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Even where a function is delegated by the director, Clause 9(3) requires them to maintain considerable control over how any delegated function is exercised, and requires the person to whom it is delegated to,
in that respect. Accordingly, it is appropriate that the director should be able to delegate functions granted to him or her under enactments other than the Bill. If
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Viscount Bridgeman: I thank the Minister for his reply, having given him the opportunity to make it, but the sentiments that I expressed at the end of the debate on the previous group of amendments still apply. We shall look carefully at how these organisational arrangements within the UKBA turn out. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: Perhaps I may intervene briefly. I should have done this under Clause 8 and I am not in any way seeking to take us back there. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee report raises a matter on Clause 8. Unless the Government have already replied to that and the matter has been resolved, I shall raise it on Report.
Baroness Hanham: This amendment probes a little more into what officers will do and asks why immigration officers or any other officials of the Secretary of State should be designated as customs revenue officials. We are clear now that we are to have one in three, or three people in one, as customs, revenue and immigrationor, we may have customs, immigration and revenue. If we are clear on that, will the Secretary of State be able to designate an immigration officer as a customs revenue official, as it seems to be the only thing she will be able to do? That would then be a dual role of customs and immigration. Or is this the power that will designate them as one into three? I know this is getting to be a bit like the Trinity, with one in three or three in one, but it is a short question.
Lord West of Spithead: We feel it is important to specify who the Director of Border Revenue can designate as a customs revenue official as well as setting out in Clause 12 that she needs to be satisfied that the officer is capable of carrying out the functions effectively, has received adequate trainingwe have heard that that is for 14 weeks, while the other, which I did not mention before, is for 10 weeksand is a suitable person. All those things have to be done, but we have extremely talented people who are capable of multi-tasking. I have great faith that they will do this job extremely well. Some are, effectively, already doing it.
It is appropriate that designated customs revenue officials are within the department responsible for exercising customs functions. The border force will be an executive agency of the Home Office and will work within that department to ensure the main aim in creating the agency is fulfilled; namely, as the noble Baroness clearly mentioned, to integrate at the border the exercise of customs functions, both general and revenue, with immigration functions. In general, it is not intended that customs revenue officials should be a separate cadre; rather, that the officials of the Secretary of State working in the border force should, subject to that training, be able to perform a range of customs revenue, general customs and immigration functions as necessary. As I have said, we know how long the training will take and I am sure that they will be capable of that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, also asked whether the Secretary of State will be able to designate a customs revenue official. No, she will not: the director will make such designations. The officer will be accountable to the director for the exercise of those functions, not to the Secretary of State. That is one reason why we have had to have that differentiation, because that cannot be allowed. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that the amendment is unnecessary and that she will feel able to withdraw it.
Baroness Hanham: We have skated around the question of training on and off this afternoon, but these amendments direct us to it. Amendments 21 and 22 probe the standard of training to be provided and the standard of competence to be achieved before an immigration officer or other official may be designated by the Director of Border Revenue under the power in Clause 11.
We said on Second Reading that we would table amendments to satisfy ourselves about the terms and level of training. We now know the terms, because the Minister has given them to us, but we do not know the level or the content. One of our chief worries is that officials may be struggling with their existing duties. How are they then meant to understand, retain and apply borders, customs, immigration and, in some cases, police provisions all at the same time and ensure that they do not get into difficulties? We want to ensure that the standard of training is sufficiently rigorous to meet those concerns. That is why we suggest that the word adequate in page 8, line 41 should be removed and substituted with all necessary. Matters such as tax revenues, tax raising and all the other things that they are entitled to do and must do need to be included in training. We need to be sure that it will be more than adequate and that the director can be truly satisfied that all those who are to be the composite trinity know what they are doing. I beg to move.
Lord Avebury: The noble Baroness has raised an extremely important matter and we support the amendments. The provision is simply that the director must be satisfied, but we do not know what criteria will satisfy him; they are not laid down anywhere in the Bill. The word adequate is extremely vague, as the noble Baroness said.
