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Lord Renton: My Lords, my noble friend, supported by other noble Lords and by the noble Baroness, has tabled probing amendments. If particular parts of Clause 26 were to be left out and nothing put in their place, the control would be seriously weakened.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has put his finger precisely on the issue in relation to these amendments. The effect of the amendments is to delete two out of the three circumstances in which somebody is defined as a “clandestine entrant". The only circumstance left in which one is a clandestine entrant is if one,

and evades, or attempts to evade, immigration control. That is the effect of the amendments.

Therefore, one would not be a clandestine entrant if one arrived in the United Kingdom concealed in a vehicle, ship or aircraft. One would not be a clandestine entrant if one arrived in the United Kingdom on a ship or aircraft having embarked concealed in a vehicle at a time when the ship or aircraft was outside the United Kingdom.

The purpose of the provisions is to impose upon the carriers--road, air or ship--the obligation to seek to ensure that nobody is secreting themselves on to a vehicle with a view to entering this country. The effect of the amendments, cumulatively, is to say, “You are not a clandestine entrant unless you try to get through immigration control within the United Kingdom".

The problem of clandestine illegal entry in vehicles and other forms of transport is extremely grave. In September this year 1,237 clandestine entrants were detected at Dover. That compares with 309 in September of last year and 145 in September 1997. It is an alarming trend. The Government are determined to reverse it and to ensure that in future our immigration controls are not circumvented in that way.

The civil penalty is carefully designed to play a major role in combating clandestine illegal entry. If the amendments were allowed, it would remove most, if not all, the benefits that the civil penalty will bring. It would create an incentive for drivers of vehicles to neglect their security measures. It would encourage them to gamble that any clandestine entrant will seek asylum, since that would mean the civil penalty would not apply. That would be the effect of deleting the words,

    “claims, or indicates that he intends to seek, asylum in the United Kingdom or".

The civil penalty is being introduced to tackle the growing number of clandestine illegal immigrants. The definition of a clandestine contained in Clause 26 has been drafted to catch all those different categories of individual who are seeking to enter the United Kingdom illegally. We believe that the operation of the civil penalty should not make allowance for the eventual status of the clandestine entrant. We are seeking to prevent circumvention of our immigration control, which is not acceptable. It is vital that the civil

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penalty provides the clearest possible signal of the importance of security measures to prevent the entry of clandestine illegal entrants. We do not believe it would be right to modify the civil penalty in a way which might encourage laxity in checks which ought to be made by those persons responsible.

There is no reason why those genuinely in need of protection should be seeking to come clandestinely to the United Kingdom. For example, their journey overland will already have taken them through at least one safe third country where they will have had the opportunity to claim asylum.

Perhaps I can demonstrate what we are trying to achieve by way of example. A person secretes himself on a lorry as an immigrant in France. He comes out of the lorry on the ferry, which gets him into the United Kingdom, and he says to the lorry driver, “I intend to claim asylum when I reach the United Kingdom". If that happened, the effect of the amendments would be that he would no longer be a clandestine. The right reverend Prelate says that that is how it should be; that then he would not be clandestinely trying to enter the United Kingdom because he is perfectly open about his motives. We say, as a matter of policy, no. The purpose of the policy is to make sure that carriers, before they embark on their journey to the United Kingdom, make sure that people are not secreting themselves in the relevant form of carriage.

That is the policy. The amendments seek to come up with a different policy, which is that as long as people are honest about what they are trying to do by the time they reach immigration control, there should be no complaint. But we take a different view. We say that in order to stop clandestine entrants we must put pressure on carriers to make checks. If the approach adopted by the supporters of these amendments were followed, there would be absolutely no incentive for people to check. That is not what we are trying to achieve. So there is a fundamental difference of approach.

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, I must make a humanitarian point here. I am concerned about children in this situation. I am motivated to speak because I lived for some years among Ruandan and southern Sudanese refugee children. If any of them got into Europe, I am concerned about the effect of the clause on lorry drivers.

If a carrier is to face a penalty for bringing in a clandestine entrant, his primary concern will be to get rid of that unauthorised passenger as soon as the carrier discovers him or her. The routes of long-distance lorry drivers may be well away from towns and villages. The unwanted passenger--I am thinking of children--could be dumped by the side of a motorway.

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If the clandestine travellers are children, the driver may go to the nearest town and drop them off somewhere central where they can find help. He may not. They may have to fend for themselves in a place they do not know. If the driver is kind enough to take the clandestine travellers off the motorway and to a town or village, there is no guarantee that they will fall into safe hands. All children are vulnerable and in need of adult protection. I make a plea that we give thought, on the humanitarian front, to the vulnerable--to the children.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, we agree that carriers must have an incentive to check that they are not bringing anyone in illegally. The difficulty arises where a lorry driver finds someone. What does he do about it? Clause 26 does not offer an incentive to own up. We want lorry drivers to own up rather than dump clandestines on the M.20 or wherever. When the carrier, whether he is in charge of a lorry or a train, says mid-Channel, “I am going to offer myself up and report myself to the immigration officials", he should not be penalised.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, one would have to make a judgment in relation to the noble Viscount's point. Is it seriously being suggested that when a lorry driver finds a clandestine in his lorry--using the word neutrally--he is likely to report that to the authorities immediately, even though the driver is nowhere near a port or immigration control? That premise underlies the noble Lord's proposition. Is that more likely to reduce clandestines than a series of provisions that require the carrier to have in place adequate arrangements to ensure that clandestines do not get on in the first place? As a matter of common sense, a civil penalty that puts pressure on carriers to make searches in the first place is much more likely to reduce the number of clandestines.

Of course we share the right reverend Prelate's concern about children and the effect of immigration control and asylum provisions in relation to them. I am certain that the way to reduce that effect is to take proper measures against abuse and racketeering, which make children much more vulnerable. If a proper security system is in place for carriers, that will make it much harder for children to secrete themselves or be secreted on transport. If they are secreted in relation to someone who is genuinely innocent, I hope--though I appreciate this will not apply in every case--that he would not dump them by the side of the road. Nothing in the Bill encourages that.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, we have not convinced the Minister. The amendment is bound up with another that we shall reach shortly on codes of practice. It will probably be better to have that debate before we decide on the purpose of this amendment. In light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]

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10.15 p.m.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 18, line 8, at end insert--
(“( ) No penalty may be imposed under this section where the alleged clandestine entrant claims that his removal from the United Kingdom would be in breach of the United Kingdom's obligations under--
(a) the Refugee Convention; or
(b) the Human Rights Act,
or both, and is granted protection in the United Kingdom as a result.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I can be brief in what I have to say on this amendment. It provides for refunds for those who carry clandestine passengers who are then, ultimately, accorded protection. It deals with both those recognised as refugees and those accorded protection under the Human Rights Act, thus removing the current anomaly that the Human Rights Act is not mentioned in the carriers' concession.

There seems to be a difference here which, I believe, arose when we previously discussed the Bill in July; namely, that concessions are available to carriers which bring in undocumented passengers who fear for life or limb, or who ultimately get refugee status, but no refunds are available for those carrying clandestine passengers who are ultimately given protection. This seems not to be right. Indeed, it is something which should be made the same. I beg to move.

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