Clause 1

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 6th March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Transport 11:30 am, 6th March 2007

Again, I echo and support the remarks of the hon. Member for Ashford on his amendment and on my amendments. We are attempting to place a little bit more detail in the Bill on what code of practice should apply to immigration officers when they exercise a police function.

I would again like to remind the hon. Members of and refer them to the remarks of Mr. Richard Thomas in our deliberations last week, when he said that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 was first introduced for the very reason that we are proposing now: to give police officers some support and assurance about what their powers were and were not. We are proposing a sizeable extension of immigration officers’ powers; we are asking them to act in a quasi-police position. I know that the point was made on Second Reading, but it is important that the actual code of practice that the immigration officers will work under is well known and is published and in operation before they are asked to exercise those powers.

PACE is relevant because those regulations are tried and tested. We have already had a discussion about the training and when it takes place. As other hon. Members said, there needs to be a clear framework not just for the person who is being dealt with by the immigration officer but for the immigration officers themselves. There needs to be certainty about what powers the officers have and what training they have. We believe that the PACE regulations, which are tried and tested and have the support of all the various people involved, offer the way forward. They may need adaptation; there is no reason why the Minister cannot lay regulations before the House that would set out which provisions were being put in place.

Amendment No. 68, which is also in my name, has already been referred to by the Minister and is about the ability of persons who feel that they have not been properly treated to use the IPCC. I should be interested if the Minister would outline which provisions of the IPCC he proposes to apply to immigration officers. I believe that the use of the IPCC will only occur very rarely; as I said earlier, immigration officers will operate to a high standard. However, when something goes wrong, how someone makes a complaint, how that complaint is dealt with and investigated and how  any necessary action is taken are an important part of the Bill. I hope that the Minister can outline some of the discussions that have already taken place and what provisions from that process will apply. If he does so, we will have made progress on this part of the Bill.