Clause 25

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:15 pm, 15th March 2007

I beg to move amendment No. 124, in clause 25, page 13, line 29, after second ‘the’, insert ‘attempted’.

This amendment continues our attempt to inject some more toughness into areas of the Bill that we think need it. Its effect would be to amend the  Immigration Act 1971—an Act from an era when Governments used to pass one immigration Act per Parliament—to create an offence of attempting illegal entry into the United Kingdom. It would significantly toughen the measures on facilitation in this clause.

It is not a matter of dispute across the Floor of the House that we wish to toughen up the laws against those who deal in the human misery of trafficking and the exploitation that it causes. I know that we shall consider those under later clauses. The amendment seeks to extend the reach of the law to those who try to help others to enter the UK illegally but are unsuccessful. It is clearly a common feature of parts of the criminal code that attempting a crime, as well as actually committing it, constitutes a crime in itself. Given that we all agree on the seriousness of the offences concerning people trafficking, we think that it is worth while to make this addition to the Bill.

I suspect that we all know from constituency cases—if not, we have all read about it—that it is common for people who do not get into Britain the first time to try again in later years. Around the world, Britain’s borders have a reputation for being porous and it is thought to be relatively easy to get into this country. That acts as encouragement. Any steps that we can take in the Bill to create countervailing factors that will discourage people from making multiple attempts to get into this country are worth doing, not least because we all know that many of the illegal people here—probably about three quarters, which is the number we all work on, although the Minister can correct me—have been trafficked. Therefore, there is a large criminal business behind this sphere of activity. Anything that we can do—not only to send signals but to take practical effects—to minimise that would benefit not just us but many of the victims of people trafficking.

At the moment the traffickers will get away if the attempt is unsuccessful. Clearly that is wrong and we should try to stop them. Indeed, in other parts of the Bill the Government are taking welcome measures to reduce the attractiveness of people trafficking, which is the fastest growing global crime; it is up there with gun-running and drug-running, and is growing faster than either of them. I support Government measures to crack down, and here is one more thing that would be useful, another tool in the armoury. Therefore, I hope that the Government will look with some sympathy on the amendment.