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The Bill is the last part of a jigsaw and, after it is complete, there will be an opportunity for us to look at the issue of simplification. It is for that reason—I hope noble Lords noted it—that last week the Border and Immigration Agency launched a consultation on simplifying the immigration laws, something for which both Houses have been calling for some time. I would not, however, wish our discussions on the UK Borders Bill to be overshadowed by the fact that the important measures it contains will eventually be translated into new and comprehensive legislation. As I explained, the provisions in this Bill are a key part of the wider reform strategy for the agency, and the simplification project is designed to hone existing legislation and eradicate duplication. We will have an opportunity to consider that in good and proper time.

We are setting out an ambitious agenda. Changes will not happen overnight—we have seen that in the past 10 years—but will be effected progressively as the agency continually focuses on performance. There have been significant transformations since even last year in how the Border and Immigration Agency deals with the deportation of foreign national prisoners. This has led to faster consideration of cases and a record high level of removals. The measures in this Bill will provide a framework to build further on this progress. So I do not agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the immigration system is still a mess.

I acknowledge the kind comments that have been made in the past and today in relation to the improvements effected by the new system. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others commented on the improvements in training and the way in which we have dealt with that.

A number of significant issues have been raised and I shall try to deal with as many as I can. Noble Lords should know that I have a detailed answer on every issue that has been raised but I am going to be extremely kind to your Lordships by not giving you all of those answers. However, I hope that I shall give you sufficient to indicate that not only have I been listening, but I have made a very careful note of everything that your Lordships have said. We will continue in the same way as we approach other Bills in the Home Office; we are very happy to have meetings. Indeed, I was glad that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned the meeting that was held yesterday, when many of us were in Committee on another Bill, with my honourable friend Liam Byrne to deal with some of these anxieties. He is very happy to do that.

I turn now to some of the issues that have caused and excited some attention. The border police force was first raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and echoed by the noble Lords, Lord Henley, Lord Avebury and Lord Dholakia. The border management programme, which includes the police, customs and immigration, is our preferred approach to strengthen border security. Creating a single agency is likely to be disruptive and the international experience is that agency specialisation in drug detection and people smuggling can be lost, and we know the importance of retaining such expertise. We are trying to achieve a system where the border agencies can co-operate and operate in a beneficial, interchangeable way. We believe the Bill will enable us to do that. Immigration officers will act in support of police, not on their behalf. That is a very important distinction.

Many existing police codes are not relevant to this power. In cases where they are, such as the operating procedures for immigration officers, we will make clear precisely what is expected of them, so we will have some clarity and delineation, a theme that I know has always echoed loud with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. We will make draft operating procedures available for Committee and publish the final documents once they are agreed with police colleagues, so noble Lords will see what we have in mind.

I was asked questions by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester and my noble friend Lord Judd, with all his usual passion, commitment and devotion to this subject. I honour all those who have walked so steadfastly with this subject, notwithstanding its difficulties. I therefore hear the comments that have been made around the House about the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Clauses 1 to 4 and how immigration officers’ power to detain should be retained. We will be able to look at that and the issues that have been mentioned with regard to PACE. We do not believe it is necessary or appropriate, for instance, for immigration officers exercising powers under those clauses to be subject to PACE codes of practice, but the power to detain is specifically intended to support the police, as I have discussed. We will be looking at the safeguards and how we should move forward.

We were asked—among others, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, my noble friend Lord Judd, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester raised this issue—why the Bill does not contain a specific timeframe for the consideration of deportation. We agree that it is important to serve a deportation order at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid detaining foreign nationals here unnecessarily at the end of their sentences. We will draft provisions to deal with the issue. Our current target is to consider deportation within the six months ahead of release, so that before they are released there will be a determination. We hope that these issues will assist.

I assure the House that we will look carefully at the concerns of the Joint Committee on Human Rights about the Bill. I am grateful to the committee for its report, which sets out some important issues that we will have to address, and the Government will produce a written response to it. I am happy to say that we will cover arguments in detail in Committee, such as police codes, oversight of detention and the potential for de facto racial profiling through the biometric provision—something I know the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and I are particularly keen to ensure that we address, but there are others in the House who have the same attention to detail. There are a number of noble Lords who will deal with this, not least the noble Lord, Lord Lester, who I see sitting in his place. There is also the question of why there is no specific timeframe. We will come back to these important issues, as I am sure they will have to be discussed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked for evidence on illegal working and biometrics. The evidence provided by National Car Parks, a national UK employer, at the public evidence session in the other place clearly indicated that employers are often presented with forged documents. Our own experience bears that out. Forged documents take many different forms: the use of counterfeit documents that are totally false; documents where the page containing the person’s details has been substituted; documents in which a false stamp like a UK visa has been inserted; the use of stolen blank documents; the use of documents that have been issued by an authority but have been fraudulently obtained; and the use of documents by lookalikes or impostors. We have had to face all those issues. I will be able to give the noble Baroness some details about that. Three hundred and fifty-five counterfeit documents were detected by immigration enforcement staff between January and October 2006. Two hundred and twenty-six documents with substituted bio-pages and 161 with falsified stamps were detected in the same period. I hope she gets a flavour of the enormity of the problem we will face.

