Data Collection: Travel Plans — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 29th April 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Geddes Lord Geddes Conservative 3:00 pm, 29th April 2009

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether subjects of the Crown will have to supply personal information and their travel plans in advance of leaving the country.

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the e-Borders system is designed to ensure that immigration to the UK can be managed and to target terrorist suspects, known criminals and illegal immigrants. To do this we need to monitor all cross-border travel by collecting and analysing passenger and crew data against watch lists. Carriers, not passengers, must provide information contained in machine-readable zones of passports from 24 hours before travel up to check-in and, for certain routes, provide further information held within their systems.

Photo of Lord Geddes Lord Geddes Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Did I hear him correctly to say that it was up to carriers, not passengers? What happens if I am going on a small boat across the Channel? I am my own carrier in that respect. Is the report correct that said that travellers would be expected to use the internet? In the instance I have just given, what happens if I have no facilities to get on to the internet?

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, all forms of international travel will have to be monitored in this way, including small boat travel, but only on international trips. It would be possible to provide that information in advance, either by electronic measures—the internet—or by communicating directly with the UKBA. In some circumstances, despite the fact that one has started on a journey, weather or other conditions may mean that the journey concludes in a different port from the one you set off for, in which case it is a requirement, at the earliest safe opportunity, for the person who has supplied the information to provide information of where they have arrived after travel has been disrupted by weather. The principle remains that all forms of travel require information to be provided, and there are several ways in which owners of small boats can provide it. It is only for international travel, not domestic.

Photo of Lord Strabolgi Lord Strabolgi Labour

My Lords, I wish to ask my noble friend about short-notice travel. If I decide one morning that I wish to spend the rest of the day in Paris, which has been possible hitherto by Eurostar, will that still be possible, or will the travel authorities require longer notice to fill out a questionnaire about my plans and movements before I am allowed to leave the country? This is becoming very draconian.

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, far be it from me to prevent anyone from having delightful weekends in Paris or anywhere else. I reassure my noble friend that it will be possible, as it has been in the past, to travel at short notice. The position is that information has to be, and can be, provided up to the moment at which the airline closes the gate or the ferry company closes access to the boat.

Photo of The Bishop of Portsmouth The Bishop of Portsmouth Bishop

My Lords, I am concerned about people who swim the Channel. If they set out for France from this country but a storm deflects them to the Isle of Wight, are they going to be penalised?

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I think we would have to design special carriers for them to hold their passports in their mouths, but that is probably going too far. The reality is that anyone intending to swim the Channel, which will not include me in the near future, would be foolish indeed not to inform authorities, including the coastguard, in case they got into difficulties. I hope that the flexibility of our system will not preclude anyone swimming the Channel, and I promise not personally to attempt it at all.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Spokesperson for the Home Office

My Lords, perhaps I should declare an interest in this discussion as the owner of a small boat. Given that even the former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has joined these Benches in saying that biometric passports are the answer to security and not ID cards, why is the Home Office now no longer able to give the unit cost of a passport, which has risen some 300 per cent since 1999? Is it because it is actually cross-subsidising the ID card scheme with passports?

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I never cease to be amazed at the ability of noble Lords to take a Question from the Order Paper to a place where they want to ask a question about. I could point out that the Question is about the supply of information and nothing to do with the cost of passports, but as noble Lords know from the debates we have had in the past, we are introducing ID cards, and along with them, there will be the facility to pay some £30 for an ID card which will be used as a travel document in all the 20-plus countries in the EU. That, I think, will be taken up by many people.

Photo of Lady Saltoun of Abernethy Lady Saltoun of Abernethy Crossbench

My Lords, am I not right in thinking that the details to be supplied about a prospective journey include credit card details?

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am delighted to reassure the noble Lady that that is not the case except on particular routes, where the carrier will supply the information. The carrier will not be required to provide the information on normal, non-security risk routes. Normally, what would be required would be the name, the date of birth, the nationality, the gender, the travel document type, the state of issue number and the expiry date. On certain routes, other information, including information about destination and credit cards, can be required.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My what is the purpose of all this, and is it not the most appalling infringement of liberty?

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, there is a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is "no".

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the Crown dependencies are not foreign; they have been consulted very closely on the introduction of the new regime, and, in respect of the Isle of Man and Guernsey, memoranda of understanding have already been agreed. Of course, the dependencies do operate similar systems of immigration control, and the Government have been in close contact with them. In the States of Jersey, there has been some concern about whether this in some way undermines the constitutional nature of the relationship of the States of Jersey to the United Kingdom. The Government's view is that it does not in any way. The consultation continues.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Shadow Minister, Home Affairs, Shadow Minister, Northern Ireland

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the effectiveness of any e-Borders system for the United Kingdom will inevitably be compromised until we have a properly constituted and unified border police force? We on this side of the House have been consistently pressing for this, particularly since the publication of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, which concludes that only a unified force can protect our borders.

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the danger is a rerun of a debate that, quite recently, has been extensively explored within the consideration of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. The Government's view is that we will have a unified border agency; it will co-operate closely with the police forces with which it operates; and it is not at this time an efficient and effective way of integrating two major departments to try to integrate a third; namely, the police service. Of course, the Stevens report, which was an advisory document to the opposition parties, is no doubt something that has been studied by all concerned. But there is a division between police authorities and the Stevens concept.