|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Baroness has made a very useful comment about how the data protection principles are applied. I was also suggesting that if these chief police officers have at least a list of the countries with which we do not have a data protection agreement, they would know that they would not have to begin to consider the human rights implications of transferring information. Under the data protection principles, there would be no question of allowing the receiving agency in those countries to have that information.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as far as I am aware, we do not have a list. The reason is that there are different nations which have different approaches to data protection, but that does not mean that they do not take it seriously. As far as I know, we have not gone down that road. If I discover that that is wrongI do not believe I shall discover it is wrongI shall come back to the noble Lord. As data protection Minister, I think I would know if we had a list of nations and I certainly do not.
That is an interesting thought and one that I shall consider, not, I hasten to add, as regards this Bill, but as regards broader pieces of work that I am
7 Feb 2006 : Column 570
undertaking on data protection. In this legislation, I would be very reluctant to hamper the opportunity to share information appropriately and properly simply because someone is not yet on the list because we have not got round to putting him on the list. As the noble Lord will know, I am not a list person. None the less, I shall reflect on what the noble Lord said.
We seek to do this while recognising our responsibilities on human rights and data protection. I have picked up the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, but I shall resist the amendment as I believe we have the situation about right. I do not want to restrict the opportunities for police forces to be able to share information by requiring the Secretary of State to be involved in all cases. I do not believe that is workable, although I can see why the noble Lord would want it. I believe it is too much of a burden. I resist it on that basis. I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am very disappointed that the Minister resists the amendment. I had thought that it improved the drafting of the clause. I point out that we are talking about the whole world; we are not limited to the European Union which, on the whole, has fairly good practices, although they may vary from country to country. We are dealing with all regimes in the world. I would be somewhat reassured if the noble Baroness could tell me that this powerI accept it is only a permissive powerto disclose information is strictly limited to information arising under Clauses 30 to 33 of the Bill.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, this is Report stage and I am conscious that I am not able to speak again, but yes, it is restricted to Clauses 32 and 33. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, that is some help because Clause 33 deals only with freight information and it is hard immediately to see how that would prejudice the rights of people in this country. On the other hand, Clause 32 deals with passenger information which could perfectly well be information about citizens and bone fide residents of this country, for example, returning home after a perfectly lawful and normal journey. That is why I believe there is a need for safeguards. I know that the Minister mentioned some existing safeguards. Can she say whether these are only or principally under our existing Human Rights Act or are there some other kinds of safeguards?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am extremely sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. This is Report stage. Once the Minister has sat down, she
7 Feb 2006 : Column 571
cannot speak again. I would be very grateful if the noble Lord would realise that this is not Committee stage but Report stage.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am perfectly well aware that this is Report stage. I am inviting the Minister to write to me, or to communicate with me by some other means. Perhaps she could indicate later whether there will be very clear guidance sent from the Secretary of State to all 43 chief police officers to guarantee that they do not infringe the human rights of citizens and residents by disclosing information that may be prejudicial to them. If I could have that kind of understanding, I would be happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have a profound aversion to Clause 40, as the noble Baroness knows, because it allows powers of detention and search and the use of reasonable force for these purposes to be exercised by private contractors. We have particular concerns about the use that may be made of these powers in the juxtaposed jurisdictions in France. There is no objection to private contractors examining lorries or containers to ascertain whether there are illegal entrants or contraband as they already do, but we think that the powers of arrest, detention and search ought to be conferred on only police, customs and immigration officers who are fully trained in those duties and operate under strict codes of conduct. Unfortunately, that principle has already been breached by the appointment of detainee custody officers under Section 154 of the 1999 Act. As we noted in Grand Committee, they merely look after persons who have already been detained by an immigration officer; they do not have any powers of arrest or search.
The Minister referred to the work that these private contractors will be required to do as often simple and mundane operations. No doubt she meant conducting a preliminary search of a ship, an aircraft or a vehicle and finding no evidence of illegality, as I suppose will be the case in 90 per cent of the operations. However in 1 per cent of searches, where the contractor's employee has reason to believe that there is an illegal entrant present, perhaps by virtue of an infrared scan or electronic detection signal, he should call an immigration officer or police officer immediately and an officer should always be on hand nearby for that purpose.
