House of Commons
|Session 2006 - 07|
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General Committee Debates
UK Borders Bill
UK Borders Bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Emily Commander, Committee Clerk
attended the Committee
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 20 March 2007
[Mr. Eric Illsley in the Chair]
Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 116, in schedule, page 25, line 4, at end insert
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following: Government amendments Nos. 117 to 119.
Government new clause 6Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Establishment
(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint a person as Chief Inspector of the Border and Immigration Agency.
(2) The Chief Inspector shall monitor and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Border and Immigration Agency; in particular, the Chief Inspector shall consider and make recommendations about
(a) consistency of approach within the Border and Immigration Agency,
(b) the practice and performance of the Border and Immigration Agency compared to other persons doing similar things,
(c) practice and procedure in making decisions,
(d) the treatment of claimants and applicants,
(e) certification under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c. 41) (unfounded claim),
(f) compliance with law about discrimination in the exercise of functions, including reliance on section 19D of the Race Relations Act 1976 (c. 74) (exception for immigration functions),
(g) practice and procedure in relation to the exercise of enforcement powers (including powers of arrest, entry, search and seizure),
(h) the provision of information,
(i) the handling of complaints, and
(j) the content of information about conditions in countries outside the United Kingdom which the Secretary of State compiles and makes available, for purposes connected with immigration and asylum, to immigration officers and other officials.
(3) In this section the Border and Immigration Agency means
(a) immigration officers, and
(b) other officials of the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State, in respect of functions relating to immigration, asylum or nationality.
(4) The Chief Inspector shall not aim to investigate individual cases (although this subsection does not prevent the Chief Inspector from considering or drawing conclusions about an individual case for the purpose of, or in the context of, considering a general issue)..
And the following amendment thereto: (a), Leave out subsection (4) and insert
(4) The Chief Inspector shall have the power to investigate individual cases..
Government new clause 7Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Chief Inspector: supplemental .
Government new clause 8Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Reports
(1) The Chief Inspector shall report in writing to the Secretary of State
(a) once each calendar year, in relation to the performance of the functions under section [Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Establishment] generally, and
(b) at other times as requested by the Secretary of State in relation to specified matters.
(2) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a copy of any report received under subsection (1).
(3) But a copy may omit material if the Secretary of State thinks that its publication
(a) is undesirable for reasons of national security, or
(b) might jeopardise an individuals safety..
And the following amendment thereto: (a), after State, insert and the Information Commissioner.
Government new clause 9Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Plans .
Government new clause 10Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Relationship with other bodies: general .
Government new clause 11Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Relationship with other bodies: non-interference notices .
Government new clause 12Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Abolition of other bodies .
Government new clause 13Border and Immigration Inspectorate: Prescribed matters .
Government new clause 14Senior President of Tribunals.
Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): When we adjourned, I was dealing with my amendment to new clause 8 and specifically with the Ministers reason for thinking it unnecessary for the Information Commissioner to have some kind of oversight of material that should be deleted from the report given to Parliament by the proposed new inspectorate. I was about to say that I found his explanation somewhat unconvincing. It appeared to rely on the fact that rather than have the Information Commissioner exercise some kind of oversight in advance, it would always be possible for him to do so after the publication of the report.
That is simply implausible. By definition, the material that had been kept out by the Home Secretary would, at least on the surface, have been kept out for reasons either of the personal security of individuals or of national security. In that case it is hard to see how in
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Liam Byrne): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his amendments. They have given us the opportunity to explore one or two issues in some helpful detail. My concern remains that the new arrangements that we are putting in place can conduct their business efficiently and effectively, without being drowned by bits of paper from Government Departments seeking pre-clearance from the Information Commissioner before we put things into the public domain, particularly where they relate to issues of personal security or national security. On the other hand, I do not want the new regulator to be snowed under with cases put up by people who are simply trying to avoid removal or deportation from this country. We are broadly in a similar place. I will reflect on his comments before thinking through whether further Government amendments should be brought forward. I understand that the hon. Gentleman wants to press the amendments to a vote in order that I do not forget that point.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 117, in schedule, page 25, line 7, column 2, at beginning insert
No. 118, in schedule, page 25, line 8, column 2, at beginning insert
No. 119, in schedule, page 25, line 12, at end insert
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Damian Green: I beg to move amendment No. 108, in clause 44, page 23, line 19, after, 17 insert and section 27.
