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Having said that, and having set out what the Government are doing to improve our border security, I should like to spend a moment or two exploring the complexities around the amendment proposed. It is a serious and complicated proposal of which we need to consider the detail. There are significant issues which are simply not addressed in the amendment. They go to the heart of what is practical and what can be done.

On the functions of the proposed new force, I am slightly quizzical about the fact that although the amendment tabled by noble Lords proposes the establishment of a UK border police force, it does not ascribe explicitly to that force any of the three broad elements of policing which take place at the border—namely, Special Branch, which is responsible for national security and counterterrorism; protective security, providing policing to secure the infrastructure of ports; and general policing, dealing with crime and disorder. I am not clear either about how many functions of the UK Border Agency or the border force the proposed force would absorb, what would be left and what it would form in terms of a coherent set of responsibilities—the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I think, touched on this concern.

On personnel, there is no detail on who would make up the border police force, from where they would come, what powers they would have, and what the terms and conditions of the staff would look like. We need to be clear that people are at the heart of this.

The amendment is silent on leadership. Who is in charge of the force? Is it a chief constable—the noble Lord, Lord Dear, touched on that. From that discussion flow some crucial questions about accountability of the force. To whom is the new force to be accountable? Is there to be a new, bespoke police authority-type body? What about the constitution? How are priorities set? Who monitors outcomes and progress? Are noble Lords opposite planning on putting key immigration functions into the hands of a chief constable? Would that mean a chief constable reporting directly to the Home Secretary, including on operational matters? Where does that leave the debate on the politicising of policing?

Is there an inspection function of the proposed new force? What about a mechanism for people who would like to complain about their treatment by it? Does it come under the ambit of the Independent Police Complaints Authority?

There is also the devolution question, as was raised very accurately by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. There is a major issue here. There are 52 territorial forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the picture is very complex. Policing in Scotland is a devolved matter, and I can see huge complications. How will it work? What will happen in Northern Ireland?



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Finally, we need to consider the crucial question of funding and who will pay for the establishment of a new force. Would it be from top-slicing of the general policing grant—I think it probably would have to be—by carving out money from existing specific policing grants, or by some other means? Has there been any discussion with the police authorities about this? When one day long in the future the party opposite comes into power, I shall be fascinated to go through in some detail the 300, 400 or 500 clauses required for this sort of proposal.

I make no apologies for raising these issues. My intention in doing so is not to be “clever” but to illustrate just how complex this area is, because we have been wrestling with it. As a Government, we are in a position of having to work through how practically to bring about change and make improvements in public services. We are making the nation safer already with a stronger border and joined-up border force, and this Bill reinforces what has been done already and what needs to be enacted to get the full benefit and effect. We have a clear way forward for our border force and for its relationship to border policing, which will certainly enhance public protection and security. The case for fundamental structural change in terms of creating a UK-wide border police force has not been made out. Even if it could be, the present proposal leaves so many questions unanswered as to make it unworkable as an immediate practical proposition. Part 1 of the present Bill, on the other hand, gives us a well grounded, practical basis for building on the substantial progress that we have already made. I hope that the House will agree that this is a substantial bird in the hand, which we should not put at risk for the sake of a flash of colourful feathers in a rather ill defined bush.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, raised the issue of e-crime. She is absolutely right that this is an area of great concern and worry, but we have done a lot about it recently—we have now formed an e-crime unit. More broadly, the newly formed National Security Secretariat, which I have set up in the Cabinet Office, addresses the key issue of cyber-security, with a number of papers tackling that matter. People are pushing on there; it is becoming a much greater worry.

I said that I would talk about the smuggling of meat. The border force will have customs powers to tackle that. We have actually had some success since the force was established; something in terms of 238,000 kilogrammes of products of animal origin have been picked up—things that should not have been brought into this country—which is quite staggering.

Mention was made of an article by Sir David Omand about data. We make a proposal on how data will be looked after, as we see that as very important. Sir David was being quoted with reference to the IMP and the IMP consultation document. The reason why we produced such a document is that this is such a significant issue; we need to look at it very carefully and get it right. One of my concerns is not so much about government, because we are scrutinised and we take it seriously. Sometimes I get concerned about how much data on people are flowing around privately,

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whether on Twitter, Facebook or whatever—and even when people use their credit cards. Some of those things I find quite worrying.

