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Paul Rowen: Amendment 14 would remove clause 50, which deals with the common travel area. I understand that the Minister is to make a statement on this matter, so I shall sit down to hear the good news.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. There are far too many private conversations going on in the Chamber. Will Members who are not wishing to listen or participate please either leave or keep their conversations low?
Mr. Blunt: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. As I was saying, I had planned to gild the lily of the arguments that I made in Committee, which were sadly rejected by the Government. Given the lateness of the hour and the amount of time left for this debate, it would probably be inappropriate to restate things. I am afraid that right hon. and hon. Members who want to see the arguments in detail will have to look at the Committee Hansard . I do not think that the arguments on either side have changed substantially. The Government have had a month to reflect on them, and I hope that we will get a different answer today. I look forward to listening to the Minister reply to the debate.
The Government are disappointed, as am I, that we have not been able to persuade the other place of the need for the clause. We think that the UK's security requires some amendments to the common travel area. [ Interruption. ] This is my statement, which I have had typed up.
I believe that the Committee Hansard shows that the argument was won by the Government, although it is clear that the hon. Member for Reigate does not think so. As I argued there, and as my noble Friend Lord West has argued in the other place, we think that this issue is important. For example, just one week of activity at a limited number of UK ports revealed 158 immigration offences via the CTA.
Paul Rowen: Section 14 of the Police and Justice Act 2006 would require carriers to provide information on travellers who were not holding a UK or Irish passport. Does he agree that if that were implemented, it would be a much simpler way of securing our borders?
Mr. Woolas: We believe that that is part of the answer. Implicit in the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is an acceptance that there is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I am grateful to him for that. There is no miracle cure to the problem. We believe that the limited and proportionate measure that we put forward would make a difference, but that is for the future. The fact is that we have to face some hard and immediate truths.
Sammy Wilson: Travellers from Northern Ireland are UK citizens, but what the measure that the Minister describes as "limited and proportionate" would mean that all of them would be treated as non-UK citizens, even when they travel within the UK. Leaving aside the practical difficulties, does he accept that there is a real political difficulty with that? If the clause were to go through, a large section of people who regard themselves as UK citizens would be treated as though they lived outside the UK.
I have to face some hard immediate facts. The provisions of part 1, on which we have broad consensus, enable the formal establishment of a properly joined up border force, bringing together immigration and customs officers at the frontier. I believe that we need to get on with that, to complete the staff transfers and to draw out the real benefits of joint working. It is also fair to say that the Government have listened and compromised on the Bill, which started in the other place, as we have taken it forward. I have made significant changes on the nationality issues in the other place. I have listened to the concerns on the transitional measures, and I think that what I have proposed is the fair way forward. We have also reached agreement on judicial review.
However, there can be no compromise on the option of the common travel area. We either make this necessary change now, or we do not. I have therefore decided to accept the Opposition amendments to clause 50 this evening. We are committed to the policy and we will examine the options going forward. It is clear to me from the discussions that we have had that the clause is not acceptable across the Floor of the House, and is not acceptable to the other place. Therefore, I intend to support the Opposition amendments.
Paul Rowen: I am grateful to the Minister for that agreement. The common travel area has existed since 1922. It was enshrined in law in the Immigration Act 1971, and it recognises, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) said earlier, the strong bond and link between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So I am grateful to the Minister for accepting our amendment.
Mr. Blunt: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Amendment 14 tabled by the Liberal Democrats, which was debated in Committee and signed by us and has just been agreed to, requires amendments 46 and 47 in order for the legislation to hang together.
'(5A) The Secretary of State shall collect and publish monthly statistics regarding the detention of children, including figures relating to, the number of children detained, the average length of period in detention, and the number of children with the same family in detention, their ages, nationalities and where they are detained.'.
Damian Green: I am glad that we have a brief time to discuss an extremely important part of the Bill and the extremely important issue of human trafficking, and the action that we wish the Government to take to stop this particularly vile trade. I wish to speak in particular to amendment 26, in which we seek to establish that the Secretary of State should have a code of conduct to guide entry clearance officers in their treatment of applications for entry which they suspect involve human trafficking.
