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Clause 58 - Embarkation checks

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 12th November 2013.

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

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

We have not tabled any amendments to this clause, although we might return to it on Report. For the moment, I want to look at what the Government are planning and, again, how it will work in practice. Schedule 7, which this clause brings into effect, seems to move towards privatising immigration checks in a way that causes concern not only for us, but for many of the travel firms that would be involved. The Home Office has said that these provisions will allow those who have a role in dealing with outbound passengers to become designated persons to perform checks to establish a passenger’s identity and

“to collect the data necessary to identify threats or persons of interest and to confirm departure.”

So far, private companies involved in the immigration process do not have a great record—we think of Capita sending texts telling British citizens to go home or the complaints against G4S. It is not encouraging. In this case, the companies that the Government want to become involved are themselves very wary of becoming involved. In its briefing to us, British Airways said:

“The important task of border security should not be transferred to airline employees whose primary role is to provide customer service. Airline or airport operator staff are not sufficiently qualified to carry out exit checks on behalf of the Home Office.”

However, that is exactly what schedule 7 will provide for. The schedule can require unqualified staff to carry out checks, some of which might be sensitive. For example, under paragraph 2, they may examine people who are leaving.

Those staff are not immigration staff, and they are not trained to carry out such checks. What record is to be kept by them? How will they know the right things to check and the right questions to ask? They may also require a person to furnish them with the information asked for. I find that a bit bizarre, coming from a Government that rejected ID cards. It seems strange to allow someone who is not a police or immigration officer to start carrying out checks on people at the border.

Paragraph 3 of the schedule will allow a designated person to take and retain a passport. I have great reservations about someone who is not an immigration or police officer taking away someone’s passport. Proposed sub-paragraph (4A) of schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 states that if a passport is retained, it must be delivered to an immigration officer

“as soon as reasonably practicable”, but there is nothing in the Bill to say what that means. What details will be provided to someone whose passport is taken? Will they include the name and status of the person retaining it? If there is a need to take a passport from someone, why not simply call an immigration officer to do it? What redress will a person have if someone makes a wrong decision?

We are also worried about what training will be provided to staff who are required to carry out checks. The Government are trying to make staff who may simply be checking passengers through the gates designated persons. BA also said that

“the actual immigration check and decision is a core function of the Home Office. BA’s customer service staff are not adequately qualified to take on the responsibility of immigration officers, yet the proposal in the Immigration Bill creates the powers for the Home Office to compel a carrier or port operator to designate a person to effectively take on the role of an immigration officer.”

BA points out that it has approximately 3,000 customer service staff involved in the checking in and boarding of passengers. Under the Bill, that all those staff could be forced to take on the new role, which raises a number of concerns for the company. Those include a significant increase in responsibility for that group of employees; additional training requirements, including down time while training is conducted; extra cost to the business for training and recruitment; and a significant potential risk to border security. That will of course be the case if people who are not immigration officers take on that role.

The Government frequently complain about what they call burdens on business, but they seem quite willing to place this burden on companies without any real consultation. It is not surprising that companies are concerned about the proposal. Let me draw the Minister’s attention to evidence we received from TUI UK & Ireland —I still think of it as Thomson—which clearly states:

“Fundamentally, we disagree with this proposal on principle. Immigration checks whether inbound or outbound are part of the Government Duty to protect the public and as such these functions are funded by the taxpayer. The proposals will effectively outsource this core function of the state to transport operators”.

The company has a point. It is also concerned about how the proposal will work in practice. It states, in relation to Thomson Airways and other airlines, that

“the boarding gate is the last place any carrier wants to refuse carriage for whatever reason…as such refusal inevitably leads to a delay whilst their baggage is found and offloaded.”

British Airways points out that a major flaw in the proposal is that many passengers now check in online or at automated kiosks, and pass through security without speaking to a BA staff member. It states:

“We are further looking at processes to automate the entry to security screening and boarding processes on some flights. The addition of a new exit check into this process will negate the benefits of these new automatic processes, adversely affecting our customers”.

BA says that will result in boarding times increasing by perhaps 40%.

That makes me wonder whether the Government consulted the industry before going down this road. The Home Office could of course do much better if it was making progress with the e-Borders scheme, but as we have seen from recent reports, it is not doing so. I suspect that the proposal is in the Bill precisely because of the Government’s failure to make any progress on e-Borders; it is about placing the burden elsewhere.

