Clause 1

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

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister of State (Home Office) (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality) 11:30 am, 6th March 2007

I start by reassuring the hon. Member for Ashford that no one on the Committee shares his daughter’s analysis, although she might have a degree of insight that we do not. However, we are following his argument with great attention to detail and he made it with much thought and insight.

That said, I am very sympathetic to the ambitions of the amendments and I hope that my words will provide reassurance sufficient for hon. Members to see fit not to press them. Amendments Nos. 37, 67 and 68 effectively would provide for three things to happen: for the introduction of a code of practice subject to consultation with stakeholders, for designated officers to conform to PACE, and for them to be referable, as it were, to the IPCC. The points with which I have particular sympathy are twofold. First, it is essential that operational guidance is in place, that immigration officers understand the role that they are expected to play and that the public can see what kind of guidance we are putting in place.

Secondly, it is important that that operational guidance is discussed at length with stakeholders in order to get what is often very valuable advice from organisations such as the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, ACPO and the Police Standards Unit, and from trade unions, particularly the Public and Commercial Services Union, which have to bear on the decision. The operational guidance that we propose to put in place will be discussed with the immigration service, ACPO, the Police Standards Unit, the mainline staff of the IND, and trade unions. It will also be shared and discussed with the IND’s wider group of stakeholders, from whose advice we profit daily. I am delighted to say that that stakeholder group includes ILPA. As the hon. Member for Ashford said, that organisation is in daily, if not hourly contact with many of the consequences of the immigration system. Its advice is often extremely helpful and we are grateful for it.

Therefore, the guidance that we draw up, on the basis of that consultation with stakeholders, is and must be publicly available. It is vital that it be subject to public scrutiny and to the degree of transparency to which I alluded earlier. My only concern about the amendments is that they might impose, through the parliamentary process, delays, and administrative and regulatory burdens, when refreshing guidance quickly enough to take account of best practice as it is developed on the front line.

I offer two or three points by way of reassurance. If oversight is not to be provided by a parliamentary scrutiny process, another form of scrutiny must take its place. That said, it is important to re-emphasise this point: we are asking immigration officers not to supplant, but to support the police. That is why we have stated in the Bill that it is important that immigration officers summon a police constable as soon as is reasonably practicable, in order, where necessary, to make arrests, as well as to conduct investigations. We are not asking immigration officers to conduct investigations, which is why we do not think that it is appropriate to subject immigration officers to the provisions in PACE.

If immigration officers, as a matter of course in all their activities, were subject to PACE, we would of course have to introduce PACE facilities at all our ports. For example, we would have to introduce recording facilities and many of the other protections. That might be a step too far for many private sector operators at ports, but the Committee can be reassured that we are not extending the orbit and remit of immigration officers to such a dramatic extent that PACE protections would be important.