in its entirety, but the Government want to do that in another way.

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