The amendment is designed to make the Bill more effective in one of the areas where I think there is no division on either side of the House and indeed it may be particularly appropriate that we debate this while in
The effect of this clause is to add to the commencement section of the Bill section 27, the offences that relate to people trafficking. As currently drafted, only clause 17 of the Bill, support for failed asylum-seekers, comes into force the day the Bill becomes an Act. What we seek to do is to add a reference to section 27 so that we can get a move on with attacking people trafficking.
Everyone on the Committee has participated in debates about the despicable practice of people trafficking. The Government have signalled their intention to tighten up the law, indeed to sign the Council of Europe convention that will enable them to do so, and we welcome that and we support them in that move.
The Minister will recall that when we discussed our amendments to clause 17 we were keen that this House should send a very clear message that we are all serious about toughening up the law and we think that this amendment is a very clear and easy way of doing that. It would ensure that the provisions relating to people trafficking are brought in at the earliest opportunity. We believe this would act as a deterrent and it will also enable the conviction and punishment of as many people traffickers as possible. I am sure the Minister will agree that the sooner we can start on that course of action the better.
The earliest opportunity to start doing that is the day this Bill passes on to the statute book and that is what this amendment would achieve. I hope therefore that it will be regarded sympathetically by the Government.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): The amendment seems very sensible and one which I am sure the Government will support.
Mr. Byrne: I did indeed look upon this amendment with a great deal of sympathy because I think the Committee has been united in the debates we have had on this subject over the last few weeks. There has been a very clear determination that the law in this area needs to be strengthened. I therefore sought some strong arguments as to why we should not accept this amendment. Only one thing swayed my mind and there is only one reason that I therefore ask the hon. Member for Ashford to consider withdrawing this amendment.
The advice that I have received is that there is a riska small risk but a risk none the lessthat the courts would potentially not look favourably on our attempts to prosecute under this offence if we did not observe the convention of seeking a brief interlude in which to publicise the fact that this new offence had been introduced.
I am told that it is usual to bring in offences after a period of two months. I do not want to riskand I am sure nobody on this Committee would wish to riskany potential prosecution for an offence such as this going wrong because we did not observe this protocol. If the risk is there we should be alive to it. My concern is that when this offence is introduced we are able to maximise the effectiveness of our prosecutions using this offence. If there is a risk that puts that potential in jeopardy, I think I should accept that
publicise this offence and therefore if prosecutions may be in jeopardy I think the amendment should be withdrawn. The brief interlude of two months is not a big time period. If it allows us, however, to increase our chances of successful prosecutions, I think we should take it.
Damian Green: I find that explanation quite extraordinary. It is not clear why that convention has built upif it has built up. I confess that in my 10 years in this House I have never heard that explanation for delaying commencement. I fully accept that the Minister will have been given that advicealthough I sense that he is taking it with extreme reluctance.
It seems that the courts could put prosecutions in jeopardy because an offence had not been sufficiently publicised. I am not a lawyer, I am glad to say, but one of the clichÃ(c)s to which I cling is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. There will be huge tracts of the statute book about which Committee members know nothing, but none of us would be able to say Well, the prosecution should not happen because I did not know I was breaking the law. In this instance, the people who will be terribly inconvenienced by discovering that they were breaking a law that they did not know existed will presumably be people traffickers. Inconveniencing them should be fairly low on any sensible persons list of priorities.
I find the Ministers explanation extraordinary. Nevertheless, I have no wish to jeopardise the prosecution of such people, so I accept the Ministers advice.
Damian Green: I find it extremely unlikely that prosecutions could be jeopardised, but I have to take what the Minister says in good faith. I have no doubt that the best legal brains in his Department have advised him that it could put prosecutions in jeopardy. I have no wish to do that. With deep and extreme reluctance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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