Clause 27

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:30 pm, 15th March 2007

We made it clear in the IND report, “Fair, effective, transparent and trusted: Rebuilding confidence in our immigration system” that we are committed to working with overseas partners to tackle the challenges of global migration, which includes implementing measures to tackle cross-border crime. In that regard, we have ratified two important United Nations protocols: the protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air, and the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, both of which came into force on 11 March 2006. In addition, our intention to sign the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings, to which the hon. Member for Ashford referred, was signalled by the Prime Minister on 22 January. It will build on our strategy to combat human trafficking by providing minimum standards of protection and victim support.

We have always said that we are wholly sympathetic to the objectives behind the Council of Europe convention, which will provide greater support for all victims of trafficking and support the fight against organised immigration crime. We did not want to sign the convention  until we had fully assessed the risk associated with the provisions and how we might implement them safely while maintaining effective immigration control. Signing the convention now means that its implementation can be monitored under the UK action plan on human trafficking, which we will publish in the next few months.

We have already done good work to develop an effective enforcement response to this horrendous crime. Last year, we established the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which will become a central point for the development of police expertise and operational co-operation. We continue to support adult victimsof human trafficking through an investment of£2.4 million in the Poppy project. The scheme provides safe shelter and support to assist in the recovery of adult female victims who have been trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation.

As we have already discussed, trafficking is almost always a form of organised crime and should be dealt with using criminal powers to investigate and prosecute offenders for trafficking and any other criminal activities in which they engage. The 2003 Act introduced wide-ranging offences for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, covering trafficking into, within or out of the UK for sexual exploitation. A further, UK-wide, offence of trafficking for exploitation, which includes trafficking for forced labour and the removal of organs, was introduced by the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. Those offences carry a heavy maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment.

In broad terms, the existing trafficking provisions make it an offence to facilitate arrival in, travel within and departure from the UK of a person whom the facilitator intends to exploit or whom they believe to be likely to be exploited. The offences currently cover acts of facilitation that are committed within the UK and, where the perpetrator is a British national, such acts that are committed outside the UK. The clause will enhance the existing trafficking offences to ensure that they cover acts committed after a person has disembarked but before they have arrived in, or been granted entry to, the UK. That will catch those traffickers who operate within the secure area of our ports, as we discussed during our consideration of the facilitation clauses. The clause will also extend the extraterritorial scope of trafficking offences to cover acts of facilitation that are carried out overseas, irrespective of the nationality of the perpetrator. The clause applies the same extension of scope to trafficking as we have agreed to apply to facilitation.

I should like to bring to the attention of the Committee an amendment that we have tabled in respect of the application of the provisions to Scotland. To the extent that they relate to devolved matters, it is for the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament to decide what approach to take.

Following the introduction of the Bill it was noticed that subsections (1) and (2), which amend the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.)Act 2004, relate to devolved matters in so far as they apply to Scotland. Subsections (3) and (4), which make similar amendments to trafficking offences in the2003 Act, do not apply to Scotland as the provisions of that Act do not extend to Scotland. The application of subsections (1) and (2) to Scotland in the introduction  was an oversight and we will remedy it by tabling an amendment to limit the extent of the provisions to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.