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 James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 10:45 am, 6th March 2007

I join hon. Members in welcoming you to the Committee, Mr. Illsley, for the first part of our formal consideration of the Bill. You were right to call me to order in your initial ruling on the question that I sought to ask the Minister. I had perhaps not sufficiently co-ordinated my question regarding amendment No. 37, to which we will come later, which calls for consultation on the code of conduct to which immigration officers will be subject. I mentioned the word “consultation”, which is dealt with in that amendment.

However, I want to make a different point now, Mr. Illsley. The code of conduct relates to the behaviour of immigration officers; it is the substance of that later amendment and of our debate this morning, which has been a proper debate, with proper questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford and proper answers given by the Minister.

The subject of the debate is the conduct of immigration officers, how they will be designated and how they will exercise their responsibilities in relation to a person who can be detained for up to three hours pending the arrival of police officers. My point now is that we should consider the matter from a slightly different point of view, without taking anything away from the need for immigration officers to have high standards of behaviour in how they use their powers.

I am slightly concerned about the question of guaranteeing the safety of immigration officers, because the Bill gives them a power that may involve the use of reasonable force to detain a person. It does not take a great leap of imagination to realise that there will be situations in which problems give rise to the exercise of that power. As I said, a person who is subject to that power may not see the necessary distinction between being detained and being arrested.  

As a member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, I visited immigration officers carrying out their duties at ports and other places, and I and other hon. Members know that when immigration officers exercise their current powers people can become very heated. I foresee some very heated situations indeed if they have to exercise the power of detention. I want reassurance from the Minister that immigration officers’ safety will be borne in mind and that they will be given the necessary training and equipment to carry out their responsibilities safely.