I turn to the question of clauses stand part. I know that this response seems rather long, but the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, was right that I should address those clauses and go through them. I shall do so in some detail, which I hope will give some clarification.

Clauses 1 to 5 give the Secretary of State the power to exercise general customs functions concurrently with the commissioners. Clause 1 specifically prevents the Secretary of State from exercising any of the revenue functions of the commissioners or HM Revenue and Customs and any of the commissioners’ non-revenue functions that are not relevant to the UK Border Agency’s role, such as the work of HM Revenue and Customs inland. We are pulling part of HMRC out, and she should not be responsible for any of that work inland. Clause 2 enables the Secretary of State to make an order to amend the list of matters specified in Clause 1(2) that are considered general customs matters for the purposes of the Bill and to make any necessary consequential modifications to other enactments.

Clauses 3 to 5 set out the arrangements by which functions relating to general customs matters will be exercised by the Secretary of State’s officials. In effect this will allow the Home Secretary to designate immigration officers and any other of her officials as designated general customs officials. Later, I shall expand on the detail of what exactly that means.

On Clauses 6 to 8, as I have explained, customs functions will not be vested in the Secretary of State. By convention decisions on tax liability, including customs duties and tax administration generally, are kept at arm’s length from Ministers. The Bill therefore puts in place a different arrangement for dealing with customs revenue matters than that relating to general customs matters. While the general customs functions set out in Clause 1 are vested in the Secretary of State and designated general customs officials, Clause 6 creates within the Home Office the position of Director of Border Revenue. The customs revenue functions of the UK Border Agency will be vested in the director and those customs revenue officials will be designated to her. Clause 7 sets out what these revenue functions are and Clause 8 enables the Treasury, by order, to add to, remove or modify the list of the director’s functions.

Clause 9 enables the Director of Border Revenue to delegate his or her functions to allow for operational flexibility. In practice most of the director’s functions will be undertaken by officers of the Border Agency under the designation arrangements set out in Clause 11. Only those designated officers will be able to exercise the coercive powers currently relied on by officers of HM Revenue and Customs at the border for law enforcement purposes.

Clause 10 requires that the Director of Border Revenue, in the exercise of any of her functions, and any person to whom such functions have been delegated, must comply with any directions of a general nature given by the Treasury. This reflects existing provisions in Section 11 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005, which require the commissioners to comply with any directions of a general nature

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given by the Treasury. While this power enables the Treasury to make directions relating to the Director of Border Revenue’s strategies, critically, it does not permit Treasury directions to be issued in relation to day-to-day or operational decisions. Clause 10 also requires the director to act in accordance with the policies of the Commissioners of HM Revenue and Customs. This includes the application of any concession published by the commissioners and any interpretation of the law issued by the commissioners. This requirement will ensure that there is consistency in the administration of taxes between HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency.

Clauses 11 to 13 set out arrangements for enabling the Director of Border Revenue to designate officials for the purpose of exercising functions and powersrelating to customs and revenue matters.

Baroness Hanham: Because of the way this is being done—this is not at the Government’s insistence; I think it is at ours—we are skipping through the detail of what we need to find out. The Minister has given the broad outline of what the clauses mean but I want to get to the bones of this and the questions that I have asked on a couple of occasions. As I understand it, some of the powers of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, in terms of revenue and customs, are being handed to the Border Agency. Not only are some of the powers being dealt with in that way but presumably a number of the officials will also be transferred. As I understand it, at the moment there is no link between what a revenue official does and what a customs official does. I further understand that neither of them has any idea what an immigration official does. However, the Bill proposes that these all come together and suggests that appropriate training will take place. However, if I had expertise in revenue, how could I suddenly become an expert in customs matters and immigration matters if I was obliged to undertake all those things myself? Or, is this just a device whereby the revenue officials come into the border agency, the customs officers come into border agency and the immigration officers are already there? Do those three groups continue to carry out the duties that they would have been carrying out anyway?

