I shall be speaking to the amendments standing in my name and shall also say a few words about the amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth.
We now come to the subject of automatic deportation, as it is termed by the Government. Briefly, to assist the Committee, as the Bill stands, what is described as automatic deportation will generally be triggered when a foreign offender receives a sentence of at least12 months imprisonment. There are other circumstances in which it may be triggered under the clause, when an offence is specified under condition 2, but generallythe trigger mechanism is a sentence of 12 months imprisonment. My amendments are refinements on that, as are the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend. That is the starting point for the debate.
I should say, so as to give the Committee a complete picture, that in the case of sentences of less than 12 months imprisonment or of non-custodial sentences the existing law on deportation remains in place. As I understand it—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—someone who does not set off or come within the ambit of the trigger mechanism of 12 months imprisonment may still be recommended for deportation by a court; or the Home Secretary may decide to deport the person concerned on the grounds that his or her presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good, even if the court has made no recommendation. That is the existing law. The Bill adds to that the category of automatic deportation. That is the difference that the Bill makes.
Amendment No. 58 seeks an additional trigger mechanism in the case of a person who receives a sentence of imprisonment for an offence committed at a time of not having valid leave to be in the United Kingdom; that means, basically, somebody who is an illegal entrant or an overstayer in the United Kingdom and who does not have permission to be in the country. The Committee may remember that I specifically raised that question with Migrationwatch.
I have some sympathy with the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth. He would trigger automatic deportation when a foreign offender receives any sentence of imprisonment, as opposed to what is on the face of the Bill, which is a sentence of 12 months imprisonment or one of the offences specially listed by the Home Secretary. I do not know what the Minister will reply, but whatever else he says, I do not think he will be able to say that my hon. Friend’s amendments are entirely unreasonable, because the Government had the same idea originally. The Committee will remember that there is quite a history as far as the provisions are concerned, from the early part of last year—the Minister winces at that recollection. I do not propose to go over the whole of that history; I will save the Committee that, but I think it highly relevant to the amendment to remember what the then Home Secretary originally said to the House when dealing with the aftermath of the problems—if I may put it that way—over foreign deportations:
“We will consult on whether that presumption should be made statutory through primary legislation”— he was referring to the presumption that deportation would follow, unless there were “special circumstances” where it could not.
“Such a presumption would include all criminals sentenced to imprisonment, all those convicted for an offence listed in an order under section 72 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, all those on the sex offenders register, repeat offenders and, of course, all those recommended for deportation by the sentencing judge. We believe that there is a strong case for extending those proposals to any individual who is convictedof an imprisonable offence, whether or not a sentence of imprisonment was actually given, and we will consult on that too.”—[Official Report, 3 May 2006; Vol. 445, c. 972.]