Clause 1

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 6th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 11:15 am, 6th March 2007

Thank you, Mr. Illsley. The most effective heckle I ever received was from my three-year-old daughter, who, at a constituency function, asked in that piercing voice that only three-year-olds have, “Mummy, why is Daddy being so boring?” I have long experience of heckling from the young.

I shall refer briefly to amendments Nos. 67 and 68, but I shall leave the hon. Member for Rochdale to speak to them in detail. Amendment. No. 37 would ensure a proper level of consultation in relation to a properly published code of practice for when the new powers are in operation. I share Liberty’s concern that the Bill and the explanatory notes make no reference to any sort of public accountability or redress for people who feel aggrieved or have complaint. We are all waiting agog for the proposals for the new regulator and the amendments to them, as we will have something against which to test them.

The code of practice would be hugely important, not only for potentially aggrieved members of the public, but for the designated immigration officers themselves, particularly in the early months and years of the operation of the new powers. The officers will want to know that they are acting correctly, that they are not pushing boundaries and that what they are doing would not be regarded as unacceptable by their political masters, let alone by the general public. At present, this area of the Bill is a bit vague and therefore inadequate to achieve what the Minister hopes.

We have suggested in the amendment a number of bodies that should be properly consulted: the immigration service, which goes without saying; the director general of the IND; the relevant trade unions, which I hope would commend the amendment to some Government Members; representatives of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, who spend their daily lives in contact with the effects of the actions of immigration officers; and such other persons as he thinks fit, as it is not an exhaustive list. It would be foolish to try to put in the Bill an exhaustive list of those who should be consulted before a code of practice is issued.

I think that the Minister will recognise that the issue is so important that it is worth having a proper consultation and, equally, a proper code of practice. Without it, one can foresee all sorts of obvious pitfalls for the legislation and those who have to implement it. I hope that the Minister will cast a sympathetic eye over the amendment.

I will leave amendments Nos. 67 and 68, which are grouped with my amendment, to the hon. Member for Rochdale to speak on at length. I would merely make the point that, while the amendments might well achieve some good things, I suspect that the hon. Gentleman would agree that they would be unnecessary were the proposals before us for a properly integrated border police force. That is what his party and mine—indeed, almost everyone else in the country—want to see, leaving the Minister and the Government on their own in not wishing to see such a force.