Previous Section Index Home Page

5 pm

Judicial review presents a serious problem: between January and March this year we received an average of 79 judicial reviews a week challenging enforcement activity. Some 94 per cent. were refused permission at the paper stage; none the less, one ongoing case has been running for 12 months and is on its second judicial review. Another case has been running for 14 months and is on its fourth judicial review, while a further case has been running for seven months and is on its third judicial review. People often try to exploit the judicial review process as a last-minute barrier to removal. I fear that the change to section 11 proposed by the hon. Member for Ashford would simply multiply those barriers.

Paul Rowen: While I understand what the Minister is telling us, he also says that it is not the intention to deport, or send home, children at least until they become adults. The provision would not apply after people reached the age of 18, so I do not understand
9 May 2007 : Column 234
why they cannot be subject to section 11 of the Children Act 2004 while they are children in the UK, which is all that we want.

Mr. Byrne: We will often be making arrangements to send those people home. I simply do not understand how anyone cannot envisage that in judicial review proceedings, lawyers would make the argument that I cited. The proposal would lead to the multiplication of judicial review proceedings.

This is a serious matter. It is important to go further than we have to date on the Border and Immigration Agency’s duty to safeguard the welfare and livelihood of children. I said in Committee that we were keeping the matter under review. This summer the agency will publish its safeguarding strategy, which has been drawn up in close consultation with children’s organisations. If the Bill is enacted, we will commission advice from the new inspectorate about how it can examine specifically the way in which the safeguarding strategy is implemented, so that we can ensure two things. The first is that the strategy is actually working, with policy being translated into practice. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), has helpfully and successfully highlighted instance after instance when policy has not been translated into practice, which explains why the single inspectorate is important. The second is that hon. Members, and the wider public, have an assurance that the safeguarding duty is being implemented properly.

We can make important changes. While the point about transparency is particularly important, we need to continue to listen to the argument about how a specific and appropriate legal obligation could underpin the safeguarding responsibilities of the border and immigration authority in a way that would not multiply the grounds for judicial review, but would ensure that hon. Members’ ambitions were achieved.

Paul Rowen: I am listening carefully to the Minister’s explanation. He cited an example involving the DRC. Given that that is an unsafe place, we would not deport anyone to that country, whether they were under 18 or over 18. The section 11 safeguards would not be affected in such circumstances. As I understand the way in which the system operates at the moment, an asylum seeker will not be sent back to an unsafe country.

Mr. Byrne: That is absolutely right. I am trying to make the point that the section 11 duty is about not simply safeguarding, but enabling

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the DRC is the size of western Europe. There are places in the DRC to which the asylum and immigration tribunal has consistently found it very safe to return people. However, one can easily envisage how a cunning and clever lawyer could look at the part of the obligation that I cited and question how deporting a child from the world’s fourth largest economy would promote optimum life chances or help that child to enter adulthood successfully. That is my fear. I do not think that anyone in the House would want us to remove defences in a way that
9 May 2007 : Column 235
prevents us from deporting people successfully. I genuinely think that hon. Members understand that if defences are weaker, Britain will become a target for child traffickers, and no one in the House wants that.

We need to go further in ensuring that the Border and Immigration Agency has a stronger safeguarding obligation. I have sketched out a couple of ways in which I think that that can be brought about, but I remain open to the argument that a legal requirement should be put on the BIA, and a specific safeguarding element should be written into the law. I have yet to be convinced of that, and I do not think that the answer is in section 11 of the Children Act 2004—but when the Bill goes to another place there will still be a case to be listened to and answered.

Damian Green: I start my response to this extremely good debate by apologising to my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen). I knew that he was going to be unavoidably detained elsewhere, but I had not realised for how short a time. If I had, I would have explored the issue in even greater depth. I assure him that I have now had one unprecedented experience this afternoon: sitting down at the end of a speech and being criticised for having made it too short. I am grateful to him for that. I can reassure him that his case was made most eloquently by the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore).