We do not yet know who the designated person will be, what training they will receive or how the training will be paid for. Will it be paid for by the Government, or will it be a burden on the companies involved? As drafted, the Bill suggests that a designated person—whoever they are—and an immigration officer will have exactly the same powers. Reading that, one is forced to the view that having cut the UK Border Force, the Government are now desperately trying to find a way to make up for those cuts. However, they are doing so in a way that will not work: they are trying to get people to do checks on the cheap. Exactly what discussions has the Minister had with the industry about that?

What about the staff involved? How will a designated person be selected? Will they be volunteers, or will they become a designated person by virtue of the office they hold, and if so, what is the position of staff who do not want to carry out the duties? How will people’s employment rights be affected if they refuse, given that their employer is under an obligation to carry out the checks? That is an important point: someone who joins an airline or travel company is not signing up to be an immigration officer, yet they might have to become one under this proposal. The carrier might be under a duty to have someone to provide the checks, and the proposal brings into question the position of staff who do not want to carry them out.

What will happen with transit passengers? British Airways points out that there will be additional complications in the introduction of exit checks because of the large proportion of transfer passengers going through Heathrow airport. They do not cross the border into the UK, so they will not need an exit check, which means that airlines will have to develop processes to separate passengers into those who require a check at the gate and those who do not. How will that be achieved? We had representations from Thomson, which pointed out that, given Thomson Airways’ operations across the UK, there will not only be a significant increase in cost surrounding the regular requirements that will be needed for members of staff who have to undertake those checks, but there will also be significant cost and logistical implications to ensure that those staff are always available. Furthermore, the cost of embarkation checks for its cruise business would be disproportionate for the relatively small number of UK departures it undertakes. It says:

“We feel that this will hurt the UK cruise industry, as a number of cruise lines, including ourselves, have the option of reducing or eliminating UK calls, in favour of running from other European ports with less onerous immigration requirements.”

That is a serious matter for a number of large ports in this country that rely on cruise ships coming in for a large part of their revenue, as well as ports such as Liverpool that want to attract more cruises. Has the Minister had any discussions on that matter?

The Minister also knows that the industry is concerned that it might be an offence for an operator to refuse to carry out the exit checks. Paragraph 6 of schedule 7 allows the Secretary of State to give directions to carriers or operators of ports to ensure that the functions are carried out.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West 10:30 am, 12th November 2013

I feel a sense of déjà vu coming on. Some years ago, the Scottish Affairs Committee had a similar discussion about ships in Orkney. Has my hon. Friend spoken to the new Secretary of State for Scotland about this? He was one of the chief advocates for trying to ensure that ships were looked at with much more care and that the Home Office, or the Border Agency in those days, had much closer contact.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

My hon. Friend raises an interesting and important point, of which he clearly has more knowledge than I. It would be interesting to hear the view of the Secretary of State. It would also be interesting to know what discussions Ministers have had with the devolved Administrations and how the measure will affect businesses in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, all of which have ports of call for cruise ships.

BA says that it

“has concerns that the Bill will enable the Home Office to make it an offence for any airline or airport operator who is non compliant in carrying out these exit checks. The detail of this offence and what it would entail is very vague in the Bill and we would welcome further clarity of what the offence might look like in practice.”

I think that that applies to the members of this Committee as well. What will be the penalty for non-compliance? What is the position of an employer who cannot find a member of staff who is willing to be a designated person? An employer might say that they are willing to have their staff carry out these checks—that seems unlikely, given the representations that we have received—but the staff will not do it; they refuse to do it. The employer cannot force them to do it, as it is not in their contract, which the employer cannot change without an agreement on the variation of contract. Have Ministers talked to their colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about the effects of employment law interacting with the proposal? If it is not in someone’s contract to do this, they can only be made to do it if they agree a variation in their contract. Variations in contracts have to be done by agreement.

The Government have not really thought this through. It seems like one of their panic reactions to something that they think “needs doing”, largely because they do not have enough immigration officers to carry out checks at the border. We warned that border security would suffer from the reductions that they made in numbers of immigration officers. Instead, they want to get people to do it on the cheap.

