I speak in support of the amendment in my name, amendment. No 54, but I also support that of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth. My amendment’s purpose is to probe a little more into one exception to what is termed automatic deportation, which is exception 3, where
“the removal of the foreign criminal from the United Kingdom in pursuance of a deportation order would breach rights of the foreign criminal under the Community treaties”.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford has just made some interesting comments about the concept of automatic deportation. The Bill is being presented to us, rhetorically at least, as one that would allow for the automatic deportation of foreign criminals who have committed offences resulting in a sentence of imprisonment of more than 12 months. Setting aside our previous debate on the Government’s interesting interpretation of 12 months imprisonment, there is the question of how big a hole is left by the subtraction of the exceptions contained in clause 29, because it seems that quite a substantial number of foreign criminals who are sentenced to 12 months imprisonment will fall within the exceptions stated there. The two most important, for these purposes, are exceptions 1 and 3. As I have said, my amendment relates to exception 3, but we also have exception 1, where somebody cannot be deported where it would result in a breach of their rights under the European convention on human rights. Given that one of those is the right to family life under article 8 of the convention, one suspects that that particular right under the convention would apply to quite a number of people who were convicted in the circumstances that I just described.
On top of that, all the obligations under the refugee convention would apply to somebody who has claimed asylum, or who is minded to do so following their arrest. Then, on top of those two exceptions, there is the one where deportation would place the United Kingdom in breach of European Community treaties. In this case, it would apply to all foreign criminals whose foreign country is a member country of the European economic area. Reading the Library briefing on this point, we are told that
“in practice EEA nationals and their family members will not be affected by most of the automatic deportation provisions because of the limited circumstances in which European law allows them to be deported”.
Rather than ask how big a hole is created by that exception, I am tempted to ask whether there are any circumstances in which EEA nationals will be deported. Do we simply subtract from the automatic deportation provisions all EEA nationals, together with all the people who can claim rights under the refugee convention or the European convention on human rights, including the right to family life? If one takes all those foreign criminals out of the picture, I submit to the Committee and the world that the term “automatic” is rather a misnomer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford rightly said.