To pick up on some of the Minister’s points, I thought that he was pushing the envelope a little in saying that the Government were leading in Europe on the fight against trafficking. As he will be aware, the Government made the good move of signing up to the Council of Europe convention rather later than many Governments did. He was right to say that the Government do not want to ratify the convention until they can actually implement it, because we have had enough of gesture politics from the Government, both in that field and in others. I find it refreshing that the Minister is seeking to avoid that, but I point out, as he did, that seven countries have already ratified the convention, and when 10 countries ratify it it will come into force, so it is likely to come into force soon. At that point, the Government will presumably start implementing it. I thought it slightly ominous that he could not give the hon. Member for Hendon any reassurance about the timing, and could not say when the Government will be in a position to do something practical and useful in that respect.

Mr. Byrne: That is merely down to an ambition for accuracy, rather than anything ominous.

Damian Green: I am grateful for that. Ambition for accuracy is a good thing in Ministers. The Minister’s central point was about striking a balance between the protection of children and the protection of the interests of the Executive, which should not be tied down with judicial reviews. I found his argument on that point beguiling, but it was not convincing, because the Government have had a long time to think about the subject. They have known what the refugee children’s organisations and others think about the issue for a long time. It is not wholly convincing for the Government to come before the House on Report, after a long Committee stage, and say, “We’re looking
9 May 2007 : Column 236
into the matter, and we may bring forward appropriate measures, but not those supported by both main Opposition parties and the organisations concerned. We’ll come up with better measures during the later stages of the Bill.” The Government have had a long time to consider the issue, and they have not yet found any other measures.

I would hate to miss this opportunity to register the point that underlies all our discussions, which is that the current arrangements are not satisfactory. Indeed, what the Minister said this afternoon made it clear that he does not think that they are satisfactory either, and is looking for better ways to protect the rights of refugee children. If he cannot come up with concrete proposals at our final opportunity to discuss the Bill before it proceeds to another place, it is for other parties to submit such proposals to protect those children. That is what we have done, and we commend our proposals to the House.

Mr. Steen: Is not my hon. Friend’s concern—indeed, the Opposition’s concern—about the fact that many thousands of unaccompanied minors arrive somehow or other in the country every year at airports and ports? I do not know how they get here. The Government are then expected to finance their care in local authorities, provide legal aid, food and shelter—but then what? Does my hon. Friend believe that something needs to be said about how we are going to manage better those thousands and thousands of children who are still pouring into Britain? Certainly we are not doing enough at the moment.

Damian Green: My hon. Friend is exactly right. One of the things that the Government have failed to do is make our borders secure enough so that people traffickers and other evil criminals are not encouraged to try to smuggle children into this country. That brings us on to a debate about our proposals for a border police force, which is the most effective way of minimising the effects of that particularly repellent crime—but I suspect that you would pull me up, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I went too far down that road, because it is not strictly relevant to this group of amendments.

Finally, the Minister talked about the European Commission and biometric documents for children. Whether the proposals are introduced by the Commission or by central Government, if biometrics for children do not work—all the technical evidence suggests that they do not—those documents will be ineffective in protecting them. I am relaxed about whether the proposals come from the Commission or from the Home Office; they will not work in either case. In summary, I have not found the Minister’s arguments that we should wait for the Government to come up with a convincing way of protecting children at all persuasive, however well he put them, so I commend the new clause to the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

9 May 2007 : Column 237

The House having divided: Ayes 226, Noes 294.
Division No. 109]
[5.12 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacNeil, Mr. Angus

Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Andrew Rosindell and
Mr. Crispin Blunt

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard

Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Cousins, Jim
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry

McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Tony Cunningham and
Mr. Frank Roy
Question accordingly negatived.
9 May 2007 : Column 238

9 May 2007 : Column 239

9 May 2007 : Column 240

New Clause 5

Verification of identity

‘An immigration officer must ensure that any clothing covering the face, or part of the face, of an individual is removed for the purposes of verifying the identity of that individual upon entering or leaving the United Kingdom.’.— [Philip Davies.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Next Section Index Home Page