Photo of William Bain William Bain Labour, Glasgow North East 10:45 am, 12th November 2013

My hon. Friend is making a powerful argument. Does she share my concern that the Committee is not enjoying the benefit of a detailed impact assessment, either from the Home Office or from the Department for Transport, to determine where the costs of the additional checks will ultimately fall? Is it not a concern that passengers might end up having to meet the cost of the additional bureaucracy?

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

My hon. Friend is exactly right. That is the point made by the airlines in their submission. There is a cost on business not only for the initial training but for the downtime while people are trained. There will also be the cost of updating people’s training when the rules change, as they inevitably do, and the cost of that downtime. The fear is that those costs will then be passed on to passengers.

The Government cut the number of immigration officers to save money, found that they could not enforce border security effectively and are now trying to do it on the cheap, passing on the cost to business and ultimately to passengers. If that is the case, the Government need to be up-front about what the costs are and who will pay them. As with a number of the provisions in the Bill, the provisions’ workability and impact in practice have not been thought through. We need to hear from the Minister exactly how it will operate. What discussions has he had with the industry? What will be the position of staff members who do not want to be a designated  person or, as I said, of an employer who wants to carry out the checks but whose staff refuse to take them on? Will that employer be penalised under the Bill’s provisions?

The Minister seems to think that what we are discussing is something to be taken lightly. I assure him that it will not be taken lightly by the staff at the sharp end who will have to undertake the checks every day. We want to hear from him in much more detail how it will be done, how it will work and where the costs will fall. When we have heard that, we will consider whether to return to the issue on Report.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch

I endorse what my hon. Friend has said. There are concerns on practical grounds alone. I will highlight to the Committee an experience that I had recently. I was travelling to Australia on family business, and it turned out when we got to the check-in desk that my husband’s visa had a different birth date from his passport. We were alarmed, as hon. Members will appreciate—we were on a very expensive visit to a dying family member—but the person at the check-in desk said, “Oh, it’s all right; I’ll just ring Canberra and fix it.” It was easily done, but as a former Immigration Minister I was slightly alarmed that it was so easy, within the famed Australian immigration system, just to ring Canberra and say, “I’ve seen the passport, and it’s fine.” That individual took the passport, and I watched where they were going. Again, my slight nervousness as a former Immigration Minister was probably kicking in, but we were relieved to get on the flight.

That highlights what my hon. Friend said. What checks will be made on the staff doing the checks? Being a proxy for the immigration service is quite a different job from working at check-in. It is not that I doubt the professionalism of those staff, who do a good job, but would anyone be exempt from taking on that responsibility? Immigration officers must have a warrant and must undergo certain security checks, but the same level of check will not be made for check-in staff.

Obviously, airside checks are made on staff working at airports, but a range of different staff do check-in. It is often outsourced, which is another issue to consider. I have been in small airports at which a hard-pressed person is working down the queue, which often goes back to the gate—the lounge or coffee bar area merges into one with the gate—to check people’s photographic identity documents, such as a passport. Anyone coming through the airport could switch places with someone whose boarding pass has already been stamped.

We are relying on a lot of ifs, buts and maybes. We are putting the UK border in the hands of amateurs—they are amateurs in this respect—some of whom do a better job than others. I have spoken to airlines in the past about that, and I know that they often outsource. They have one person at the departure gate who is obviously pressed to get people through on tight boarding schedules, particularly for the budget airlines. If we are really saying that the British border is to be managed by Ryanair and easyJet, the British public might be rather alarmed.

The measure comes from the same Government who abolished fingerprints in passports, which would have sped many people through automatic gates, because it would have been simple for people, certainly British  citizens, to go through that process. The Government have not addressed how the process could be mechanised, but mechanisation or automation might solve some of the problems without putting the onus on the airlines. Members of the British public are used to automated check-ins, which are straightforward to go through. The Bill will take away all the time that that have saved, because people will have to go through another manual check.

I want clarity from the Minister on the degree to which shipping is included in schedule 7. I speak as a former petty officer in the merchant navy, so I have previously worked alongside British immigration officers on ships on the Portsmouth-France routes, and I saw the long immigration queues.

