Clause 1

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 6th March 2007.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister of State (Home Office) (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality) 12:00 pm, 6th March 2007

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He anticipates some of my remarks. The caveat that I would place on them is that the powers relate to people who are liable to arrest or who immigration officers think might be so liable. I would expect the exercise of those powers with regard to British children to be rare. The detention of asylum-seeking children is a matter for a different area of legislation.

Nevertheless, it is important to sketch out a response to some of the issues raised by the hon. Members for Ashford and for Rochdale. Let me echo some of the points that were made by Stuart Hyde, the director of enforcement, in last week’s evidence session. First, the IND does indeed have specially trained staff at ports of entry to deal with minors. That is important. Secondly, comprehensive guidance is in place; I shall be happy to ensure that copies of it are available in the Library. A good example of the kind of work that is done at ports is what happens at Heathrow, which accounts for nearly a third of passenger movements in and out of the UK and where a joint team of immigration staff and Metropolitan police child protection officers operates.

Our ambitions in that area are well illustrated by the fact that we work with airlines nationally and internationally to draw up best practice on the carriage of children. The immigration service was instrumental in bringing forward changes to immigration rules that required parents to demonstrate that adequate arrangements were in place for the travel, reception and care of children visiting the United Kingdom.

My third point cuts to the heart of the debate about section 11. It would be slightly unusual if we were to make one particular class of officer in the immigration service subject to the provisions of section 11. Despite what I said about the differences between the police—as the hon. Member for Ashford said, they are already subject to section 11—and the immigration service, there has to be a serious debate about whether the IND should be subject to the same provisions. The debate should not be on whether we ensure that a designated class of immigration officer is subject to section 11, but on whether IND as a whole should be subject to it. I hope that the Committee will draw some reassurance from the fact that the wider debate is taking place, and that discussions are ongoing between Jeremy Oppenheim, the IND children’s champion, and the Children’s Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, on how IND can, as a corporate body, can be subject to the provisions of section 11. Hon. Members should be able to draw some reassurance, even if it is not complete, from those remarks.