Report (1st Day)

Part of Immigration Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 1st April 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:15 pm, 1st April 2014

My Lords, I do not think that there is going to be any marked division in this House on this issue, to the extent that I think we are agreed that whatever is done in our name should be done in a civilised and proper fashion. I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing this issue to the House’s attention through Amendment 7, but perhaps I might start by repeating what I previously said in Committee. The provision in Schedule 1 to extend the use of force affects only those powers exercised by immigration officers. It does not make any change to the separate statutory powers of detainee custody officers and escorts, who are private contractors, to use reasonable force in the exercise of their particular functions.

As the noble Lord kindly mentioned, last week the Minister for Immigration and Security, my honourable friend James Brokenshire, and I had a very helpful and thoughtful meeting with the noble Lord where we discussed the proposals in his draft codes of practice for enforced removals and where I believe we agreed that there are a number of areas of common ground where the Home Office is making improvements. I think the noble Lord will know that my honourable friend Mr Brokenshire and I share an interest in this matter. He kindly mentioned my trip on a removals flight, which I found extremely interesting. I feel much better informed through having made that journey.

The noble Lord has proposed in the draft code of practice on use of restraint that any use of force must be justifiable, proportionate, accountable, necessary, safe and supportive and must applied for only the minimum period necessary to achieve the lawful objective. Published enforcement instructions and guidance explain that the use of force must be proportionate, lawful and necessary in the particular circumstances, and also set out that force should be used for the shortest possible period, be the minimum needed, be used only when all other avenues of securing co-operation have been exhausted and should be de-escalated as soon as possible. Whether that use of force was reasonable must be justified by individual officers on a case-by-case basis. I can assure noble Lords that only those immigration officers who are fully trained and accredited may use force. Arrest training is currently provided by the College of Policing, and training on the use of force, including control and restraint techniques, is in line with ACPO standards.

If we were to accept this amendment, although it would maintain the status quo, there are half a dozen coercive powers which sit in the 2004 and 2007 immigration Acts, where there is no specific reference to the use of reasonable force. Although the use of force is currently implied in these arrest and entry powers, it is our intention that this should be set out explicitly in statute to ensure that there is greater transparency. I previously gave noble Lords the example of an immigration officer trying to safely arrest a person for the specific offence of assaulting him or her, under Section 23 of the UK Borders Act 2007, where it is not expressly stated in the legislation that an immigration officer can use reasonable force to restrain that person in doing so. The extension of the power for immigration officers to use reasonable force beyond that contained in the 1971 and 1999 immigration Acts will ensure that existing powers can be operated effectively and are in step with other law enforcement bodies’ powers and that current enforcement practices are not at risk of legal challenge on the grounds that the ability to use force is not explicitly set out in statute.

The noble Lord asked whether the Home Office monitored the restraint techniques used at Colnbrook removal centre in 2004, which led to the tragic death of a 16 year-old. I cannot answer that question at the Dispatch Box but will write to him and copy the letter to other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate.

With the assurance that we in the Home Office very much value the noble Lord’s input in this area, which reinforces our interest in making sure that these jobs are done in a proper fashion, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, will fell able to withdraw his amendment.