Clause 44

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 20th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:30 pm, 20th March 2007

I find that explanation quite extraordinary. It is not clear why that convention has built up—if it has built up. I confess that in my 10 years in this House I have never heard that explanation for delaying commencement. I fully accept that the Minister will have been given that advice—although I sense that he is taking it with extreme reluctance.

It seems that the courts could put prosecutions in jeopardy because an offence had not been sufficiently publicised. I am not a lawyer, I am glad to say, but one of the clichÃ(c)s to which I cling is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. There will be huge tracts of the statute book about which Committee members know nothing, but none of us would be able to say “Well, the prosecution should not happen because I did not know I was breaking the law.” In this instance, the people who will be terribly inconvenienced by discovering that they were breaking a law that they did not know existed will presumably be people traffickers. Inconveniencing them should be fairly low on any sensible person’s list of priorities.

I find the Minister’s explanation extraordinary. Nevertheless, I have no wish to jeopardise the prosecution of such people, so I accept the Minister’s advice.