I shall deal with the amendments in turn. They would effectively apply the process of automatic deportation, so obviating consideration for those individuals who are deemed to be 16 or 17, and shift our proposal that the relevant date is not the date of conviction but the date of the offence. The hon. Member for Hertsmere raised some important questions about EEA nationals.
There are two or three issues that need teasing out here. First, as a matter of Government policy our decision has been to continue with the principles set out in 1993 by a Conservative Minister, Charles Wardle, who told the House that it would be the Government’s policy not to remove people until the age of 18. We have said repeatedly that where there are questions about their age we would not remove an unaccompanied child back to a country until we were satisfied that there were adequate reception arrangements in place. The cut-off date between childhood and adulthood is well discussed in legislation, most recently and powerfully in the Children Act 1989 where the initial starting point is 18.
When one has to deal personally with cases such as that raised by the hon. Member for Reigate and one has to drill into the detail and make decisions about what actions the British Government should take, one’s sympathy for the kind of amendment that the hon. Member for Monmouth proposes grows considerably. My concern would be that, because of the conflict with our policy not to remove children without the guarantee of adequate reception arrangements back in their country of origin, it would entail a consideration of each case individually. Our proposal in this Bill is not to remove the sanction of deportation for individuals in these circumstances, it is simply to retain the flexibility to consider cases on a case-by-case basis so that individual details can be examined rather than to trigger the sanction of automatic issue of deportation orders.