I welcome the fact that the Opposition now apparently want to ensure that we have the appropriate checks at the border. That was not the experience when they were in government. Once this Government came to power, we were able to have the 100% checks at the border that were not there before. We scrapped the old UK Border Agency and created Border Force, with the focus, the culture and the agenda to have tough and rigorous checks at the border while making sure that that is done efficiently and effectively to allow people to pass through, using technology to advance that process.
The hon. Gentleman referred to Labour’s promise of 1,000 extra border guards. That is virtually the only promise or pledge that we have heard from Labour on the important issue of immigration and tightening and securing our borders. Even so, surprisingly enough, the sums do not add up. The cost is apparently to be met by additional charges for those in electronic visa waiver schemes. On our calculations, that would generate perhaps an extra 20 or 30 border guards. There are also questions about whether the scheme would cost more to administer than it would deliver in revenue. I look forward to hearing some further details from the Opposition as to how their numbers add up and how their proposal would work.
I want to highlight this Government’s record in having removed just under 5,100 foreign national offenders from the UK in the past year. That is against a backdrop of an increase of nearly 30% in litigation by those seeking to game the system to delay their removal from the UK. Partly because of the delays that we inherited due to the legal system that we had, sometimes the courts have allowed people to be discharged from custody in those circumstances. That is why we introduced the Immigration Act 2014 to speed up the process in terms of those rights, whereby if someone’s life is not at risk or in danger, they can make these legal challenges, but do so outside the UK. These important measures, to a large degree, deal with the underlying concerns that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough has expressed in his Bill. The fact that we have, as I said, removed just under 5,100 foreign national offenders from the UK in the past five years is due to a great deal of attention and careful joint working among a number of Government Departments—the Home Office and colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
My hon. Friend’s Bill, as I read it, is intended to deal with the issue of exclusion—in other words, ensuring that once someone has been removed, they stay removed. I will explain how the existing regulations and practice, both on EU and non-EU citizens, are intended to operate. There are a number of different aspects. To have a robust and rigorous system, we need a joined-up system.
I will touch on the issue of preventing those who should not be here from coming to this country in the first place and the excellent work the police and others are doing to identify foreign national offenders. Confirming a person’s identity can be challenging. When we want someone to be removed, we need to obtain a passport or other evidence in order to prove their identity; to get travel documents to ensure that they can be deported; and to make sure that the receiving country does not simply return them to our shores.
There has been some important and excellent cross-governmental work to deal with those barriers to removal.
A range of measures and powers are used to remove foreign national offenders from the UK. The primary power is automatic deportation for non-European economic area nationals who are convicted in the UK and given a single custodial sentence of 12 months or more for one conviction; or, where automatic deportation cannot be applied, we can seek to deport on conducive grounds, including looking at the cumulative effect of offending and whether it is in the public interest to seek to deport.
Once a person has been deported they are prohibited from entering the UK while the deportation order against them remains in force. A deportation order has no expiry date: it remains in force indefinitely unless a decision is taken to revoke it. That demonstrates the strength and purpose behind our existing deportation system, and it is important to recognise that we have strengthened it further through the Immigration Act. Border Force checks against the warnings index to identify whether anyone coming through our border is subject to those outstanding deportation orders. Perhaps that will reassure my hon. Friend that, under the existing system, we are able to keep out people who have been deported from this country.