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Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2021

Volume 813: debated on Tuesday 22 June 2021

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2021.

My Lords, with a bit of déjà vu and humble apologies, I beg to move that this Committee do consider the draft order. It was laid before Parliament in May and is made in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 141 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. The draft order is a technical one that corrects drafting errors in an earlier instrument; namely, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021, which I shall refer to as the earlier order.

The earlier order was debated and approved by both Houses. It aligns the juxtaposed controls regime at the seaports of northern France with the regime in operation at Coquelles for the Channel Tunnel shuttle service and at the Eurostar rail terminals in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The earlier order replicated the legislative approach taken at the other juxtaposed control locations and enabled all UK immigration legislation to be applied in the UK control zones at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk.

The UK operates border controls at specified ports in France. This allows Border Force officers to conduct checks on passengers and freight destined for the UK. It is a reciprocal arrangement, with French officers completing entry checks at certain ports in the UK on passengers and freight destined for continental Europe. Currently, Border Force conducts juxtaposed immigration controls at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk, with French Police Aux Frontières undertaking Schengen entry checks at the UK port of Dover prior to travel.

The juxtaposed controls in Calais and Dunkirk are provided for at an international level by the 2003 Le Touquet treaty. This was put into effect in the UK by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) Order 2003, which I shall hereafter refer to as the 2003 order. The earlier order amended the 2003 order to grant UK Border Force officers working at the juxtaposed ports of Calais and Dunkirk the full range of immigration powers currently available to them under the immigration Acts, and made the necessary modifications to other enactments to ensure that UK immigration controls could function properly in Calais and Dunkirk.

This instrument corrects drafting errors contained in the earlier order relating to modification to Section 2 of the UK Borders Act 2007, which makes provision for the detention at ports power. I shall refer to this as the 2007 Act hereafter. For clarity, the detention at ports power allows suitably trained and designated Border Force officers to detain an individual of any nationality that the officer believes may be liable to arrest pending the arrival of the relevant law enforcement authority.

This instrument makes the necessary amendments to the earlier order and the 2003 order to do two things: first, to make it explicitly clear that the 2007 Act has been extended to the juxtaposed seaports and, as necessary, modified for the purposes of those controls. This instrument reverses a formatting error that set out the modification to the 2007 Act as a stand-alone article rather than a provision to be inserted into the 2003 order. Secondly, to account for recent legislative changes resulting from the end of the transition period reflecting the UK’s departure from the EU, this instrument corrects two further, purely technical minor errors in the modification to the 2007 Act.

To be absolutely clear to the Committee, this instrument does not change the policy content of the earlier order, nor does it make any new changes to the juxtaposed seaports regime. It simply corrects minor drafting errors contained in the earlier order to ensure that the effect of that order is explicitly clear. Again, I must apologise unreservedly to the Committee for the original errors having been made and for the imposition that the correction of these errors is making on it, but it is important they are corrected so that the law is absolutely clear.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for setting out the simple purpose of this order and for her gracious apologies. It is a straightforward matter to correct a formatting error and to clarify the earlier order, and it is clearly necessary; of course, I support that totally. I further appreciate that this order does not alter any policy content and, like the previous order, is not Brexit-related.

I would like to take this opportunity to ask my noble friend about the state of immigration controls in the area of the Channel Tunnel, particularly in the time since the earlier order came into effect, which I believe was at the end of March this year. The earlier order was considered by your Lordships’ House on 2 March 2021.

That order was approved against a background of considerable pressure on the United Kingdom’s borders. Can my noble friend update the Committee on the current situation? Is the pressure any less than it was earlier in the year? Does she have any statistics on the number of incidents at the seaports of northern France involving UK Border Force officials? Further, what do the statistics show about the new powers that were conferred by the earlier order in relation to immigration controls at those seaports of northern France—namely, Calais and Dunkirk? This debate on the amending order provides us with the opportunity of reassurance, hopefully backed up by evidence, that the new powers that were conferred have been useful and indeed necessary in our control of immigration at those ports.

Can I ask my noble friend about the position elsewhere along the east coast of the United Kingdom? I appreciate that this is not within scope of the order, or indeed the earlier order, but to what extent is there similar pressure at Harwich, Felixstowe, Hull and so on, and Aberdeen for that matter, on our immigration controls?