Earlier, the Minister told us that customs officers who are to carry out UKBA duties would be given 14 weeks training, although he did not say what that training would consist of. If it were intensive training, I can imagine that 14 weeks may well be adequate. One knows that it is possible to have immersion courses that teach people a large amount of information in a short space of time, such as the Foreign Office has for language training. We need to know a little more about this before we leave the subject, because simply to have the wording in the Bill that the director must be satisfied without telling us how he will satisfy himself and the use of the vague word adequate will not reassure those who have to deal with the officials that they will receive top-quality training and that they will be as qualified as is necessary to enable them to do the job properly. I sincerely hope that we will receive a lot more information from the Minister in answer to the amendment.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno: I, too, support the amendment. I imagine that the job of an immigration officer can be very stressful. They have people from so many different situations coming to be interviewed. What psychological preparation is there for those who undertake that work so that they can cope with the stress? What linguistic preparation is there? Someone may have no knowledge whatever of the English language. What preparation is there so that those who deal with people who speak another language and are not able to converse properly in English can do so in a sympathetic way?
Lord Hylton: What the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, just said reinforces the point that I was trying to make on Second Reading and on many previous occasions about the importance of interpreters. The official on the job cannot be expected to know the
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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I, too, back the amendment. The more one looks at it, the more one sees that there is a need to understand what is being said. For example, is 14 weeks the normal amount of training that other countries give officials undertaking similar jobs? If there were that sort of standard by which to measure, perhaps it would become a little clearer, so my instinct is to support the amendment.
Lord West of Spithead: I now have an answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. Apparently, the Government have replied to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on Clause 8. I have not seen that reply and clearly neither has he, but apparently they have responded.
On the amendments, the clause already dictates that the director must be satisfied of the appropriate criteria, so in practice the director will be required to demonstrate an objective basis for concluding that any given person can exercise customs revenue functions appropriately. I mentioned the 4,500 who are transferring to the border force to carry out customs revenue functions. They will clearly already have been capably and appropriately trained by Her Majestys Revenue and Customs. Equally, those designated customs officials within the border force who have not transferred from HMRC will have been trained to the same level as the revenue and customs officers for the powers that they will be exercising and the activities that they will be carrying out.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, talked in particular about training. Training will be delivered by trainers accredited by HMRC. Trainees will be mentored by the personal training officer network, transferring from that department to the UK Border Agency. New recruits joining the border force who are deployed at the border will undertake an accredited foundation course including training to enable them to carry out customs revenue functions where that is a part of their role.
The way in which we resolve the language training issueas the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, there are so many languages that you cannot possibly have someone there to cover them allis by the use of interpreters. We can rapidly get hold of people who can interpret. That is how we get round that one. We do not have a specific language course for any of these people in their training.
Clause 12 already requires the director to be satisfied that a person has completed adequate training before the director may designate that person as a customs revenue official able to exercise customs revenue functions. For training to be deemed adequate, the definition is that it must provide a designated customs official with all the instruction and skills appropriate and necessary to exercise the customs revenue functions conferred on them fully and properly. As I said, that is monitored by the personal training officer network to ensure that it is done.
Amendment 22 does not in practice impose any different requirement from those already imposed by the Bill. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that the amendment is unnecessary. It is worth adding that the requirement in the clause mirrors that imposed in conferring customs functions on officers in SOCA. We have been doing that since 2005 and it is appropriate that the same standards should be required for officials designated under the Bill.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Before the noble Baroness who has raised such interesting issues comes back, may I ask a couple of questions? The wording in the Bill is pretty passive: the person must have received adequate training. It does not then give any benchmark about how they would have benefited from it if they were a candidate for this job and if they had passed the job test. They have only to have received the training. I may have missed something in what the Minister said. I am still not clear as to whether it is full-time or part-time training. If the individual has greater training needs, will they receive more than 14 weeks training?
Finally, could the Minister say something about what would happen if the person did not want to be designated? Will there be any issues around people who do not want to switch from their current job and who do not want to be trained? What sort of rights do they have? What sort of representations has the Minister received from the unions or from individuals on this issue?
