Clause 3

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

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

I, too, associate myself with many of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Monmouth. It is right and appropriate that when we ask our public servants to place themselves in harm’s way and to undertake a difficult job with the professionalism that we see day in, day out in our immigration service, we should also send clear signals backed by sanctions should violence be exercised against them. However, I shall highlight a number of small issues that suggest that the hon. Gentleman ought to withdraw his amendment. Of course, a longer debate will follow in a few weeks’ time, when we reach the clause relating to automatic deportation, so we will have an opportunity to come back to this.

I want to make two points. First, the offences set out in clause 3(1) include not only assault, but absconding and obstructing. The effect of the amendment would be to ensure automatic deportation, even for someone who has absconded and also for someone who has simply obstructed an immigration officer in the exercise of their power. If an individual who has been asked where they came from simply replies, “I’m not going to tell you anything”, it could be deemed to be obstruction. Under these amendments, that would result in automatic deportation. I accept that many of us in the Committee would see that as an entirely appropriate response, but we may run into arguments about proportionality slightly further downstream.

Secondly, the amendments would apply to a British citizen, which is obviously problematic. As someone who was born in Liverpool, I would see no problems in being deported back there, but the implementation and execution of such sanctions could raise problems. By way of reassurance for the hon. Gentleman, I shall make three arguments.

First, the proposed provisions on automatic deportation later in the Bill will not apply simply to those individuals who have been sentenced to12 months’ imprisonment, because they will also apply to individuals who have committed an offence listed in section 72 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Furthermore, they will apply to individuals who have been recommended for deportation by the court and individuals who are deemed non-conducive to the public good by the Home Secretary.

There are a number of other ways to secure the outcome that the hon. Gentleman seeks, which is, perhaps, a useful debate that we can have when we reach the relevant clauses. It is still open to the sentencing court to recommend somebody for deportation, if they have committed an offence of assault, but to cast the sanctions so widely as to encompass both those who abscond and those who obstruct might be going slightly too far. I am happy to return to that point in our debate on automatic deportation.

Secondly, the sanctions that we have proposed are very much in line with the sanctions that have been implemented to cover assaults on other public services in similar lines of work. There are, of course, a number of different definitions of assault—for example, common assault in common law—and there are a number of offences under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The sanctions vary, depending on the severity of the assault. I would be happy to write to members of the Committee on that point, if that would be helpful.