Finally, and again very tangentially to this order—but I have given advance notice of this to my noble friend, which I hope she has received—perhaps I may ask about the future of the Eurostar service. To what extent is that secure? It would be good to hear from my noble friend on this important issue. If she does not have the details to hand, I would be glad to receive a written response to that question.

My Lords, this SI has been prepared by the Home Office. It clarifies a provision in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021 relating to the detention at ports power.

Section 141 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 permits an order to be made to provide for a law of England and Wales to have effect, with or without modification, at a juxtaposed control at an EEA port. Pursuant to this, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) Order 2003 was made. At present, the juxtaposed controls locations governed by the 2003 order are those at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk in France and, for the French authorities, at the port of Dover in the UK. These juxtaposed controls are provided for under the Le Touquet treaty of 2003.

The order in 2003 did not follow this model and, instead, stipulated a list of specific immigration enactments to be extended to the control zones in French seaports. To align the operation of controls across all juxtaposed locations in line with the operation of controls across the UK, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021 amended the 2003 order to extend all current immigration enactments, without specificity, to the seaports—

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he is simply reading the Explanatory Memorandum, which all noble Lords have. If he has some points to make or questions to ask of the Minister, if he might move on to those, that would be appreciated, I think.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining the order. When we debated the substantive order that this order amends on 2 March this year, I complained about the original order’s length and complexity. In her letter dated 20 May to Peers who contributed to that debate, the Minister apologised for the mistakes in the original order. I do not wish to add to her embarrassment, but it reads:

“I am acutely aware of the pressures on Parliament over the past year as a result of the pandemic and EU Exit, and apologise unreservedly for these errors. I can assure you that the department has reviewed its internal processes and has taken proactive steps to prevent such errors from occurring in the future.”

I am acutely aware of the pressures on the Minister over the past year, but we have arrived at a situation where secondary legislation is being neither properly drafted nor properly scrutinised by Parliament.

At the end of her closing statement in the debate on 2 March, the Minister said:

“I hope that I have answered noble Lords’ questions as far as I can today. I will write to noble Lords if I have missed anything out.”

The Minister neither answered my questions at the time —I have read the Hansard of that debate—nor has she written to me as promised, as far as I can ascertain from searching my inbox, as such letters are now delivered only electronically. Specifically, I asked:

“According to the Explanatory Notes, one part of these regulations is to reconcile the regime at the juxtaposed-control seaports in northern France with that for international rail services via the Channel Tunnel. The other part, Article 2, extends all immigration enactments to control zones in France and makes the necessary modifications to other enactments to ensure that UK immigration controls are able to function properly in those control zones.”

But I asked about Belgium:

“Why not Belgium? Are there no international agreements between us and Holland? What steps are being taken to extend arrangements to Belgium and Holland?”

I further asked

“if the arrangements are entirely reciprocal, there appears to be”—

the possibility of—

“double jeopardy where a person could be committing an offence under both British and French law. For example, someone who assaults a French official in a control zone in the UK could be prosecuted both in the UK and in France, were the French to have equivalent legislation to these regulations. If that were the case, who would have precedence in terms of prosecution? Would it depend on whether it was a French national or a British national”

who was the perpetrator?

My concern is enhanced by the addition of Article 12(7) to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) Order 2003, which states:

“Any jurisdiction conferred by virtue of this article on any court is without prejudice to any jurisdiction exercisable apart from this article by any French court.”

There was no response. I then asked:

“The regulations appear to significantly expand the enactments having effect in a control zone in France from a specific and limited number of enactments in the 2002 order to all immigration control enactments; the Minister explained that the remit of Border Force officers has expanded since 2002. Even if that is necessary and proportionate, for the sake of clarity should the regulations list those immigration control enhancements so that people know exactly what they are subject to?”

There was no reply.

I also asked:

“The regulations appear to remove the protections provided by the Data Protection Act in relation to data processed in a control zone in France in connection with immigration control. Why is that necessary and proportionate?”—[Official Report, 2/3/21; cols. 1103-09.]

There was no answer.

This is what Parliament has been reduced to. The Government are making mistakes in the drafting of legislation, regulations are so long and complex that it is difficult for parliamentarians to properly scrutinise them, and even when we get the opportunity to hold the Government to account, our questions are ignored, as they were today on the Statement regarding the Daniel Morgan case. I will regret these regulations when they are tabled for approval on the Floor of the House, and I will tell the House why.

