Clause 4

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 6th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:15 pm, 6th March 2007

This is an attempt to probe what appears to be a slightly peculiar weakness in the Bill. The current subsection (1) says that “port” includes an “airport” and a “hoverport”, but not any of the international train stations that we now have in this country. I am genuinely puzzled as to why that is not the case. I feel it particularly personally, since one of the two international train stations is in my constituency and, seriously, is a point at which illegal immigration has been tried a lot. If there is any hint that, owing to bad drafting, oversight or whatever, certain powers have not been applied to international railway stations, that would be bad legislation and we should seek to amend that anyway. However, it would also have a serious effect on the safety of my constituents, so the Minister will understand why I feel so personally, not least because, although we now have the excellent Ashford International station and Waterloo, during the course of this year a third international station is opening at Ebbsfleet in north Kent. I suspect, Mr. Chairman, that you and other members of the Committee may not be as familiar with it as I am, but it is in the middle of nowhere. If one wanted to abscond—suspecting that nobody would see one fleeing for a few hours—Ebbsfleet would be quite a good place to do so.

There are many arguments for ensuring that all the powers, controls and legislation that apply in all our ports and airports apply at the international railway stations as well. As the Minister will be aware, the situation is becoming ever more serious, despite the fact that the Sangatte camp in Calais was got rid of a few years ago. That camp was there specifically for people trying to come to this country illegally—that was its only purpose, ever. The last Home Secretary but two, I think, was successful in persuading the French Government to dismantle the camp, which was a good thing. Unfortunately, the mayor of Calais is now bringing it back in a slightly disguised form and, once again, increasing numbers of people are gathering at the channel ports to try their luck getting through the channel tunnel.

One can therefore assume that the trains that stop at the international stations are once again becoming vulnerable to that kind of attack, with people trying to use them in one way or another to get into this country. Some of the instances have been horrific. There have been cases of people clinging to the bottom of the trains as they come through the channel tunnel. Anything that discourages people from doing something so unbelievably dangerous would save lives as well as making  our borders more secure. It is important not to underestimate the importance of trains as a medium for international travel these days. They are likely to become more important and, sadly, more a target of those who seek to get into this country illegally. The purpose of amendments Nos. 43 to 45 is simply to ensure that the protections that the Minister regards as necessary at ports and airports are also available at international railway stations.