The Bill gives police and immigration officers the power to enter and search properties for nationality documents, although that power is limited to where the suspect was arrested or to
“premises occupied or controlled by the individual”.
The amendment seeks to extend that scope to premises where a constable or an immigration officer “reasonably believes” that the documents might be held. So its purpose is to help the Government and help the enforcement procedures that will be instituted by the Bill, by granting the police and immigration services a modest extension of powers. As the Minister will be aware, we wish that there was not a distinction in this case between the police and the immigration services; but that is a debate that we have had and will no doubt return to.
What is particularly important about the amendment is that it is at least possible, and in the case of organised illegal immigration it is arguably probable, that people would keep nationality documents away from the place that the police would be most likely to find them. We are aware that the majority of those people who come here illegally have been trafficked here; therefore, they will have knowledge of the criminal gangs that are trafficking them. I think that in previous debates we have been in agreement on the principle that the organisers should be the main focus of police investigations. It seems quite likely that, for instance, a collection of passports or other documents might well be held on some other premises by the person who is most intimately involved with the trafficking operation.
One could easily envisage huge frustration on the part of investigating officers if they find that they are only allowed to search some premises when they reasonably suspect that all the evidence is being kept on other premises. That is not a theoretical construction. It is easy to imagine such a situation. There are other situations that one can easily imagine in which a suspect reveals something under interrogation that would send police officers in another direction, looking in other areas for the relevant piece of evidence. The amendment seeks an extension of powers; we are not universally in favour of such extensions, but this one seems to be practical and useful.
Amendment No. 152 would mean that individuals who have had their documents seized might be subject to deportation under the Asylum and Immigration Act 1999. The purpose of the amendment is to clarify whether those who are arrested and potentially charged under the provisions of the Bill are subject to deportation procedures from the UK by virtue of having committed crimes that are covered by the clause. It is a probing amendment because I assume that that would be the intent of the clause, but it is not clear to us that that would be the effect. I should be grateful for clarification.