Clause 28

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:30 pm, 15th March 2007

Exactly so. I am particularly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying his position.

I shall return to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere carried out an extremely good forensic examination of the way in which the Government’s position on deportation has oscillated, not just from Home Secretary to Home Secretary, but between the existing one and the legislation before us. However, I seek always to be kind to the Home Secretary. The phrase that makes an extraordinary appearance in clause 28—“automatic deportation”—should not be laid at his door. I think that that phrase was used originally by the Prime Minister in an unguarded moment at Prime Minister’s questions. Many of the difficulties and knots in which the Government have entangled themselves ever since have resulted from an attempt to justify the use of that phrase by the Prime Minister. Nothing in the Bill suggests that anything will be automatic.

In that regard, the remarks of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association are very relevant. On the provisions to which the amendments refer, it said:

“These provisions do not address the problem, which came to light last year—that IND had not been making decisions in respect of foreign criminals, who were then released from prison into the community without any consideration of whether a deportation order should be made. The Bill refers to automatic deportation, which is a misnomer. Deportation will not follow automatically. Officials will still have to apply the provisions, and if officials do not do so no deportation will follow.”

That is clear, and to a large extent unarguable. ILPA continued:

“These provisions constitute an abrogation of responsibility on the part of the Secretary of State. He is empowered to make a deportation order, but currently has discretion not to do so if deportation is not justified on the particular facts of the individual case. As drafted, the Bill would remove the Secretary of State's discretion”.

Again, I am sure that that point appeals to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley. I hope that the Minister will address it when he responds to the amendments.

ILPA went on to make a point that I feel very strongly about:

“These provisions effectively allow for indefinite detention”.

To a large extent, that is what we are now witnessing. Not unreasonably, the Government have reacted to a crisis—foreign criminals simply being let out—that led  to the sacking of a Home Secretary. Now we are just trying to lock them up anywhere. Indeed, only yesterday, we saw that the Government are putting such people in immigration detention centres. At places such as Harmondsworth and Campsfield, violence and serious disorder has ensued. That is not only bad in itself, but bad for the future operation of detention estates.