Clause 28

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister of State (Home Office) (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality) 4:45 pm, 15th March 2007

I think that the amendment that was tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Hertsmere is No. 59, which says:

“Condition 3 is that the person is convicted of an offence liable to imprisonment, the commission of which took place when the person did not have valid leave to remain in the United Kingdom.’.

I understand, however, that there are a lot of amendments in this group.

I am less convinced than the hon. Gentleman that article 8 would kick in as a protection and I agree that, under my own provisions, if the sentence were for longer than 12 months there would indeed be automatic deportation. However, I do not think that there would be a court that, on review of the facts of that case, would necessarily hand down such a sentence.

I was also grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point about administrative removal, which is, of course, important. That is because against administrative removal, the right to appeal is out-of-country; to come back in, one would obviously require entry clearance.

The point about suspended and consecutive sentences was one of the most important parts of the debate this afternoon. The examples of offences that were given were all offences that would have been captured by section 72 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and therefore would have resulted in automatic deportation. The argument about suspended sentences comes back to some of the points made by my neighbour, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley. We want to try to retain the link between serious offences and automatic deportation.

However, the issue with consecutive sentences is different. The hon. Member for Hertsmere was quite right to question me quite closely about this matter when I gave oral evidence to the Committee at the beginning of our deliberations. The issue with consecutive sentences is this: if somebody commits a series of offences that accumulate, should there be automatic deportation or  should there be a more flexible process of consideration by the Secretary of State, with an in-country right of appeal? There is no question whether someone is facing deportation; they do face deportation. The path is simply different. The reason we propose the latter course is that it is difficult to define in the Bill the period over which the offences might be committed. For example, someone may have committed an offence when he or she was 15 or 16; for the sake of argument, let us say that the person was 18. The individual may have been born in this country after 1981, grown up here, and then have committed an offence 20 or 30 years later.Under these provisions, that would result in automatic deportation.

I do not dispute the fact that that individual should face the prospect of automatic deportation, but I think the force of the automatic deportation provisions may be the wrong approach and risk an injustice, which would be unwise. The protection of an in-country right of appeal may also be important in order to provide that the Secretary of State does not get it wrong. The point is simply that the period is difficult to stipulate and the number of offences committed within that period is difficult to set in stone. Again, I am not in a very different place from the hon. Member for Hertsmere, because his real concern is about serial offenders or recidivists.

A different way to tackle that problem is by amending section 72 of the 2002 Act. That Act contains an order-making power, so it would not be difficult for the Government to amend the section 72 list and introduce changes. I was interested that the hon. Gentleman included burglary in the crimes he mentioned, because that is already on the list. It is a faster, more appropriate way to tackle the problem that he highlighted. The problem of defining the time window in which the offences are committed is so difficult that it may warrant a different process for considering automatic deportation.

I think I have picked up most of the points that were made except the one that was raised by ILPA, cited by the hon. Member for Ashford, which was concerned that we might be locking people up indefinitely. There are, of course, the usual protections under the European convention on human rights. We cannot lock people up indefinitely; the IAT—the immigration appeal tribunal—takes a pretty stiff view of that and looks for the immediate prospect of deportation and removal.