Clause 3

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 6th March 2007.

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Photo of David Davies David Davies Conservative, Monmouth 5:45 pm, 6th March 2007

I recall that earlier today the Minister said that we do not like to lock people up without charge, and there was some discussion as to whether one side of the House or the other prefers locking people up for long periods of time without charge. This discussion is, of course, about something different, because the amendment relates to locking up for longer people who have been found guilty of something, and I am entirely in favour of that.

The Bill is a reflection of a problem that we have in this country, which is that too many people are coming here under false pretences. That prevents us from giving support, which we all agree should be given, to those who come here as asylum seekers fleeing genuine persecution and torture. All hon. Members want to help those people, but it is becoming difficult to do so, because so many other people come here for economic reasons and garb themselves in the mantle of asylum  seekers, when they are in fact economic migrants. When they come here as economic migrants, they do everything in their power to stay here. On occasion, that means absconding, assaulting immigration officers and obstructing the work of immigration officers.

I saw such things happen when I attended a joint raid by immigration officers and police on a farm in Monmouthshire. Before we arrived, the officers predicted that everyone would run and that anyone who was grabbed would prove to be violent. Fortunately, they were slightly wrong on the second point, because although there was a lot of struggling, nobody was assaulted. Everyone ran and tried to get away, however, because they all knew that they had very little to lose.

I tabled these amendments because it is important that we send out a strong message that we are not prepared to tolerate any longer those who come here, work illegally and prevent us from giving aid to genuine asylum seekers. There has been too much of it, and that is also true of assaults on immigration officers. I find it extraordinary that the Bill sets a limit of just 51 weeks on a term of imprisonment, when the Government know full well that under current legislation it takes52 weeks for the automatic deportation procedures to be triggered. Surely, if we support our immigration officers, as we have all said that we do, we, as politicians, should say to them that we will send out the firm message that anyone who assaults them will spend more than 51 weeks in prison and that by doing so they will be responsible for triggering their own automatic deportation orders. We should not be willing to tolerate those who break the rules, which is why I have tabled these amendments, and I hope that hon. Members will see fit to support them.