The biometric immigration document will be looked at very carefully. It is an extension of the existing powers, where those subject to immigration control are issued with proof of their status. Public officials who ask to see biometric immigration documents must clearly do so in accordance with the Race Relations Act and Article 14 of the ECHR. I know that we will come back to that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stern, referred, among a number of issues, to the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on victims of trafficking. I mentioned the victims of trafficking in my opening remarks. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary signed the European convention against human trafficking on 23 March. We made absolutely clear our commitment and published a UK action plan. Amendments to legislation will be required but we need to get this right because we all have the same intent. If we are unable to do that, we have to make sure that the articles of the convention can be implemented successfully, which will inevitably take time. But we are concentrating on implementation.

I heard very clearly what the noble Baroness and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said about the reasons that would be used for deportation. We need to look at the schedule, because they do make sense. We will be able to explore why we say that when we consider this further.

I ask noble Lords to acknowledge that the question of resources and how we are dealing with the legacy are being dealt with expeditiously and that we are coming to grips with them. The programme is under way, with the aim of dealing with cases within the five-year period specified by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the IND review on 25 July last year. We are prioritising those cases which may be a risk to the public and will then focus on those who can more easily be removed. Thus, I hope we can decide each case speedily but also on its merits. The chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency will be providing an update to the Home Affairs Committee in due course.

I was not surprised that there was a great deal of concentration on how we deal with children. I hope that I was able to indicate that the Government take this issue very seriously. We remain of the view that it is proportionate not to grant a right of appeal to the tribunal where asylum is refused but leave of 12 months or less is granted on other grounds—for example, discretionary leave granted to children. If a child seeks further leave when the discretionary leave ends and it is still considered that they merit asylum, that claim can be considered again. If refused on appeal, right would then exist.

There are other, deeper issues about how safeguarding should work. What about the provisions of Section 9? We were asked about the pilots that came to an end in December 2005; I think that that is the right date, but I will check it. There has been no further use of those pilots since.

There is a lot for us to think about, a lot of work to do. I hope that when we have an opportunity to reflect on those provisions in a mature and considered way, we will be able to look again at how we can move this issue forward. We do not remove children from the United Kingdom unless adequate reception and accommodation arrangements exist in their country of origin.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I remind the Minister that her honourable friend Mr Byrne said, in answer to Question 498 before the Joint Committee on Human Rights, that it was his responsibility to publish the results of the pilots and that it was incumbent on him to understand the pilots in detail. Why does he need a whole year to do that?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I think that Mr Byrne has had to take a view in relation to how to improve the system in the round. Just as I hope that there will be a celebration after what I have said—and I am clear that there is—I hope that noble Lords will understand better, when we come forward with the considered position, why it has taken a little time. If we give satisfaction, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will think that it was worth waiting for.

I know that there are concerns about how in practice Clause 16 will apply to children. We will not pull children out of school to attend reporting conferences far away; reporting by telephone may be used for children and reporting could be done outside school hours. We will have an opportunity to look at all those practical things.

Evaluation of Section 9 is feeding into the children strategy. I cannot pre-empt the findings of the validation and how we will react to them, but I assure noble Lords that those issues have been given a lot of time and consideration.

Lastly, although it is probably normally inappropriate to respond to particular cases, may I say how much we were affected by the case to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred in relation to the breast-feeding mother separated from her babies? We recognise that a breakdown in process led to mistakes in that case; investigating what happened to ensure that similar mistakes do not happen in future is a matter of some priority to us. The Border and Immigration Agency believes that in almost all circumstances the best interests of children are served by being with their parents. There may on occasion be a slip between cup and lip; that slip can be painful and difficult to deal with; but I assure noble Lords that what the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, said of this Government is not true. There is not a deliberate policy to, in essence, bring hurt, dysfunction and harm to people in this country or, indeed, to anyone who is fortunate enough to come and stay among us.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I do not think that any of us would think that it was deliberate. The question at issue is whether those are the effects of the policy.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am very grateful to hear that that is the general view. I simply say to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, that maybe she should look very carefully indeed at language and at what the report may actually say.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, will the Minister respond to the point that I made about the effects of the policy, deliberate or not?

Baroness Stern: My Lords, will the Minister consider that I was quoting literally word for word from the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the treatment of asylum seekers? They were certainly not words that I would personally take responsibility for unless they were in a report that we had all agreed.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am very heartened to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, say that. Of course we have to look at the outcome of our policy, but the right reverend Prelate should look at the outcome of all our policies, not just in relation to immigration, and consider the sterling work that we do through DfID and all the other efforts and sterling work done by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and here, right across the piece, to give succour and support to children and vulnerable families. Safeguarding children goes right across the board. I remind the right reverend Prelate of the work done by the wonderful local authorities up and down this country, which, when our provision is not available under the immigration system, make available appropriate succour. Look at what we do and not just what we say. If judged fairly, I think this Government will have a very proud record of giving succour to those most in need.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Grand Committee.

Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill [HL]

6.35 pm

Report received.

Clause 1 [Protection against forced marriage: England and Wales]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I will also speak to Amendment No. 6. Amendment No. 1 makes changes to the England and Wales provisions which set out that the court must have regard to a person’s well-being and the need to secure it when considering whether to make a forced marriage protection order. The amendment replaces the word “deciding” with the word “ascertaining”. Amendment No. 6 makes the same amendment to the corresponding provisions in Schedule 1 dealing with the content of orders in Northern Ireland.

In deciding whether to make a forced marriage protection order and what form that order should take, the court must go through a two-stage process. The first stage is the evaluation of the victim’s well-being; the second is the decision whether to exercise its powers to make an order. The High Court judges whom we consulted on the Bill suggested that the word “ascertaining” better describes this first stage and captures the notion of assessing a person’s well-being.

I consider that the drafting change made by these amendments better expresses our purpose and is necessary for the clarity of the Bill. I am grateful to the judges for their support. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support these changes. I beg to move.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I support the insertion of “ascertaining”; it is a much better word.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I agree, my Lords.

Baroness Verma: My Lords, these Benches welcome the amendment, which improves the original drafting. We should be grateful that the High Court judges were consulted and were on hand to give this advice. The delayed Grand Committee and Report enabled them to do so, thereby providing your Lordships with their much respected wisdom and knowledge on these matters.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 2:

(c) other persons who are, or may become, involved in other respects as well as respondents of any kind. (a) aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring, encouraging or assisting another person to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a marriage; or(b) conspiring to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 3 and 7. The Bill gives the courts a wide discretion in the type of injunctions they can make for the purpose of protecting a person from a forced marriage. This approach is important in ensuring that the courts are able to deal flexibly and sensitively with cases as their individual circumstances demand.

New Section 63B(2) provides for orders to be directed either at named respondents in a primary role forcing or attempting to force a person into marriage or to other named respondents in a secondary role, for example, aiding and abetting.

Through consultation on the Bill with the High Court judges who deal with forced marriage cases, we have become aware that enabling orders to be directed only to named respondents might be too restrictive. The Bill provides that third parties who are not named in an order, but who undermine the effect of an order by taking action to force a marriage on behalf of others, are subject to the power of arrest. However, senior members of the judiciary have suggested that this might not at present be sufficiently clear either to deter would-be perpetrators or to ensure that police officers arrested them when necessary, and it could therefore prove ineffective.

Amendment No. 2 addresses this issue by amending new Section 63B to enable orders to be addressed to a third category of unnamed persons who are, or may become, involved in other respects. This will mean that orders may be addressed to any person or indeed to categories of person, such as the family, who are, or may become, involved in other respects in relation to a forced marriage. The order must be for the purposes of protection as specified in Section 63A(1). As in the current draft of the Bill, the amendment sets out that involvement in other respects would include actions such as aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or encouraging another person to force, or to attempt to force, someone into marriage.

Amendment No. 3 amends Section 63H so that powers of arrest may be attached to orders addressed to any person who is not a respondent but to whom an order is directed, as long as the tests in Section 63H(4) are met. The amendment therefore clarifies the policy already embodied in the Bill regarding the actions of third parties.

Amendment No. 7 makes the same changes as Amendment No. 2 to the provisions in Schedule 1 dealing with forced marriage protection orders in Northern Ireland. There is no need for an equivalent to Amendment No. 3 in Northern Ireland, as breach of an order in Northern Ireland is a criminal offence. The amendments are intended to replicate the scope of orders that have already been made by the High Court within the inherent jurisdiction and the wardship jurisdiction in relation to forced marriage cases.

I will say a few words about how orders to un-named parties will work in practice, as I am sure that will interest noble Lords. It will be for the court to decide in each individual case whether it is necessary to extend an order to the third category of un-named persons. That would be likely to be in circumstances where there was evidence that members of the extended family or the wider community might be involved in forcing a marriage, meaning that it was not possible to identify all the possible respondents. Noble Lords will be aware that orders under Part 4 are always made against named parties. Enforcement of those orders relies on the ability to prove that the respondent is aware of the terms of the order. When it is attached to an order, a power of arrest is delivered to the local police station together with a statement showing that the respondent has been served with the order or informed of its terms. Orders made against named parties under Part 4A will follow that procedure.

The position in the law regarding orders made against un-named respondents will remain that a person may be committed for contempt only if they are aware of the order that they are breaching. As orders made against unnamed respondents cannot be personally served, it will be for the courts to decide, on evidence, whether the person is aware of an order and is in contempt. The mechanics of serving the order will be set out in rules of court, and that could be supported by a practice direction setting out standard terms of an order and practice.

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