There are problems with the geography of many of our ports. Unlike airports, at which everyone eventually gets to a departure gate and is penned in while they go through the system after some sort of check-in, seaports are a different kettle of fish. There is not much space. Cars queue and there is a different approach to getting passengers on board. The Government’s proposals could lead to departures being seriously delayed. The Bill does not make it clear what exactly the proposals are for ports. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that.

An important question is how seriously the Government take immigration control, because there are pinch points in the UK where immigration offenders can be caught. If the Minister has not been, I recommend that he visits Stranraer and Cairnryan, which are in a very nice part of the world. The ferry goes over to Larne in Northern Ireland, so the journey is intra-UK, but there are a staggering number of illegal people travelling on that route. There is a system whereby text messages are sent between people who are trying to evade the British immigration system to ensure that they go either to Stranraer or Cairnryan, depending on which has the lowest presence of police and UKBA officials. The Government, under the Minister’s predecessor, reduced the presence and activity of UKBA in those ports. Although there is no immigration between Northern Ireland and Scotland, as it is an intra-UK journey, immigration offenders are still caught there. Perhaps the Government could look a little closer to home in trying to address the problem of immigration offenders, rather than having the blanket approach of allowing every budget airline in the world to be a British border force by proxy.

The Government have messed up on e-Borders and stopped fingerprints in passports, but they are trying to get the good folk who work for easyJet, Ryanair and so on to be our border control. The Committee deserves an explanation of why the Minister is going down that worrying route.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole

One of the joys of being a Member of Parliament is that one has to serve on an immigration Bill Committee at some point. One of the first Committees of which I was a member was on the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The Whips had fallen out, so we started at 4.30 pm and went all the way through the night to 1 am. I am glad the Whips on this Committee seem to be more business-like. One feature of that Act was fines for ferry operators, road hauliers and airlines for carrying illegal immigrants.  The previous Government, like all Governments, put burdens on businesses. All Governments want to have the best possible immigration system.

The Government just want to ensure that those who collect an awful lot of information and are responsible for the safety of passengers can collect it and deal with the immigration authorities in as seamless a fashion as possible, so that we know who is going in and out of the country. So far, we have not been able to do that in the UK, which is strange considering that we are an island.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch

I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware of advance passenger information, which allows airlines to share information about who is travelling. It took us years of negotiation in Europe to secure that, and the current Government finally signed the deal. We looked at the system recently in the Public Accounts Committee, and it seems to be beginning to work well. It is not there yet, but it is getting to the point where it will deliver. It is on its way to becoming a success story, and we should celebrate it.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole

Absolutely. The airlines now collect an awful lot of information. I am sure it is not beyond the wit of man, the immigration authorities and the airlines to find a way of working so that the system benefits the airlines and immigration authorities.

The hon. Member for Warrington North made an impassioned plea on behalf of BA and others. However, I am not entirely sure whether the Labour party is in favour of exit checks. Lynton Crosby would like to know.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Minister for Immigration

This has been a wide-ranging debate. I was smiling in response to the hon. Member for Warrington North because it is strange to be lectured on border security by a party that, as we now know, relaxed border security checks for a number of years as a mechanism for managing queues at airports. It takes one’s breath away and demonstrates that we cannot Labour seriously on this subject.

We now have a much more robust process at our borders. We have an operating mandate for the UK Border Force, which means that everybody coming through our ports has their documents checked. We have proper assurance about people coming into the United Kingdom, and we do not just relax the checks because the airport is a bit on the busy side. That is what happened for several years under the previous Government, as we know from the reports of the chief inspector of borders and immigration.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poole, who has served on a number of Bill Committees, brought a useful perspective. His point that the previous Government rightly introduced responsibilities on carriers to carry out checks before they carry people, and penalties for failing to do so, demonstrates that the points raised by the hon. Member for Warrington North, although valid, were perhaps a little overstated.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

May I, too, support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Poole? I have also been on a number of immigration Bill Committees over the years, and the airlines have always assisted when asked to do so. As a matter of  course, the airlines already undertake fairly extensive checks. To portray them as jobsworths who refuse to help is thoroughly unhelpful and flies in the face of reality.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Minister for Immigration

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. I will come on to advance passenger information, which my hon. Friend the Member for Poole also mentioned, in a second.

