New Clause 18 - Responsibilities of masters of vessels, etc

Part of Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 27th January 2004.

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Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism) 3:45 pm, 27th January 2004

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman because he is trying to think beyond the scope of the Bill, consider problems and take the

opportunity of new legislation to deal with them. I applaud that spirit, but with regard to initial provisions of the new clause, we already have sufficient powers, and the later provisions address problems that are not of a high priority in the Bill.

Paragraph 27(2) of schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 allows the Secretary of State to make an order requiring captains of ships or aircraft arriving in the UK to furnish to immigration officers a passenger list and particulars of members of the crew of the ship or aircraft. The relevant order to the legislation is the Immigration (Particulars of Passengers and Crew) Order 1972, as amended. It states that, if so required by an immigration officer, the captain of a ship or aircraft must furnish to that officer a list of the names and nationalities of all passengers arriving on the ship or aircraft. In the case of a ship, the captain must furnish to an immigration officer, within 12 hours of the arrival of the ship, a return in the form attached to the order containing particulars of all members of the crew arriving on the ship. In the case of an aircraft, if so required by an immigration officer, the captain must furnish to that officer a list of the names, dates of birth and nationalities of all crew members as soon as is practicable after arrival. The order has also been extended to apply similar provisions to trains arriving in the UK.

A captain who fails without reasonable excuse to furnish that information when required to do so commits an offence under section 27A(1) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1971, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than level five on the standard scale or a maximum of six months' imprisonment, or to both.

We discussed paragraph 27(b) of schedule 2 to the 1971 Act in relation to carriers. The paragraph allows immigration officers to request carriers to provide ''passenger information''. That applies to ships or aircraft that have arrived or are expected to arrive in the UK and to ships or aircraft that have departed or are expected to depart from the UK. It has also been modified to apply to trains. As Members will know, because we talked about it earlier today, a request may be made in relation to a particular ship or aircraft of the carrier, to particular ships or aircraft of the carrier, or to all the carrier's ships or aircraft. A request must be in writing, and it must specify the date on which it ceases to have effect, which must be no more than six months from the date on which it is made. It also specifies what is meant by ''passenger information'', although we will of course amend that as a result of today's discussion.

Existing legislation therefore covers the provision of information covered in subsection (1) on a request basis, and failure to comply with such a request is an offence. To date, no need has been identified to require the information on any basis other than by request. The extra burden that the new clause would place on the master of a vessel would not be proportionate to any defined immigration control need, nor would it be proportionate to prevent a vessel departing until

specifically authorised to do so by an immigration officer because of the consequent loss of time and money.

Equally, it is not proportionate or necessary to grant the master of a vessel authority over passengers or crew until he has reported to an immigration officer. Again, that would meet no identified immigration control need. The problem is not that people do not report to an immigration officer, with or without documents, but that they do not have their documents when they claim asylum. That is the sort of immigration need that we have been discussing today and throughout our consideration of the Bill. That is the problem that we are trying to solve. Therefore, we do not need to legislate to give masters of vessels authority over passengers and crew. I am not even sure that it would be practical.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be assured that the Bill already provides us with the necessary legislation, and that he will be persuaded to withdraw the new clause.