That is the nub of this; what will these animals look like? When you come into the country and are accosted by an official from the border agency, will you know that they carry the powers of customs, immigration and revenue all together, or will a customs officer have to call in the revenue people, if that is appropriate? We need to unpick this and I say with great respect that the Minister is not doing that. We have had a sort of Second Reading review of the clauses, but we are now into the meat. I should be grateful if he would get into the meat and perhaps we could have a discussion as to what these officials will look like, what their responsibilities will be and who will be responsible for them.

4.30 pm

Lord West of Spithead: I am sorry if I was going into too much detail on some of these clauses. Rather than drilling down on this, the point made by the noble Baroness was rather broader and I shall try to answer. Effectively, we are getting some 4,500 HMRC

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officers who are working for Revenue and Customs on the borders; they are borders people, not people who work on revenue deep in the UK or deep inland and so on. They are customs-type people who understand customs rules; they are customs officers—the chaps who are normally at the ports and that sort of thing.

The aim is that those people become part of the border force. As I have said, the shadow force has already stood up. That border force includes them and the people who were in the BIA—now called UKBA—and are immigration officers who understand immigration law, and have practised immigration matters and that sort of thing. We have also sucked into the border force people like the visas officers abroad and other little ancillary groups, who together will make the totality of the border force.

Clearly, we wish to use customs officers as part of this border force, partly to obtain more flexibility by having one person who can do customs and immigration, because that will mean that you go through one person and do not have to go through two people to get into the country. This gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of drafting people to small ports, moving people around and those sorts of things. That person will need to have training which enables him to understand and perform the immigration functions. The immigration officers who will be carrying out a customs, HMRC, function will have to be trained to do that. In the detail of the Bill it is stated that we will not do that with every single one of them, because we do not need to, but many will have that dual training to be able to do both things.

Already, for example, the Home Secretary has a responsibility for some general customs matters, including drugs smuggling, weapons smuggling, plant and animal health controls, and so on. We intend to move across to the border agency functions such as collecting duty at the red channel, catching tobacco smugglers and charging duty on postal packets, which are already on the border. HMRC will still do all the deep revenue things within the country, totally separately from any of this.

However, because we do not allow Ministers to get closely involved in those revenue customs matters, we have to set up a division of responsibility whereby the officer in the Home Office responsible for the agency actually has another hat, which allows her to be responsible to the Treasury for these particular matters.

I hope that that clarifies this issue a little more, but the proposal gives us huge flexibility, it lets us use this force more usefully, it means you do not have to go through two checks when going through, it means you can deploy people to small ports, and it means we can use our force. We are not going to cut jobs by doing this; we are effectively increasing the size of our border force and giving it that single focus. I know that some people might think that this is amusing, but the fact that all these people are already in a uniform makes a—

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The Minister says that this will not mean that you will have to go through two checks but I cannot quite understand how it is going to work. I see that it would be really nice if it was streamlined, but actually you come in,

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the UKBA person looks at you, does all your details, looks at your passport, and then you go and collect your luggage, and then you go past the other people. It is not going to be possible to do all that at once with one official, is it?

Lord West of Spithead: I speak more in terms of the actual work involved in administration and elsewhere. Generally—I had better be careful what I say about the Customs side—you will very often walk through and there is nobody there, because the arrangements are done in a slightly different way. Such arrangements—whether there is nobody there or somebody there—will be much more joined up. That will make it more efficient, and better; that is what is really behind it.

Lord Avebury: I am very grateful for the explanation that the noble Lord has given. Immigration officers who carry out HMRC functions have to be designated by the Secretary of State, but the noble Lord has told us that 4,500 HMRC people will be transferred to UKBA—that they will have a UKBA hat on—but that they will not be designated. Why is there no parallel procedure for them?

Lord West of Spithead: The officers who come across from HMRC will have to have been cleared, in the sense that the Secretary of State or those people who work directly for the Secretary of State will have said that they have met certain requirements in terms of training and being a correct person for this; there is a list of things to check off, and if those are met, that person is designated. Effectively, both groups are designated—both groups are selected—and you cannot just join the force and automatically go down this route. They are, to that extent, both designated, whether from HMRC or the old BIA.

