Clause 1

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 6th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 11:00 am, 6th March 2007

As you observed earlier, Mr. Illsley, it may seem that some of the debate has already taken place. Amendment No. 34 is about the vital issue of training the designated immigration officers who will be given the extra powers. It specifies that the regulations that we want to add to the clause should be published no less than six months before the commencement of clause 1 of the Bill. The interaction of the commencement of various provisions of the Bill, and the ability of the public and those who are particularly concerned with this to scrutinise it, seems to me particularly important. Too often—this is a wider point than the one that I just made about parliamentary scrutiny—important regulations are consulted on over the summer or at Christmas, which makes it extremely difficult for those who want to contribute to do so in a coherent way. Heaven forfend the cynical suggestion that that is precisely why that tends to happen.

Amendment No. 34 would require the Secretary of State to specify the qualifications and training requirements of the designated immigration officers before the Bill comes into force. Over the past half hour, the Minister will have observed that I have said how important many people consider that to be. For example, in evidence that we took last week, Mr. Richard Thomas made the point that there are not enough trained officers to do the new jobs. I am sure that the Minister is aware that the training of the new officers will be crucial in deciding whether the Bill has a positive effect. The first time that a badly trained and badly prepared officer makes a mistake using the new powers, the wrath of many people will be brought down on the head of the Minister and, indeed, of the Home Secretary. The Minister and the Government therefore have an interest in ensuring that the training of designated officers is as good as it can be.

The problem is that substantial powers are being granted, but we cannot tell from the Bill what they will be. It is not unreasonable for Parliament to know about the calibre of the people being granted the extra powers and the training that they will receive. As I have said, those who suffer at the hands of an ill-trained officer will certainly be angry. Turning that around, however, it is important for the House to do its duty by immigration officers as well, because they will find themselves in potentially violent and dangerous situations. We must insist that they are adequately trained for the job that they are being asked to do.