Baroness Hanham: Before the Minister replies, I wonder whether I can turn to a matter that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, raised. The noble Lord asked whether people would receive any psychological training, presumably in their support. What about care of people who come within their remit orto use a horrible jargon phrasecustomer focus? These officers have a very difficult task. To some they have to be an anodyne officer who looks at the passports or whatever and does not do anything. To others they have to be able to answer difficult and searching questions. To some they have to be, I suspect, abrupt and difficult. To others they have to be extremely charming. What sort of training will they get in people management? There was a time when all immigration officers were boot-faced and you never knew whether or not you had committed an offence as you went through. Now there is an easier attitude when you go through immigration and you get a smile from the immigration officer. That could change like the weather if it were not appropriate that they should smile. Where it is necessary for them not to be pleasant, respectful and welcoming, what training do they get in dealing with those more difficult situations?
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I apologise for coming back again but the noble Baroness has jogged my memory. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, is not in her place, because she is chair of the all-party group on Latin America. When all the Latin American ambassadors came in and we asked them how the world was for them and what sort of complaints and issues were raised by their citizens, one
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When you go into the United States, it is noticeable that the immigration officers there talk to you more than the ones here. They say, Hi, where are you from? What are you here for? and by the time they have checked your eyeballs and your fingerprints you have exchanged a lot of information with them, usually in a perfectly pleasant way. They seem to get a lot out of people from that chit-chat.
Lord Hylton: I suspect that there is a fear that some of those coming into the country from Latin America may be drug mules, for example, but that should not lead to an assumption that everybody coming from Latin America is in that category. Also, there are huge differences between one Latin American country and another.
Lord West of Spithead: A raft of points has been made. First, I was delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, pointed out how cheerful and welcoming members of our border force are. I agree entirely. They are generally very good. I was interested that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said how welcoming the US immigration people are. She must have used a different airport from the one that I have always used. Possibly my problem was that on the green form where it said, Are you or have you ever been involved in espionage?I was once Chief of Defence IntelligenceI put, Yes. That delayed me for some hours with some rather unpleasant people. That is another issue. One cannot tell fibs; one has to tell the truth.
The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, along with other noble Lords, correctly pointed out that this is a difficult and stressful job. There is policy, guidance and education available for personnel dealing with specific stressful posts. They are instructed on these things. There is also a business support team available to officers who are stressed or who have particular issues. They can raise these confidentially and they are dealt with. That is covered, therefore. There is also role-playing in the training, which is a good way of allowing these things to happen.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked whether there are people who do not want to move. There has been a lot of dialogue with the trade unions. It is clearly a major move for many people. That dialogue has been successful. Interestingly, an awful lot of the HMRC people who are coming into the new border force see themselves as border people rather than broader HMRC people. It has not been as big a chop as it might have been. There are issues over terms of service and pay and so on, which are still being negotiated and talked through, but we have not come across a real problem about any of these officers not wanting to do the job. They see themselves very much as wanting to be part of the border force and part of the protectionthe front line, in a sensefor the United Kingdom.
I cannot give an answer on South America. Generally, our people are welcoming and have been well trained. The training is monitored. It is given by proper accredited trainers and it is then monitored by personal training officers. The training for immigration purposes will be on a similar basis to customs training, which will resolve that question. I hope that on that basis the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Hanham: I thank the Minister for a reasonably detailed reply. I did not expect him to go through the whole training manual, but we need to be satisfied that the training will be rigorous. I am not so concerned about those who will be coming in to the agency, because I am sure that by that stage the trinity will be composite. For the initial group, where the training involves officers who are doing a different job, it is vital that the training is done better than adequately. I do not like the word adequately in legislation. It seems to me to be the lowest common denominator for something that ought to be done to a high standard. That is why I prefer the wording that we suggested.
The Minister has, however, been helpful and I hope that we have managed to stressand I hope that it will get through to those who are doing the trainingthat Parliament is concerned about the way in which these officers perform their duties. It is difficult to combine in one role both giving the first impression to people who are coming into the country and being the guardian of the borders. On this side of the Dispatch Box we would want to be sure that people are aware of that and aware that Parliament thought that it was important. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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