Clause 29

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 20th March 2007.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister of State (Home Office) (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality) 11:45 am, 20th March 2007

The individual may face risks, to which children might be especially vulnerable, that are not detected by convention rights. If we are deporting children, we need to be satisfied that there are adequate protections in place in order to avoid deporting a vulnerable person, even though I accept that the individual may have put themselves beyond the sympathy of an ordinary-thinking person because of the offences that they have committed in this country. However, we have obligations to children that merit case-by-case consideration. That is the important point. We are not taking young people or children outside the ambit of deportation. We are maintaining the sanction of deportation; all we are retaining is the ability to consider that case by case. That does not diminish our ambition or intention to deport young people who have committed a serious breach of the law in this country.

I want to turn to the points raised by the hon. Member for Hertsmere, because those too are important. Effectively, we have had to fit the Bill within the framework of European legislation, within which we find ourselves today. The result is that, for EEA nationals, we have to consider cases case by case. As the hon. Member knows—he might be more familiar with European legislation than I am—that imposes certain tests. Those who have been resident in this country for under five years, for example, have to be considered by the Secretary of State through the lens of whether their deportation can take place on the grounds of public policy or public security.

I will be open with the Committee—it is harder to deport EEA nationals than non-EEA nationals. However, the situation has the upside of our ability to negotiate, for example, prisoner transfer agreements between European states. We can, therefore, move European prisoners back to prisons in their own countries substantially easier than those from Jamaica, parts of Africa and parts of the less developed world. That is important because about a third of foreign national prisoners are from an EEA country; I will be corrected by my officials if I am wrong.

Our ability to deport EEA nationals is constrained. There is the upside of prisoner transfer agreements which allow us to move prisoners back to prisons in their country of origin. We took the power to remove the need for prisoner consent for those transfer  agreements in the Police and Justice Act 2006. [Interruption.] Sorry, the percentage of EEA nationals in prison is about 5 per cent. of foreign national prisoners.

The framework that we have sought to posit the Bill in, is that which comes from our membership of the EU—a deal done some time ago—and that provided by the transposition of the free movement of persons directive into immigration regulations in 2006.