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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I want to raise one or two questions in connection with the order. Obviously, we, too, are entirely happy with the principles involved. However, as I see it, one or two issues need to be clarified.
On that basis, it appears that the exemption from asking a question would apply to someone who was on the staff of an employment agency which was responsible for placing nannies with private families. However, the exemption would apply so that such a person could ask the question of a nanny, or a prospective nanny, who wanted to use the services of that agency.
On the other hand, it would not be possible for parents, when interviewing a nanny, to claim the benefit of any exemption from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and the nanny would not be required to disclose to the parents any spent convictions. That appears to be an irrational distinction. I wonder what the rationale behind it is and whether it has been considered. I also wonder whether, in those special circumstances, it would be appropriate to allow parents to ask for an exemption in order to enable them to ask questions of someone who is a prospective carer for their children in their own home. The problem is that, as matters now stand, the parents would not be acting in the course of their work in asking such questions.
The other issue relates to questions asked for the purpose of assessing the suitability of any person to adopt children in general or a child in particular where the question relates to a person aged over 18 living in the same household as the person whose suitability is being assessed. As I understand it, it would be possible for someone under the age of 18--a juvenile--to have a spent conviction. In such circumstances, it appears illogical not to allow questions to be asked relating to such convictions, especially as if that person were over 18 there would be an exemption.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, for his unequivocal support for the order, and I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for the careful way in which he read the order and the close attention that he gave to it. I am not sure that I can give him precise answers today, but I shall certainly inquire into the points that he raised.
I am advised that there is a real difficulty in allowing parents to ask excepted questions, as there is no means to control sensitive information in such circumstances. As a parent, I can understand why that may be the case; that is a real area of difficulty. It should be understood that a parent can make other checks, such as the taking up of references, or may approach an agency to make such checks, so other safeguards may be in place.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, asked about adoption, and set out circumstances in which he felt that a juvenile might somehow escape the effect of the provision because the conviction had occurred before they reached the age of 18. That is simply because they
The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will be pleased to know that I can be brief. These regulations are necessary to ensure that the United Kingdom continues to comply with its obligations under European Community Directive 93/109. That directive, with which I am certain your Lordships will be familiar, requires that each member state of the Union has in place provisions to allow resident European Union citizens to vote and stand as candidates in local and European parliamentary elections in their member state of residence.
The United Kingdom gives effect to that directive in relation to European elections by virtue of the European Parliamentary Elections (Changes to the Franchise and Qualifications of Representatives) Regulations 1994. Those regulations are based on an electoral registration system that uses an annual qualifying date. The effect of the Representation of the People Act 2000 is to remove that qualifying date and replace it with a registration system based on a rolling register.
As a result, the law as it stands means that citizens of other members states of the Union resident in the United Kingdom are effectively no longer eligible to register to vote at European parliamentary elections. The regulations before the House will rectify that position by replacing those parts of the 1994 regulations dealing with the franchise to bring them in line with the new registration provisions.
The regulations ensure that citizens of other European member states resident in this country are able to register to vote in European parliamentary elections in the same way as are other citizens. They ensure that we shall once again be fully compliant with our obligations under the relevant EC directive, and for those reasons I commend them to the House.
I feel that it would be better to change the "or" to "and not", as it would appear to be legal to vote twice and be covered by the "or", as one would not be contravening both. I am happy to let the regulations pass but at some time the noble Lord may want to consider an amendment to clear up the point I mentioned.
Lord Renton: My Lords, perhaps I may ask a slightly different question. Presumably, it is clear that British citizens who are working outside the United Kingdom but in the European Union have the right to vote. They would have to apply to be registered but they have the right to vote. Do British citizens working elsewhere in the world outside the European Union have a vote; and do they have the right to register?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the answer to both of those questions is yes. I do not have the answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, but I shall undertake a legislative spell-check or sense-check, as it were, to ensure that we have it absolutely right next time around.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order permits the establishment of so-called juxtaposed immigration controls at railway stations in France and the United Kingdom served by Eurostar. It is a result of several years of careful negotiation with our French counterparts.
The idea of juxtaposed controls is not new; provision for such controls was made in the 1986 Treaty of Canterbury, which outlined the conditions for the operation of the Channel Tunnel. The treaty allowed for a supplementary protocol to be agreed that would make provision for juxtaposed controls. That occurred in 1991 when the Sangatte protocol was signed. The protocol provided for the establishment of control bureaux by France and the UK on territory of
The idea of extending juxtaposed controls to include stations served by the Eurostar emerged about three years ago in response to the growth in illegal immigration through the tunnel. For several years, people trying to enter our country without adequate documentation have been misusing the Eurostar service. In the second half of last year, almost 4,000 passengers arrived at Waterloo without the required documents; many claimed asylum upon arrival. That abuse has been encouraged by the fact that there is no liability under French law for SNCF, the French railway company, to check documents for the Paris to London Eurostar route.
The idea of juxtaposed controls at Eurostar stations was also a direct response to the possibility that carriers' liability charges might otherwise be imposed on train operators. Carriers' liability charges, consisting of a £2,000 penalty on the inbound carrier for every passenger without adequate documentation who is brought to the UK, originally did not include trains. In 1998 these provisions were extended to cover through trains. However, SNCF was excluded from the arrangements as it was not lawful in France for train operators to carry out documentation checks. But under this Government's Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, provisions are made to resolve legal barriers to the imposition of charges on the SNCF. With the present level of undocumented arrivals, SNCF could be faced with potential charges of £1 million every month.
There is provision in the Act for carriers' liability charges not to be applied to train operators. An order can be made under the Act exempting a train operator from carriers' liability charges if there is an agreement in place between the UK and the country concerned that provides for the operation of UK immigration control in that country or for the checking of passports and visas there. When the UK and France have introduced juxtaposed controls, such an agreement will be in place and SNCF may be exempted from carriers' liability penalties.
The implementation of the additional protocol to the Sangatte protocol will enable UK immigration officers to conduct immigration control at the Gare du Nord in Paris, and at other stations in France served by the Eurostar. Our immigration officers will be able to identify passengers without the correct documentation and refuse them leave to enter the UK before they board the train. This agreement has the potential to prevent all inadequately documented passengers from travelling on the Eurostar and abusing that method of entering the United Kingdom.
Moved, that the draft order laid before the House on 28th February be approved.--[10th Report from the Joint Committee.]--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
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