This order corrects errors in the earlier 2021 order of the same name, which we discussed in the House on 2 March. That earlier order extended the current immigration enactments, relating principally to detention at ports powers, including the power to use reasonable force, applicable already to the Channel Tunnel route, to the juxtaposed controls at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk. However, the earlier order set out the required modifications to the UK Borders Act 2007 as a stand-alone article rather than a provision to be inserted in a previous order from 2003, which is needed to modify relevant immigration enactments to ensure that the juxtaposed controls in Calais and Dunkirk operate correctly.

This order we are now debating rectifies the situation and incorporates two additional minor changes. I thank the Minister for her letter of 20 May 2021 explaining the background to, and necessity for, this further order. Can the Minister spell out the actual consequences to date of the earlier order being defective in its drafting? Have powers been used for which it now turns out there has been no proper statutory authority, or has it meant simply that the introduction of the powers in the original order has been delayed? If the new powers on reasonable force have been available at Calais and Dunkirk, on how many occasions have they been used since they came in?

In her letter, the Minister said that

“the department has reviewed its internal processes and has taken proactive steps to prevent such errors from occurring in future”.

Does that mean that the error that did occur was as a result of a deficient process or failure to adhere to a process, rather than being a straightforward mistake or oversight?

In our debate on the earlier order on 2 March, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, said that she found herself

“perplexed that the legislation governing borders and border control is spread across such a great many statutory instruments … It is just the sort of legislation that frustrates parliamentarians—and others, presumably—because it relies on so many statutory instruments, orders and regulations, rather than the primary piece of legislation, to introduce the rules.”—[Official Report, 2/3/21; col. 1101.]

I doubt that the noble Baroness would have imagined that her point would be substantiated so powerfully and so quickly by the very fact of our being back just three and a half months later to debate yet another order rectifying an error in the original order of March.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the original order, which this order amends, said:

“Impacts will be monitored through regular collection and analysis of … force data as well as the existing internal review system.”

What exactly are the impacts that will be monitored, and how will the Government assess the impact of this change, in respect of the use of reasonable force, on national security? How many people have been refused entry to the UK coming through French northern Channel ports in the first three months of this year compared with the first three months of last year? Is it expected that this further order, amending the original order, will have any impact on the number of people entering the UK without authority through the northern French ports and any impact on the quantity of goods entering this country that should not be doing so?

What does a power to use “reasonable force” mean in practice? Where Border Force officers on Channel crossing routes already have the powers, on how many occasions per week or per month on average do they have to use these powers? Are Border Force officers who can use reasonable force also armed officers or are they ever armed officers?

Will enabling Border Force officers to use “reasonable force” at the northern French ports mean that fewer officers will need to be deployed or will the change provided for in this order have no impact on staffing levels? Have concerns been raised by the French authorities that our Border Force officers at the northern French ports not having sufficient powers in relation to “reasonable force” increases the workload and the responsibilities of the French authorities?

There are a number of issues affecting our borders and Border Force personnel that the Government have yet to get a grip on, a couple of which I want to raise briefly. Kent County Council has been warning the Home Secretary for some time of its inability to cope with the number of unaccompanied children arriving into its care. Where are the safe routes to replace both Dubs and Dublin III? The removal of safe routes, without replacement, will simply encourage more vulnerable people to seek to enter the UK by irregular routes. While the Government are correcting mistakes today, could they also give us an update on safe routes for unaccompanied children in Europe?

The Government have gone back on an election commitment by cutting their international aid provision. That will do nothing to solve the refugee crisis which leads to people being forced to leave their own homes and seek refuge elsewhere, including by arriving at our own borders. While the Government are looking again at the powers needed at our own borders, will they also take heed of the warnings, including from many Members on their own Benches, of the impact that our aid policy has around the world?

I trust the Government will address the points and questions that I and other noble Lords have raised in their response. One would like to think that this order and the original order will improve national security in a meaningful, necessary and measurable way, and that the orders are not just about either ensuring uniformity across juxtaposed control locations for the sake of it or the Government pursuing other policies which are likely to make the need to used “reasonable force” more likely than ever.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. My noble friend Lord Bourne asked about illegal migration at Calais and Dunkirk. He will know that the UK and France maintain a long-standing relationship in tackling illegal migration at the shared border. As he also knows, the UK and France work to a whole-of-route approach to tackling illegal migration, ensuring intervention at different stages in a migrant’s journey.

