Clause 40

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 20th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:15 pm, 20th March 2007

This power will assist us in ascertaining or confirming the nationality of persons in order to consider cases liable for deportation, which refers to the hon. Gentleman’s second amendment. It is part of our plans for improving the effectiveness of handling foreign nationals within the criminal justice system and it will affect persons arrested for criminal offences, so that their nationality can be established at an earlier stage. That will be when they first enter the criminal justice system. It will be achieved by immigration officers and the police having the power to search premises for documents relating to nationality or identity where a person has been taken to a police station following their arrest for a criminal offence. It applies to persons who are suspected of not being British citizens and where relevant documents may be found on the premises. Safeguards will be put in place to ensure that that power is not applied disproportionately, and inquiries will be made to see whether the individual is already know to the IND before a search is instigated. Searches will be necessary only where an individual fails to co-operate in establishing his or her identity, or the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that he is not telling the truth. The power of search will be exercised by a constable or an immigration officer only after authorisation by a senior official, who must give written authority for the use of the power. We are proposing to operate a pilot in one or two police areas to test operational details. Any disproportionate impact will be identified by the pilot and addressed.

I can say to the hon. Gentleman in relation to his amendments that the conditions and restrictions contained in clause 40 are intended to ensure that the power to enter premises in order to search for nationality documents is proportionate. Although I think that it is useful to talk about the scope of those powers, and how wide they may or may not be, we feel that it is unnecessary and potentially disproportionate under article 8 of the  European convention on human rights to widen the power to enter and search premises for relevant documents to “any other premises”.