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

On the principle that politicians should not micro-manage professions for which they have responsibility, I would not seek to specify the exact balance of training. However, my hon. Friend has made the valuable point that training should be relevant to the day-to-day jobs of immigration officers and, indeed, of all front-line staff in the public service, who should be adequately trained to deal with the situations in which they are likely to find themselves. I  shall resist the temptation to say that training should be provided by Centrex, because it closed a police training college in my constituency.

Amendment No. 34 asks for, among other things, the advanced publication of the regulations, which is not new or unusual. It will allow this House, immigration officers themselves, the relevant trade unions and other interested parties to know what officers are being asked to do and how they will be trained to do it, and to seek to improve the regulations. Liberty has raised a vital point: for the first time, immigration officers will be given quite extensive powers over British citizens, who will be brought under the control of the immigration service. Such powers will be even more sensitive than other immigration powers, particularly when they involve detention. We have had a mild debate already about the difference between detention and arrest, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere that for those on the wrong end of it, it might involve a distinction without a difference.

There is particular concern about how immigration officers will be trained to deal with such matters, because there is no need for the suspected offending to be related to border control. Liberty has argued that if the powers are to be created, they should be limited to situations in which the offence is concerned with immigration. I do not agree with that point, because such powers would be too narrow, but it illustrates the valuable point about the sensitivity arising from the extra powers. There may well be British nationals involved in, for example, people trafficking, and extra powers will clearly be extremely welcome in such areas. However, I invite the Minister to consider the absolute centrality of good training for the successful application of these new powers not only to those arriving in this country from abroad, but to the millions of British citizens who travel through our ports and airports every year and who, on returning to this country, will be going past immigration officers who have been given these powers.