Schedule 4 - Amendments to search warrant provisions

Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 3rd November 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General 3:15 pm, 3rd November 2015

I beg to move amendment 24, in schedule 4, page 73, line 17, leave out from “application” to “, or” in line 19.

This amendment and amendments 25 and 28 to 30 are to clarify that the definition of “specific premises warrant” in section 28K(13A) of the Immigration Act 1971 inserted by paragraph 5(8) of Schedule 4 to the Bill applies to any warrant under that Act which is not an all premises warrant.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 25, 49, 50, 51, 26 to 28, 52, 53, 29 and 30.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

These amendments to schedule 4 amend the provisions for immigration warrants. I am happy to say that they have been tabled as a result of lengthy dialogue with the Scottish Government—I know that will please and satisfy hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Glasgow North East. Amendments 26 and 27 remove the requirement for immigration search warrants obtained in Scotland to be returned after they have been executed. At the moment, under section 28K of the 1971 Act, warrants must be returned if issued by a justice of the peace in Scotland to the clerk of the district court for the commission area for which the justice of the peace was appointed or, if issued by the sheriff, to  the sheriff clerk. These amendments will make it easier for the warrants to be available to the procurator fiscal as productions in criminal proceedings in Scotland, making the process a better way of working with our friends in the Scottish criminal justice system.

Amendments 24, 25, 28, 29 and 30 are technical amendments that clarify the definition of what is known as a specific premises warrant, which allows officers to enter only the address named on the warrant. Schedule 4 to the Bill introduces all-premises warrants, which allow officers to enter more than one set of premises occupied or controlled by a person who has to be specified in the warrant application, even if only one address is actually specified on the warrant. These amendments would make it clear that any warrant that is not defined as an all-premises warrant is therefore a specific premises warrant.

Amendments 49 to 53 are minor and technical amendments that ensure that the provisions regarding warrants in sections 28J and 28K of the 1971 Act, as amended by schedule 4, also apply to a warrant obtained for entering premises to detain a vehicle.

Amendment 24 agreed to.

Amendments made: 25, in schedule 4, page 74, line 14, leave out from “application” to “, or” in line 16.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 24.

Amendment 49, schedule 4, page 75, line 40, after “section” insert “24DA(6)(b),”.

This amendment and amendments 50 to 53 ensure that the provisions regarding warrants in sections 28J and 28K of the Immigration Act 1971 as amended by Schedule 4 also apply to a warrant obtained for entering premises to detain a vehicle.

Amendment 50, in schedule 4, page 75, line 43, after “section” insert “24DA(8),”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 49.

Amendment 51, in schedule 4, page 76, line 5, after “seizure” insert “or detention”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 49.

Amendment 26, in schedule 4, page 76, line 23, after “(8B)” insert “Subject to subsection (8C),”.

This amendment and amendment 27 reflect Scottish criminal law by removing the requirement for immigration search warrants obtained in Scotland to be returned to the clerk of the district court or the sheriff clerk after they have been executed, allowing for them to be retained for use by the Procurator Fiscal in court.

Amendment 27, in schedule 4, page 76, line 28, at end insert—

‘(8C) Subsection (8B) does not apply to a warrant issued by a justice of the peace in Scotland or by the sheriff if the warrant has been executed.””.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 26.

Amendment 28, in schedule 4, page 76, line 33, leave out from “warrant” to end of line 35 and insert “which is not an all premises warrant;”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 24.

Amendment 52, in schedule 4, page 76, line 37, after “section” insert “24DA(6)(b),”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 49.

Amendment 53, in schedule 4, page 76, line 40, after “section” insert “24DA(8),”.

See the explanatory statement for amendment 49.

Amendment 29, in schedule 4, page 77, line 8, leave out from “application” to “, or” in line 10.—(The Solicitor General.)

See the explanatory statement for amendment 24.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I beg to move amendment 220, in schedule 4, page 77, line 33, at end insert—

‘(1) The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 is amended as follows—

(2) in section 145(1) for “may” substitute “must”.”