Baroness Hanham: Can I pick the Minister’s brains a little more about this? I can see that in the future there will be one source of training. People will come into the service and they will be one of these officers, or they may not; they may be Revenue or they may be Customs. In relation to the shadow form that will come rushing in, how long does it take to train a Revenue officer in all that they need to know to run a border, and how long does it take to train a Customs officer to do all of that? Does it take two years or one and a half months? If you come into the service now as a Customs officer, how long does it take until you get to a situation where you are able to deal with these things?

Lord West of Spithead: I do not know off the top of my head exactly, but I am sure that I am about to get input from the Box; it must be a matter of months. I say that because the reason we want to get this Bill enacted before the Summer Recess is that we will then be able to have the bulk of the people, or large numbers of them—but not all of them—trained by September or October for this. I have just got the figure: it takes 14 weeks to get a Customs officer trained up on immigration aspects; I hope in a minute to get the other figure. I imagine it takes a similar time to train an immigration officer specifically on those Customs

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aspects. All they have to learn are the border issues, not the much broader Revenue and other matters, to achieve that.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: May I ask one question from a position of what I would call chronological ignorance? It is more than 20 years since I was the Minister responsible in another place for Customs, but during that period there were only about 30 ports of entry into this country—or airports at any rate—which were designated international and therefore had a Customs presence. Within the past 10 years, I have landed at a significant airport at which the only Customs presence was a red telephone on the wall which you could call if you wished. Has that changed in the past 10 years so that all airports are now international? If not, will the Bill produce a situation whereby all airports become international, with a Customs presence, because everyone will be interchangeable?

Lord West of Spithead: The noble Lord has hit on a very important area, which is of great concern at times. I always say that we could expend our entire national wealth on counterterrorism, but obviously it has to be based on risk. However, the noble Lord is absolutely right: there are a lot of small ports—small airports and small coastal ports—where very often there is no one to do a check. This will give us more flexibility and allow us, with intelligence-based information as well, to cover more of those ports than we have been able to do. However, I would be wrong if I said that we will cover them all, because we will not and cannot do that, and realistically we should not try to, because it is just so difficult. What we do has to be done on the basis of intelligence; it has to be done with irregularity so as to catch people out; and we need to use other methods to ensure that we ensnare people who are criminal or wish to do us harm in other ways. However, this measure will definitely make us more capable, and is already making us more capable, than we were before.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I am most grateful for that answer. Perhaps I may ask one supplementary question. How many airports are now designated as being international/with a customs presence?

Lord West of Spithead: I was afraid that the noble Lord would ask that. I do not know the exact answer but I hope that I will get it shortly. Is there merit in my going through the various clauses? Would that be useful? I hope that I helped to clarify a little some of the issues that were of concern to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Hanham: The issues that I raised related to whether certain clauses should stand part, and we may not return to those for other reasons.

Lord West of Spithead: I think that I got to Clauses 11 to 13. Those clauses set out arrangements for enabling the Director of Border Revenue to designate officials for the purpose of exercising functions and powers relating to customs revenue matters.



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Clause 11 provides that immigration officers and other officials of the Secretary of State who can exercise general customs functions may be designated as customs revenue officials by the Director of Border Revenue. This enables appropriately designated UK Border Agency officials to do everything that an HM Revenue and Customs officer might do in relation to customs revenue matters. This will ensure that officials have the full range of customs powers that they need to be able to deal with any illegal goods, such as drugs or tobacco. UK Border Agency officials will thus be able to exercise immigration and customs functions, both revenue and non-revenue.

Clauses 12 and 13 make additional provision in respect of designated customs revenue officials. Clause 12 mirrors for the designation of customs revenue officials the provisions of Clause 4 in relation to the designation of general customs officials.

The provision that we are making is intended to provide flexibility in the designation of customs officials and to provide any necessary safeguards. Accordingly, Cause 12 allows the director to limit the particular functions vested in an official, or the purposes for which any such official may exercise customs revenue functions in general. This provides flexibility for the designation to reflect the official’s allocated duties. It also ensures that the director must be satisfied that a person is capable and appropriately trained. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, made that point at Second Reading and she was absolutely right: they have to be appropriately trained. We are aware of this and we are already going through exactly what the TPs will be to train people before designating anyone as a customs revenue official.

Clause 13 requires that a designated customs revenue official must comply with directions given by the director in the exercise of customs revenue functions. Clause 14 sets out the purposes for which customs information may be used and disclosed, and by whom.


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