Both sides agree on the importance of a continued close dialogue to reduce migratory pressures at the shared border, and we continue to keep requirements under review as part of our ongoing partnership with France. As noble Lords will know, it is a shared problem, and the UK has committed several funding packages to support the work. The Sandhurst treaty, agreed in January 2018, represented an ongoing commitment by both the UK and France to the whole-of-route approach, and last year the Home Secretary and her counterpart agreed measures to make that route unviable. At that time, the UK committed to invest in a €31.4 million package with France as part of a joint action to address illegal migration. This package includes doubling the number of officers patrolling French beaches, bolstering security along the 150-kilometre stretch of coastline, which is regularly targeted by people-smuggling networks, and the provision of an enhanced package of cutting-edge surveillance technology, including drones, radar equipment, optronic binoculars and fixed cameras.

So far this year over 5,000 crossings have been prevented —more than two and a half times the number prevented in 2020 for the same period. The proportion of crossings intercepted in 2021 currently stands at around 52%, up from 46% recorded throughout 2020, and on average, the French have arrested more than 100 facilitators each month since the beginning of the year.

My noble friend asked about migrant numbers. It is difficult to be totally accurate but the migrant population at Grande-Synthe, currently assessed at 400 people, remains steady, although the Calais population is seeing a gradual increase from around 500 to 600 a few weeks ago to 875 more recently, despite the regular clearance operations by local law enforcement. That said, the overall numbers are massively down compared with those seen in advance of the Calais camp clearance, when the local population in Calais alone was in excess of 10,000 migrants, with 3,000 to 4,000 of them at Dunkirk.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the numbers refused entry. I do not have those numbers. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said that I had not addressed his specific points, either on the previous statutory instrument, the Question that we had earlier, or indeed the debate we had earlier. I know that I wrote to everyone who spoke in the last debate, but I will check for the noble Lord on his specific points.

On double jeopardy, matters relating to the responsible state as regards offences have been considered and are the subject of a specific set of provisions underpinning the Le Touquet agreement, and we have international arrangements underpinning the rail regime with France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which are incorporated into our domestic law by 1993, 1994 and 2020 orders.

On the point about the drafting complexity, again, I apologise to noble Lords. On the question from the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, about whose fault it is, parliamentary draftsmen draw up our laws, and I can only apologise again. They work very hard and it is amazing the amount of stuff that gets through both Houses in impeccable condition.

As to the actual complexity, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was right last time that the order and instrument are technical and complex in nature; both are drafted in line with accepted government practice. The errors did not stem from the complexity of the order but were, as I have explained, the result of human error. As soon as the department was aware of the errors, swift steps were taken to correct them to ensure that the law was made clear. Since they were identified, the department has been proactive in taking steps to improve quality assurance procedures to prevent errors occurring. All I can say, again, is that I apologise for the fact that not only do noble Lords have to listen to me but I have to bring these pieces of secondary legislation for their consideration not once but twice.

On impacts, to answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, there is no impact on the reasonable force power; it is just about the detention at ports power. As I said in my opening remarks, the order will make it explicitly clear that Section 2 of the UK Borders Act 2007 has been extended to and modified for the juxtaposed seaports. As part of the earlier order, the Explanatory Memorandum set out that an impact assessment was not conducted. That is correct—the department foresees no significant impacts resulting from the earlier order, given that the intent related to other Border Force control locations. However, it is right that we continue to monitor and analyse the use of force data to draw out and mitigate against any potential unintended impacts.

The noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, asked about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Sorry, no, it was the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who asked me about that—and, yes, we want to help those who are most in need of our help and not force them to rely on unscrupulous criminals. We do not want journeys to be criminality-facilitated; we want them to be on safe, legal routes. I look forward to debating that legislation with the noble Lord in due course.

On asylum returns, I would say to the noble Lord that the joint political declaration between the UK and EU agreed on 24 December last year noted the intention to engage in bilateral discussions with the most concerned member states to discuss suitable practical arrangements on asylum, family reunion, unaccompanied minors and illegal migration. In accordance with the UK’s and the EU’s respective laws and regulations, we have begun bilateral negotiations, and there are a series of existing routes by which people can come. I look forward to discussing these issues further with noble Lords.

I shall leave it there and will write to noble Lords on any areas of clarification.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.