Before I forget, the hon. Member for Glasgow North West referred to the cruise industry in Orkney and Shetland, and mentioned the current Secretary of State for Scotland. I assure him that in both his constituency capacity and as Secretary of State, he takes a close interest in these matters, and I have discussed them with him. At the moment we are working with the industry to consider how best to deliver proper immigration checks in a way that allows the cruise business in the Scottish islands to be successful. The Secretary of State, in both his capacities, has discussed these matters with me and the industry, and the people he represents in his constituency and in Scotland can be pleased with his efforts.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

One of the main problems there was the drugs coming in off the ships. It was not only the people who were on the ships enjoying themselves who were not being checked properly, but the crew and various other people. The Secretary of State for Scotland, as the MP for Orkney and Shetland, raised the issue, and hopefully he is examining it now.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Minister for Immigration 11:00 am, 12th November 2013

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We still have to make proper checks. The key is to do them in a way that works with the grain of businesses and their business processes. I will say a little more about that in a moment.

The hon. Member for Warrington North was a little guilty of making a mountain out of a molehill. The provisions are designed to work with the grain of business processes. Let us take, for example, the debate that largely focused on airlines. When my hon. Friend the Member for Poole referred to the provisions that the previous Government had made, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch took him to task and suggested that perhaps he was not aware of advance passenger information from airlines, which of course he is.

Airlines already give the Government a significant amount of information. It is probably less likely that the exit check provisions will apply to airlines, because we already have significant coverage of passengers coming into and out of the United Kingdom. We get advance passenger information from airlines and we are already able to use that information. We know whether people have come in or left. At the moment, we do not have such extensive information for ferry operators and for international rail, but I will come to how those areas might work.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Minister clearly thinks that very little will be different under the Bill, but the airline operators and travel industry think differently. How many times has he met representatives of the industry recently to discuss the provisions in the Bill?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Minister for Immigration

I will come on to that when I set out what we are actually proposing.

For airlines, we already have very good coverage. We already screen a significant number of passengers who come into and out of the United Kingdom, and that number is increasing. When the director general of the Border Force gave evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, he set out the information and made the point that we have another significant carrier coming on board with these proposals, which will get our coverage to a higher level for airlines.

We also want to ensure that we put sensible exits checks in place on non-airline routes—ferry journeys, cruises and international rail journeys—for which we currently do not collect advance passenger information to the same extent as we do for airlines. There will be various ways of doing that. We could simply replicate the primary control point that we have on people’s entry to the United Kingdom. We could hire loads more people and have a load of checks that we conduct before people can travel. We have thought about that, but, apart from the significant cost to the taxpayer, it would put a significant burden on how the business is run.

The hon. Members for Warrington North and for Hackney South and Shoreditch both drew attention to some of the ways in which travel companies are trying to streamline the way their operations work to make travel quicker and easier for passengers. The point of the powers in the Bill is to allow us to put in place procedures that work with the grain of business processes. For example, where travel operators are already collecting information, as they frequently do either for security reasons or as part of their business process, they could be empowered to share that information with us and we could therefore make checks.

We do not want to put in place an enormously burdensome process. We are not talking about the power to decide whether people can exit the United Kingdom; we are talking about working with carriers and port operators and trying to have provisions that fit well with their business.

The hon. Member for Warrington North asked about the discussions that we have had. We are discussing the issue with various industry bodies. The Home Secretary has met representatives of the maritime industry. Officials met TUI yesterday, and I understand it was reassured by our engagement and welcomed the opportunity to continue the discussions. The position was similar with the maritime industry. The Home Office clearly set out our intention to work with carriers and port operators, to link with their existing business processes to ensure that checks take place. To be clear to the hon. Lady, I say to her that we do not expect that decisions on denying boarding will be taken by the boarding and checking staff. That is not the intention at all.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

TUI Travel, which operates Thomson Airways, is located in my constituency. I spoke to the company yesterday and it confirmed that it had met the Home Office yesterday morning. The company has expressed some concerns about the operation of schedule 7. However, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for the clarifications and reassurances that he has given this morning.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Minister for Immigration

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I know that he takes a close interest in these matters, and he obviously has a close constituency interest regarding Gatwick airport. We will continue to have discussions with those in the travel industry. As I said, the intention is to work with the grain of their processes. The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch mentioned, for example, that some of our seaports are very different from our airports. She is absolutely right, and there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution. She knows that the business model for ferry operators is different from that for cruise operators, Eurostar and Eurotunnel. Some operators check individuals, and some carry passengers in cars that are being transported. There will be different solutions to fit the different business models.