We have discussed some issues in the past couple of hours that deeply divide the two sides of the House. I know that human trafficking is not one of those. The Minister will feel as strongly as I do that we should end the practice of human trafficking. One of the things that has, sadly, led to Britain becoming one of the destination countries for human traffickers is the widespread recognition that Britain's borders are not secure enough. That, along with this country's prosperity and the relative ease of illegal working here, is why Britain has become a destination for human traffickers.
We Conservative Members believe that it is impossible to tackle the overall issue of crime in the UK effectively without addressing the problems at our borders. We know that human traffickers target Britain, and we know that there are various particularly pernicious forms of human trafficking. It is often part of the sex industry, and there has been a staggering and deeply depressing increase in the percentage of prostitutes in this country who are young women trafficked from abroad, either from eastern European countries just beyond the edge of the European Union, or from Africa.
There is a real problem, as was illustrated just today, when we discovered the details of a Home Office report that included research carried out as long ago as 2006, although for some reason it has not come to light until today. I always seek to be balanced, so I will give the Minister one quote from the Daily Express and one from The Guardian. The Daily Express says:
"Criminals are convinced that Britain's border controls are 'soft' and that police are tolerant of the vice trade, according to a Home Office report".
"Corruption and bribery were mentioned by a range of interviewees involved in smuggling and trafficking as a means of smoothing the passage into the UK".
I know that the Minister will be as concerned-indeed, disturbed-as I am at the thought that there are serious, organised, international criminals who believe that bribery and corruption can be used to smooth the way into the UK. [Interruption.] The Minister seeks to intervene from a sedentary position. As I say, there is, I think, nothing much that divides us on the need to combat human trafficking more effectively. Our amendment is one way of taking a step forward on that. He knows that I would urge on him much other activity in that sphere, but I should like to give him a chance to say something on this important issue, so I shall end my remarks.
Keith Vaz: I, too, would like to hear what the Minister has to say, so I shall be brief in supporting the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green). The amendments are sensible. I think that there is unity across the House on the need to deal with the traffickers of human beings. I will seek to catch your eye on Third Reading, Madam Deputy Speaker, but shall say now that it is important that we have a code of conduct that will better inform entry clearance officers of their responsibilities in dealing with those who have been trafficked. There are other amendments in the group that deal with the welfare of children; they, too, are sensible, and I hope that the Minister will accept them.
Paul Rowen: I will be brief. I wish to speak to amendment 29, which stands in my name and the names of my hon. Friends. On the issue of the collection of data on children held in custody and in detention centres, in Committee, the Minister undertook to update us on Report with further information with regard to publication and plans. I would be grateful if he dealt with those points, either now or on Third Reading.
Time is limited. I undertake to answer the specific questions on Third Reading, if I catch your eye then, Madam Deputy Speaker. With regard to the research that has been published, let me be clear that it
is based on interviews with people who have been caught, convicted and imprisoned. It is therefore evidence that the system was working, whatever the response from the interviewees in that research, which is, in any event, now out of date.
Very briefly, the spirit of amendment 26 is well intentioned. We agree with it, but we have problems with the wording. On amendment 24 dealing with statistics on children in detention, I hope to explain the progress that has been made in regard to this important area-
'(8A) An order commencing sections 39 to 41 (acquisition of British citizenship by naturalisation) must include provision that the amendments made by those sections do not have effect in relation to an application for naturalisation as a British citizen if-
(8D) The reference in subsection (8A) to an order commencing sections 39 to 41 does not include an order commencing those sections for the purpose only of enabling regulations to be made under the British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61).'.
'( ) No order may be made commencing section [Transfer of certain immigration judicial review applications] (transfer of certain immigration judicial review applications) unless the functions of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in relation to appeals under Part 5 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c. 41) have been transferred under section 30(1) of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (c. 15).'.- (Mr. Woolas.)
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