Clause 19 - Powers in connection with examination, detention and removal

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 3rd November 2015.

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General 2:30 pm, 3rd November 2015

Putting it as simply as I can, the principle is that we want to ensure that, rather than having to resort to the use of criminal sanction—which, although it might mark the commission of offences and impose a punishment and penalty on individuals, could properly be seen as a disproportionate use of state power—we can resort to what, as I have said, is perhaps a lesser used path but one that is still within what the hon. and learned Gentleman and I would regard the bounds of compatibility with the European convention on human rights and our existing law. It is a proportionate use of powers. I remind the Committee that this is not a power of entry. Immigration officers have to be lawfully on the premises before these powers can be used—and, of course, there have to be reasonable grounds to suspect that the person with regard to whom the powers are being used may be liable to be detained and removed from the United Kingdom. There is a caveat, too: the search should only be to the extent reasonably required to find the documents, so a complete top to tail, fingertip search of the house, which would be wholly disproportionate, would not be within the particular use of this power.

I will give another example. There is concern about seizure of mobile telephones. Yes, there is a power to seize, but any such device on which electronic documents are stored will be seized only if it is not possible for the  owner otherwise to produce the document in a visible and legible form. Again, that is an example of the proportionality and the safeguards that exist in this particular instance. I hope that on the grounds of principle and particular efficacy I have outlined what I regard as a middle way, which these provisions represent.