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Queen’s Speech - Debate (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:22 pm on 21st October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench 6:22 pm, 21st October 2019

My Lords, I want to raise two quite separate issues to the House. I am a member, with two MPs, of the review of sexual exploitation. We heard very disturbing evidence about the border police and the Border Force. There is a difference between entry passengers by air, who are carefully checked, and entry passengers at maritime ports, particularly Dover, where there is little, if any, checking at all. There is a lack of information for border control as to who is travelling. People can just turn up, buy a ticket and get on either the train or the ferry and come to the United Kingdom. There is no advance information.

We were told that Dover was a major route for victims. Albanians are arriving through Holyhead—traffickers and victims—and we know that a number of Albanian gangs are working, very effectively from their point of view, in England. How did they get in? Presumably, by the maritime ports or through St Pancras.

This is a very wide issue, not an EU issue at all. Border control cannot identify those who may be crooks or undesirables without advance information as to who they happen to be. There is a balance between stopping vehicles and interviewing those in cars or lorries and ensuring that queues do not reach for miles and miles. It looks as though the balance is in favour of getting the vehicles through.

There is also a problem with leaving by maritime ports. There are exit checks with the National Border Targeting Centre, but they do not come back in time, and within 45 minutes or so people are on the way to France. As I said, St Pancras is very important for people coming in and going out. There are not necessarily sufficient checks there, although they are better than at the maritime ports. I understand that there was a ministerial oversight team some time last year but, as far as I know, there has been no report and nothing done.

I am co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, and we are very concerned about the entry for sexual exploitation or forced labour of victims coming through one or other of those ports. The Government are committed to a single entry policy for all immigrants.. Will the new policy pay particular attention to the need to intercept foreign crooks and other undesirables, particularly traffickers and the victims of traffickers across borders?

A foreign-national offenders Bill has been announced. Will the Government consult organisations experienced in the field, including the Human Trafficking Foundation, of which I am a vice-chair, so that work to help victims can be strengthened by renewed government efforts on prevention, which has been seriously overlooked?

My second issue is how best to deal with drug and drink addicts who are repeat offenders. There was reference in the Queen’s Speech to rehabilitation. Serial addicts go in and out of prison. In prison, they have access to drugs. Out of prison, they have no money to feed their addiction, so they end up back inside. There are alternatives. I suggest one to the Government, which is a residential clinic. It should be a requirement of probation that people go back to prison if they do not co-operate and stay, so there would be a tough regime. There would be work on the addiction and we would hope for rehabilitation. We would save a lot of money long term. Up front it would be expensive, but cost effective. Would the Government at least consider a pilot scheme? It would be well worth a trial for the benefit of the courts and prisons, which are both clogged up, and to address the high cost of reoffending.