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Volume 477: debated on Thursday 19 June 2008

This year sees the biggest shake-up of our immigration system for 45 years. As part of these changes, I am today setting out reforms to the way the new UK Border Agency enforces the immigration law in communities up and down the UK.

The UK Border Agency leads Her Majesty’s Government’s work to ensure that newcomers to the UK—as well as businesses and others—play by the rules. The vast majority do, adding tremendous value to the UK. The UK Border Agency’s job is to take action when they do not. To achieve this objective we have fundamentally reorganised the UK Border Agency’s work:

Putting in place a cross-Government strategy.

Strengthening the law, with automatic deportation for those sentenced to 12 months or more and civil penalties against employers who employ illegal workers.

Increasing by ten-fold the resources dedicated to the removal or deportation of foreign nationals who have committed serious offences, and focusing over 1000 additional immigration staff on enforcement duties.

Exploiting new technology and introducing compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals, trials for which are now in place.

Strengthening new international alliances to help us secure returns, backed by a £40 million joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department For International Development and Home Office fund.

That fundamental shift in resources has delivered important results. In 2007-08 we:

removed over 4,200 foreign national prisoners from the UK, exceeding the Prime Minister’s target;

removed over 13,000 failed asylum seekers;

arrested over 5,000 suspected immigration offenders as a result of around 6,300 illegal working operations; and

delivered over 2,000 successful prosecutions and sanctions.

Today I am publishing the UK Border Agency’s business plan for enforcing the immigration laws over the next 12 months: “Enforcing the Deal: Our plans for enforcing the immigration laws in the United Kingdom’s communities”, a copy of which I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The document sets out three key advances which we intend to make in 2008-09:

We will expel more illegal immigrants than last year, enforcing the contract with newcomers by first removing those who have abused our hospitality and broken the law, and implementing the Prime Minister’s commitment to deport those who use guns or sell drugs, regardless of the length of their sentence.

We will begin the reorganisation of around 7,500 UK Border Agency staff into between 70 and 80 new Local Immigration Teams to serve every community in the UK, bringing our people closer to the communities we serve and backed by Immigration Crime Partnerships with the police, local authorities and other local partner agencies. We will back our new strategy by doubling the resources we spend on enforcement (2009-10 versus 2006-07).

We will publicly take action against more organised criminals, facilitators and employers who break the law, working in partnership with other business enforcement agencies, rigorously implementing the new civil penalty regime, for the first time publishing information about rogue employers, and introducing ID cards for foreign nationals to make it easier for employers to comply with the law.

Reforms set out in the business plan include:

From today, the UK Border Agency publishing information about employers who hire illegal immigrants.

From this summer, the most serious business offenders will be targeted jointly by UKBA and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in a new intelligence sharing and joint targeting partnership which will come into force from July.

Employers and colleges applying for carefully policed licences to hire migrants.

There will be a joint investment and business plan between UKBA and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Automatic deportation will be introduced for those sentenced to 12 months in prison or more, and deportation will be imposed for those who use guns or sell drugs regardless of their sentence.

Watch-lists of immigration offenders will be shared with DWP, HMRC and, subject to parliamentary approval, with the private sector fraud prevention agency CIFAS.

By January 2009:

UKBA will have increased the number of foreign national prisoners removed to over 5,000 during 2008;

Local Immigration Teams will be up and running in each region;

a UKBA Criminal Investigation Division will be in place;

90 per cent. of constabularies in England and Wales will have Immigration Crime Partnerships in place; and

five local authority partnerships will have been deployed and evaluated.

In addition, I am today laying an Order under section 20 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to provide a legislative gateway for the sharing of data by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Transport—in relation to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—and the British Transport Police with the UK Border Agency.