Clause 1

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 6th March 2007.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Transport 10:45 am, 6th March 2007

I welcome what other Members have said about your organisation, Mr. Illsley, and that of the Officers of the House in what we did last week. It was a very valuable and useful process that we can build on in our more formal deliberations.

I support the amendment. I believe that, as the Minister said, we have extended the powers of immigration officers considerably over the past few years, and the Bill builds on that process, recognising as it does that the work of police officers at ports has become increasingly busy. If they are to concentrate on some of the more important or pressing issues such as trafficking and drug running, the use of immigration officers provides a useful addition to their ability to stop people. However, it is important that there is a very clear framework within which these officers work to give them certainty about their powers and their role. I thought that the earlier intervention on that particular matter was quite important, because if an officer uses force inappropriately, they can be subject to some sort of sanction through the courts. It is therefore important that the powers that officers have are set out clearly and that before they take on those powers, they are given proper training.

I would like to refer Members to the comments made by Richard Thomas last week:

“Our concern is that from the 1999, 2002 and 2004 Acts, there have been extended powers to immigration officers. What has not gone on at the same time has been the support provisions that go  with that for training officers and ensuring that they have access to the relevant Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 training.”——[Official Report, UK Borders Public Bill Committee, 27 February 2007; c. 39.]

That is very clear. We have had three immigration Acts that have extended immigration powers considerably. The immigration and nationality directorate and the Government have so far failed to give the necessary training that they have promised in the past. I appreciate what the Minister has said and I look forward to seeing the amendments that he tables. However, if we are to rebuild the immigration and nationality directorate as being fair, effective, transparent and trusted, as set out in the review, we must ensure that training is built in at the start of the process, not as an afterthought. That has not happened before.

I appreciate what the hon. Member for Ashford said about officers who are designated to act in a quasi-police position. It should not be the case that when there is pressure at a port someone without any training can be designated for that purpose. The six-month stipulation would give certainty; it would provide a period during which training can take place and ensure that people gain experience that comes only with using the powers over a considerable time. Police community support officers who operate on our streets get far more training than is given to immigration officers. I am happy to support the proposal, but I hope that the Minister, too, will table amendments.