Clause 25

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 9th June 2009.

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Short-term holding facilities

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I rise to confirm whether several issues to do with the clause on short-term facilities have been addressed. When the matter was discussed in the other  place, there were concerns that the facilities could be used to hold people for in excess of seven days. I believe that the flow chart provided by Lord West of Spithead confirms that holding people in one of the short-term holding facilities for more than seven days is not possible. I hope that the Minister will confirm that to be the case.

Another concern was that the facilities were not designed to hold a mix of people—various people, and under varying powers. How will the Minister respond to that concern? Has it been addressed? There was also concern that it was not clear what rules or guidance would apply in respect of the treatment and welfare of people held in such places, particularly if they were being held for differing reasons. I hope that the Minister can give some clarification on those concerns, which spilled over from the debate in the House of Lords.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I want to pick up one point made by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington about the use of holding facilities. Can the Minister clarify at how many different ports and airports such facilities as could reasonably hold someone for up to seven days are available? I ask because I recently visited Dover, where there is a brand new suite of interviewing facilities. I am sure that the Minister has visited it as well—he probably opened it. That suite is state of the art, but even Dover—unless elsewhere in the port—did not appear to have the facilities to hold people for a long period. From my visits, I am conscious that one possibly could at Heathrow.

That would be useful to know, in particular in an era when we can expect that increasing numbers of those seeking to enter the country illegally, possibly serious criminals or even terrorists, will seek out routes into this country that are not the obvious ones—not the big ports and airports. Possibly, we shall need to have decent holding facilities—both secure and decent for people to be held in—at more places than just the big, obvious airports or ports.

It would be helpful to the Committee to know what state we are in at the moment. Is it just Heathrow—possibly not even Dover—where that can be done? Or are such facilities more widespread?

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (also in the Home Office), Home Office, Minister of State (also in the Home Office), HM Treasury 5:30 pm, 9th June 2009

The answer is that they are more widespread—there are approximately 30 short-term holding facilities in various ports and airports. They are used for the functions that the hon. Member for Ashford rightly described.

I can give the assurance that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington sought. To explain briefly, clause 25 is linked to the provision that we have just discussed in some detail in clauses 22 and 23, to ensure the effective application of PACE and the codes of practice to the UK Border Agency. Clause 25 provides us with some flexibility in the future to use short-term holding facilities to detain arrested persons, in addition to those currently detained in such facilities under the administrative provisions of the immigration Acts. The rules covering those people detained under the immigration Acts will remain the same.

A short-term holding facility is defined in section 147 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 as

“a place used solely for the detention of detained persons for a period of not more than seven days or for such other period as may be prescribed”.

Section 147 of the 1999 Act also defines detained persons as

“persons detained or required to be detained under the 1971 [Immigration] Act or section 62 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002”.

Further provision in respect of who may be detained in a short-term holding facility was made in section 2(6) of the UK Borders Act 2007. The power in that section allows a designated immigration officer to detain at port for up to three hours any person who the officer thinks is subject to a warrant for arrest, or is otherwise liable to arrest by a policeman, pending the arrival of a constable—the point that was made before. That provision under the 2007 Act means that individuals detained for up to three hours under the section 2 power may be held for that period only in a short-term holding facility.

A short-term holding facility may therefore be used only to hold persons who have been detained under those administrative powers of immigration detention available to the UK Border Agency that I have mentioned. As part of our desire to maximise the use of the agency’s detention and custody facilities, we wish to make more flexible use of the short-term holding facilities. To facilitate that, we propose in clause 25 that the definition be modified to allow such facilities to be used to hold individuals who have been detained other than under the existing administrative powers of immigration detention. Clause 25 achieves that by removing the word “solely” from the definition. A consequential provision is also made to the schedule of the Bill.

I stress that the modifications do not impact in any way on the treatment of persons held under the UK Border Agency’s administrative powers of immigration detention. The modification we are seeking does not relate to immigration. The treatment of such persons will continue to be governed by the existing arrangements and the maximum periods that have been referred to.

The changes to the definition will simply allow the UK Border Agency and HM Revenue and Customs to use short-term holding facilities to detain persons following arrest, where that is in accordance with the provision we are making in relation to the application of PACE and the codes of practice. In other words, the short-term holding facilities could in future hold a range of individuals, subject to the prescribed period of detention relevant in each case, including individuals arrested on suspicion of committing an immigration or customs offence for up to six hours or—where a short-term holding facility has been designated for the purposes of PACE as a place for detention longer than six hours—in accordance with the time limits prescribed by the so-called PACE clock. The provision could also cover individuals who are the subject of warrants for arrest, or who are otherwise liable to arrest by a police officer, who have been detained under section 2 of the UK Borders Act 2007 for a maximum of three hours, pending the arrival of a constable; and individuals who are subject to administrative immigration detention for no longer than five days, plus a further two days where it is proposed under removal directions set to remove the person concerned from the UK within that further period.

That is what we are trying to achieve. As I hope I have outlined, I can give the guarantees that the Committee is looking for.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 25accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.