That must have been already happening since August 2000, when, so the Minister told us, the
7 Feb 2006 : Column 572
Immigration Service has been working with private contractors in the freight lanes berthside in Calais, with huge success. If the collaboration is working so well, why are these extra powers needed? Clearly there must be immigration officers nearby in the freight lanes at Calais who can be called to arrest, detain and search an illegal entrant. Clause 40 envisages that they will be somewhere off-site, or even off duty, but within a three-hour journey of the site. The Minister could not explain why the three-hour upper limit was necessary, when the Immigration Service has the duty of supervising the contractors, which ordinary people would assume to mean that there would always be officers on-site.
As the Minister is aware, there is particular concern about how these arrangements will work in the ports where there are juxtaposed controls. The contractors there will be French companies, operating under French law and employing French contractors. These employees would, for instance, be subject to whatever checks there are in France to prevent sex offenders being employed in jobs involving children. We cannot even get our own checks right, so how are we to be assured that French safeguards are watertight? The Minister said, in response to my noble friend Lord Dholakia, that she would enquire about the extent to which the French system mirrors our Criminal Records Bureau and sex offenders' records, and that she would report back to us. I hope that we may hear something from the Minister on those matters this evening.
The Minister talked about the duties of the Kent social services, in whose care children arriving at Dover are placed, she said, almost immediately. Will the Calais social services have equivalent responsibilities? What happens to unaccompanied children picked up at Calais under our present system?
The Children's Commissioner and the Chief Inspector of Prisons both told Sub-Committee F last week that they have the right to inspect and report on arrangements for detention at the juxtaposed controls ports. It would be useful to know what the Children's Commissioner said about this when the Minister consulted him, as she undertook to do in Grand Committee. Whatever he or the chief inspector may say about these arrangements, it cannot be denied that accountability is being watered down. The contractors are not British citizens and, in the extreme case of criminal misconduct, their employees would be dealt with in the French courts. If it was felt that any law needed to be amended in light of such a case, we would have no power to secure that change, except through representation by the FCO to the French authorities. This Parliament would be outside the loop.
As to the qualifications of staff for dealing with vulnerable people in general, and children in particular, the Minister in effect said that their skills would be of a lower order than those needed by immigration officials. That is a further reason for concern. As with most legislation nowadays, all we have to go on at this point are the broad headings to be covered. The Minister said that contractors would have to submit detailed procedures for handling
7 Feb 2006 : Column 573
vulnerable groups; presumably this would also cover such matters as the syllabus and training programme for employees carrying out these duties. Could we have an undertaking that all the documentation provided by the contractor will be in the public domain? This is clearly essential if any comments made by the Children's Commissioner or the chief inspector on their proposals are to make sense.
In Grand Committee we asked under what code of conduct contractors' staff will be working. As the Minister made no comment on the matter in her reply, I shall try again. As we understand it, private contractors will be obliged to work to PACE when they search or question a person, but there is no code of conduct in force when they are arresting or detaining someone. I hope that that is wrong and that the Minister can assure me that PACE operates throughout the whole process, as it does when the professionals are doing it.
Unfortunately, there is another difference between immigration officers and private contractors which is of material importance. Clause 38 of the Police and Justice Bill makes immigration officers exercising enforcement powers subject to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, on top of their answerability to the IND's internal complaints procedure, itself subject to independent audit. In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee the chair of the audit committee said that some 200 complaints of serious misconduct, mostly assault, were received annually, and even those were not being dealt with satisfactorily, because no statistics were kept to show what happened after they were referred to the police. Presumably very few complaints of criminal misconduct get to the courts, or even to the CPS, because the alleged victim is no longer here to give evidence. That could be dangerous, because it could create an atmosphere of impunity around the whole process, making it likely that the force used against detainees would not always be reasonable. With none of the safeguards provided where the complaint is against a professional provided, and even more so when it is in a foreign jurisdiction, is not the employment of private contractors a recipe for the ill treatment of detainees? To whom will a detainee complain about the conduct of a private contractor's employee and how can he ever hope to obtain justice? I beg to move.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|