Clause 20

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of John Hemming John Hemming Liberal Democrat, Birmingham, Yardley 2:00 pm, 15th March 2007

There is a slight difference between the two Opposition parties on the responsibilities of a UK border police, and, more substantially, on whether there should be a UK border police.

Earlier, evidence from Migrationwatch was referred to in respect of an organisational matter. I would like to quote from a report by Sir John Wheeler in 2002 about airport security. Obviously, there are several issues at ports. Security is one, in the sense of terrorist attacks on ports, but there are also responsibilities in respect of immigration. My party’s argument is that there is merit in having an organisational structure whereby a group of people under one management structure are responsible for such issues.

Paragraph 3.32 of the Wheeler report states:

“Although national co-ordination between the border agencies has improved, there is clearly room for better co-ordination between the agencies on the ground.”

Paragraph 4.18 states:

“It is widely held within the airport security community that greater clarity is needed around the role of the uniformed police, at both designated and non-designated airports”,

and paragraph 4.19 states:

“Statements of Service Provision have not guaranteed the co-operative working which ought to characterise policing at the UK’s major airports”,

and so on. The rest is not particularly important.

The report deals with security at airports. I am told that four police forces are involved in policing at Heathrow airport—I have not worked out exactly  which four they are—as well as the railway transport police, because Heathrow has railway and tube stations. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the immigration people are also there.

I refer hon. Members to a study that examined a similar issue in Liverpool, where several different agencies were dealing with an area. A decision was made to place everybody in the same building, although their management structures were different. That is a sort of halfway house—it is a move in the right direction—but, frankly, if one is to get proper co-operation on all the security issues at a border, the management structure must be much simpler. Obviously, airports are not physically the edge of the country, but, from the point of view of people coming in, they are, in essence, the border. The Government are making a mistake in not trying to simplify the management structure.

That situation at Heathrow, where there are five different police forces as well as all the other agencies that have been referred to, is a mistake. There is not necessarily any great merit in dwelling at length on how one handles the process once someone gets into the country. My party argues that they are the responsibility of the ordinary police, but the Conservative position is that they should be the responsibility of the border police. Regardless, from a management perspective, managing a single border force would allow a far better job to be done.

We discussed previously what would happen if somebody were to get past the immigration officer. Does everyone else say, “No, that is not my job, it is the designated immigration officer’s job to chase that person”? Do they allow that person, huffing and puffing, to go past four different police forces, the railway police, HMRC and the security services because it is the immigration person’s job and under the law only they can do it? That is a mistake. On that basis, we support new clause 4, but obviously with amendment (a).