Makes mandatory the issuing a code of practice that immigration officers must follow.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 221, in clause 54, page 45, line 9, at end insert—

‘(3A) Sections 19 to 28 shall come into force on a day to be appointed, that day being no earlier than the day on which the Secretary of State gives a direction under s 145 of the Immigration Act 1999 and lays before Parliament the codes specified in that direction.”

To delay the entry into force of the provisions in Part 3 Enforcement under the subheading “Powers of immigration officers” until such time as the Secretary of State has made a direction under s 145 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and has laid the codes specified in that direction before both Houses of Parliament.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Let me start by setting out the purpose of these two amendments. Amendment 220 is intended to make mandatory the issuing of the code of practice that immigration officers must follow. Amendment 221 would delay the entrance into force of the provisions of part 3—which concerns enforcement, under the sub-heading “Powers of immigration officers etc”—until such time as the Secretary of State has made a direction under section 145 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, and has laid the code specified in that direction before both Houses of Parliament. The context here is an agreement across the House that there has to be care, professionalism, necessity and proportionality in the exercise of all the powers that we have been discussing this afternoon.

The amendments are prompted by the current mismatch between Home Office guidance and the successive reports of the chief inspector of borders and immigration. To elaborate on that, the Home Office guidance by and large suggests that enforcement raids on premises and businesses are directed on the basis of specific intelligence about an individual who does not have leave to be in the UK. However, successive reports by the chief inspector of borders and immigration paint a different picture. In the inspection that the chief inspector conducted from October to November 2013, he reported that 59% of the cases he examined lacked the required justification for the use of the power and that in a further 12% there was insufficient information for him to form an opinion. Taken together, that 71% is a very high percentage of cases that the inspector is reporting. There is a mismatch between the guidance being issued and what is happening on the ground.

In the same report that related to October and November 2013, the chief inspector reported high varying use of the power across the country. In south London it was used in two-thirds of illegal working operations, and in east London it was used in 3% of cases. Therefore, the purpose of the amendments is to bolster the provisions for a code, to make the code mandatory and to delay the provisions until the code is laid before the Houses of Parliament.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

In essence, our objections to these amendments are, with respect, that they have no substantial effect, given that it is already the case that immigration officers’ coercive powers are subject to the  Immigration (PACE Codes of Practice) Direction 2013 and that the specified codes themselves—that is, the PACE codes of practice—have been laid before both Houses of Parliament.

Section 145 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 makes it mandatory that immigration officers should have regard to such provisions as the PACE codes of practice as may be specified. “Specified” means in a direction given by the Secretary of State. It is already the case that the 2013 direction applies the relevant parts of the PACE codes of practice to the powers exercised by immigration officers. This direction is available in the Libraries of both Houses and is also published on the gov.uk website. Hon. Members will be well aware that any changes to the PACE codes of practice are laid before Parliament. We will of course update the immigration direction to reflect the new immigration powers in part 3 of the Bill and will ensure that is done in time for the commencement of these enforcement powers.

The hon. and learned Gentleman raised some points about a criticism about the use of enforcement powers, for which I am grateful to him. I think it was Liberty that referenced some statistics from the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration’s report on the use of the power to enter business premises without a search warrant—that was published in March of last year. An internal review had already highlighted that as an area for improvement, and the inspector’s report noted the following:

“During the course of our inspection, the Home Office moved quickly to address the issues that we identified. This was positive and demonstrated that the Home Office was, for the first time, starting to exert a much stronger grip on how the power was used by its staff.”

I hope that that is encouraging information for all Members present.

Where immigration officers are entering premises using a warrant, in order for that warrant to be issued, they will have to have satisfied the court that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person who is liable to be arrested for a relevant offence is to be found on the premises or that there are reasonable grounds for believing that material that is likely to be relevant evidence of an immigration offence is on the premises. The safeguards for the use of these warrants is set out in sections 28J and 28K of the Immigration Act 1971 and reflect those provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

In the light of those points, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree to withdraw his well-intentioned amendment.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I am grateful for the Minister’s explanations and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 30, in schedule 4, page 78, line 1, leave out from “application” to “, or” in line 3.—(The Solicitor General.)

See the explanatory statement for amendment 24.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.