Clause 55 — Trafficking people for exploitation
Crispin Blunt (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Reigate, Conservative)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Amendment 14 tabled by the Liberal Democrats, which was debated in Committee and signed by us and has just been agreed to, requires amendments 46 and 47 in order for the legislation to hang together.
Damian Green (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Ashford, Conservative)
I beg to move amendment 26, page 46, line 9, at end insert-
'(1A) In section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (c. 19) (trafficking people for exploitation), after section 4(5) add-
"(5A) The Secretary of State shall publish a code of conduct to guide Entry Clearance Officers in their treatment of applications which they suspect involve human trafficking."'.
Sylvia Heal (Deputy Speaker)
'(5A) The Secretary of State shall collect and publish statistics regarding detention of children during the relevant period, on a regular basis.'.
Amendment 28, page 46, line 39, at end insert-
'(5A) The Secretary of State has a duty to ensure that children held in detention centres-
(a) have access to counselling;
(b) have access to English language classes; and
(c) receive education classes that are equivalent to what they would be entitled to if placed in state school education.'.
Amendment 29, page 46, line 39, at end insert-
'(5A) The Secretary of State shall collect and publish monthly statistics regarding the detention of children, including figures relating to, the number of children detained, the average length of period in detention, and the number of children with the same family in detention, their ages, nationalities and where they are detained.'.
Amendment 39, page 46, line 39, at end insert-
(a) remove and/or deport families with children, who are failed asylum seekers or illegal immigrants; or
(b) remove and/or deport children of failed asylum seekers or illegal immigrants.'.
Damian Green (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Ashford, Conservative)
I am glad that we have a brief time to discuss an extremely important part of the Bill and the extremely important issue of human trafficking, and the action that we wish the Government to take to stop this particularly vile trade. I wish to speak in particular to amendment 26, in which we seek to establish that the Secretary of State should have a code of conduct to guide entry clearance officers in their treatment of applications for entry which they suspect involve human trafficking.
We have discussed some issues in the past couple of hours that deeply divide the two sides of the House. I know that human trafficking is not one of those. The Minister will feel as strongly as I do that we should end the practice of human trafficking. One of the things that has, sadly, led to Britain becoming one of the destination countries for human traffickers is the widespread recognition that Britain's borders are not secure enough. That, along with this country's prosperity and the relative ease of illegal working here, is why Britain has become a destination for human traffickers.
We Conservative Members believe that it is impossible to tackle the overall issue of crime in the UK effectively without addressing the problems at our borders. We know that human traffickers target Britain, and we know that there are various particularly pernicious forms of human trafficking. It is often part of the sex industry, and there has been a staggering and deeply depressing increase in the percentage of prostitutes in this country who are young women trafficked from abroad, either from eastern European countries just beyond the edge of the European Union, or from Africa.
There is a real problem, as was illustrated just today, when we discovered the details of a Home Office report that included research carried out as long ago as 2006, although for some reason it has not come to light until today. I always seek to be balanced, so I will give the Minister one quote from the Daily Express and one from The Guardian. The Daily Express says:
"Criminals are convinced that Britain's border controls are 'soft' and that police are tolerant of the vice trade, according to a Home Office report".
The Guardia n, perhaps even more seriously, says:
"Corruption and bribery were mentioned by a range of interviewees involved in smuggling and trafficking as a means of smoothing the passage into the UK".
I know that the Minister will be as concerned-indeed, disturbed-as I am at the thought that there are serious, organised, international criminals who believe that bribery and corruption can be used to smooth the way into the UK. [Interruption.] The Minister seeks to intervene from a sedentary position. As I say, there is, I think, nothing much that divides us on the need to combat human trafficking more effectively. Our amendment is one way of taking a step forward on that. He knows that I would urge on him much other activity in that sphere, but I should like to give him a chance to say something on this important issue, so I shall end my remarks.
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)
I, too, would like to hear what the Minister has to say, so I shall be brief in supporting Damian Green. The amendments are sensible. I think that there is unity across the House on the need to deal with the traffickers of human beings. I will seek to catch your eye on Third Reading, Madam Deputy Speaker, but shall say now that it is important that we have a code of conduct that will better inform entry clearance officers of their responsibilities in dealing with those who have been trafficked. There are other amendments in the group that deal with the welfare of children; they, too, are sensible, and I hope that the Minister will accept them.
Paul Rowen (Rochdale, Liberal Democrat)
I will be brief. I wish to speak to amendment 29, which stands in my name and the names of my hon. Friends. On the issue of the collection of data on children held in custody and in detention centres, in Committee, the Minister undertook to update us on Report with further information with regard to publication and plans. I would be grateful if he dealt with those points, either now or on Third Reading.
Phil Woolas (Minister of State (the North West), Home Office; Oldham East and Saddleworth, Labour)
Time is limited. I undertake to answer the specific questions on Third Reading, if I catch your eye then, Madam Deputy Speaker. With regard to the research that has been published, let me be clear that it is based on interviews with people who have been caught, convicted and imprisoned. It is therefore evidence that the system was working, whatever the response from the interviewees in that research, which is, in any event, now out of date.
Very briefly, the spirit of amendment 26 is well intentioned. We agree with it, but we have problems with the wording. On amendment 24 dealing with statistics on children in detention, I hope to explain the progress that has been made in regard to this important area-
Debate interrupted (Programme Order,
Amendment 26 negatived.
The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of business to be concluded at that time (