The intention behind the proposals in the Bill is to use those existing business models. If we did not have the powers in the Bill, I am sure that we would discover at some point that we want to use existing information that had been collected, perhaps as part of the business process, and we would ask the carrier. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex said, carriers usually want to be helpful in these matters. However, we may well then discover that there was a data protection barrier or that they were not able to share the information with us, or that most carriers wanted to comply but some did not, and it is obviously important to have a level playing field. The point of the provisions is to give us the legal power to use existing information and existing processes; that is the intention behind what we are doing.

We will continue to have this dialogue with industry. I think there was a question about trying to turn transport operators into immigration officers, but that is absolutely not what we are doing. What we are talking about are powers to perform basic checks about someone’s identity, and to confirm departure.

I listened to the personal experiences of the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch about her various travels around the world and her former job; I am surprised that we did not get on to her school days. Perhaps if we had had long enough we would have. However, let us consider what happens already. Already, when we check in in person we present a passport. If we do it online, we have to put in all the details. We have to show our boarding card and passport, or there is facial identification when we go to the boarding gate. All that interaction already takes place. I simply do not think that someone on a check-in desk asking us for our passport is some enormous departure from current practice. We want to ensure that the existing processes for collecting information are properly utilised.

However, I suspect that the biggest change will not be at our airports at all. The hon. Lady said that we already collect significant amounts of advance passenger information, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex rightly said that we have good co-operation with airlines. They are keen to assist us. They do not want to have people travelling on their flights who should not be; they do not want to bring in immigration offenders or people who may be a security risk. We are more likely to utilise the new powers in areas where we have less good advance passenger information, or none at all. As I have said, we want to work with the grain of  business processes; we do not want to put burdens on businesses to do things that they would not otherwise do.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch

May I say in passing that the Minister must think I have a boring life, since all my comments were about recent travel?

If what the Minister says is true, it seems that this Bill contains wide-ranging powers that will not be used in most cases, because of the benefits of advance passenger information. Is this a power grab by the Home Office to allow itself powers that can be used in future, which the Minister does not think need to be used now? If so, why are those powers in the Bill?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Minister for Immigration

I think that the hon. Lady is misunderstanding what I have said—not on purpose, I am sure. I am simply saying that for passenger journeys into and out of the United Kingdom by air, we already have a system put in place by the previous Government, as she correctly said, and continued by us. We collect a significant amount of information already as part of airlines’ normal business. We already have that information, we use it and we check it against our immigration systems.

However, we do not have good coverage, as the hon. Lady will know from her previous role, of passengers who depart from the United Kingdom by sea or international rail. That is where we want to use existing information and existing business processes, rather than putting in place a costly, burdensome process. As I said, the alternative to working with carriers—using information that they currently collect and perhaps examining their business processes—is effectively putting in place the equivalent of passport checks on outbound journeys. That would require more space at ports, which does not exist and which would have to be paid for. It would require staff, which would be costly, and that cost would fall on the taxpayer. It would also put a barrier in the journey process. I recognise that a lot of ports are looking into making the process as swift as possible by offering online check-in and so on. We have no wish to insert a process that slows things down or makes travel more burdensome.

We want to work with the grain of how businesses operate. The Home Secretary made clear the spirit of our discussions when we she met the maritime industry, for example. We want to work with the industry, and we recognise that ports are different. As the hon. Lady recognised, they are of different sizes and have different staffing levels and different business models. We will almost certainly use a different approach at different locations, depending on the business model, the size of the port and what is sensible.

I hope that I have reassured the hon. Lady that the Home Office wants to proceed in a consensual way with carriers. We want to continue the same sort of partnership working that we use for advance passenger information. We want things that work with the grain of business processes. We recognise that businesses have a job to do—running a profitable travel business—and we do not wish to make that any more burdensome. The proposals in the Bill are meant to ensure that we can move forward with travel providers.

I think that I have addressed the questions asked by the hon. Member for Warrington North—she will decide whether I have done so satisfactorily—and by the hon. Members for Glasgow North West and for Hackney South and Shoreditch. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 58 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 7 agreed to.