Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
TUESDAY 13 JUNE 2000
Chairman: Good morning. May I welcome
you to the first formal evidence session of our inquiry into physical
controls at ports of entry. You will know that we have made some
visits to Dover, Harwich and Felixstowearriving in a Customs
launch on some stormy waterand we are going, of course,
to Heathrow as well and then to Hungary, Germany and Spain. Thank
you, too, for the very helpful memorandum. It is a very useful
guide for us. Mr Singh?
Mr Singh: Thank you, Chairman. In terms of illegal
entrants between March and April this year, I understand there
was a significant drop. What were the figures for May of the illegal
Chairman: This is at Dover?
(Mr Boys Smith) I do not think we have a figure yet
(Mr Roberts) Yes, we do. It is 960 clandestine entrants
at Dover, but that is not the national picture.
2. So that is a significant decrease, then?
(Mr Roberts) A 32 per cent reduction since March,
when there were 1,423.
3. Do we have a national picture?
(Mr Roberts) I have not got that to hand.
4. Seventy four civil penalty notices were served
in the first month. How many have now been issued?
(Mr Boys Smith) 181, to the 10 June have been issued,
covering just under 1,000 clandestine entrants984encompassed
in the 181 notices.
5. Of the 74 issued in the first month, have
any actually been paid?
(Mr Boys Smith) Some have been paid. Of those that
have reached the limit, two remain unpaid. Obviously, if needed,
we will press those through the courts.
6. Obviously it is early days in terms of the
civil penalty notices. What are your initial impressions of how
the new system is working?
(Mr Boys Smith) I think we can take some satisfaction
in how it has gone so far, in terms both of the way in which colleagues
in the Immigration Service have been able to operate at Dover
and in terms of the impact on the figures. Mr Roberts mentioned
the 32 per cent reduction from March to May. Another indicatorand
I am conscious these are only indicators rather than precise statistics
attributable entirely to the civil penaltyis that the number
of clandestines found in the County of Kent in April, as opposed
to March, was down by 24 per cent. We do not have a more up-to-date
figure on that. I think the signs are that it is having the impact
we would wantthat is to say, to change the approach to
the searching of vehicles.
7. Do you believe that lorry drivers are now
more vigilant in checking their lorries? If so, what measures
are they taking to ensure that their lorries are free of illegals?
(Mr Boys Smith) Some are and some are looking to see
whether the seal has been broken or the straps undone. I cannot
pretend that it is having the full effect we would want, obviously.
There is a long way to go, and the fact that 960 still came in
May is an indication that we have a lot of progress to make. However,
there are clear indicationsparticularly amongst British
lorry drivers who are, obviously, more in tune with what is happening
and have picked up the information that we have been at pains
to distribute herethat there are changes in behaviour,
but progress rather than completion.
8. One of the things that was put to the Committee
which looked at the Bill was that lorry drivers would be afraid
of telling the authorities that there were illegals on board their
lorries. Is there any evidence to that effect?
(Mr Boys Smith) No different position, I think, there
than might have been the case in the past. Certainly there is
no indication that I am aware of (and Mr Roberts may want to correct
me) at Dover that that is happening. What it is really all about
is to get them to look before they come to this country, and I
think it is having some beneficial effect.
9. You give me the chance to say that, of course,
we went to Calais as well, and saw, if I may say, belatedly, what
they plan to do there to increase security.
(Mr Boys Smith) I would see that change of approach
as part of the changing scene that we are keen to encourage.
10. I am still receiving protests from lorry
drivers that this, in fact, is an unreasonable imposition on them.
What is your view on that?
(Mr Boys Smith) Firstly, that those who enter clandestinely
are breaking the law and that all of us, if you like, as citizens,
have an obligation to prevent breaches of the law where we are
able to do so. So I think the expectation that lorry drivers should
make these searches is perfectly reasonable. There are, of course,
defences in the legislation if they have got proper arrangements
in place yet somebody is found in their vehicle. The methods of
search are not that demanding. Again, I am not suggesting they
all have dogs, of course, but CO2 wands, if they want to equip
11. Is that fairly cheap to do?
(Mr Boys Smith) It is several hundred pounds, though,
incidentally, the price is coming down. Clearly, we want to encouragepicking
up the point the Chairman made a moment agoarrangements
at Calais, and indeed at other sea ports on the continental coastline,
that will make it easier for lorry drivers than it now is. I do
not pretend, again, that we are all the way there, but I think
we are making some progress.
12. Given that we have now got a very real drop
of 32 per cent at Dover, in terms of illegals detected on the
backs of lorries, is there any evidence of displacement activity
taking place; that, in fact, they are moving from the backs of
lorries to other means of entry?
(Mr Boys Smith) I think there is some evidence. Certainly
there is more pressureI think, as you will have seen, on
your visit to Waterloo, for example. We certainly expected displacement,
and we were faced with the judgment as to how best to bring the
civil penalty in. Did we wait until it was capable of being introduced
nationwide, or did we introduce it at Dover to start with, earlier
than would be possible nationwideDover being, obviously,
the place of greatest importance? The judgment, which I think
was the right judgment, was we went ahead as fast as we couldthat
meant Doveracknowledging there would be displacement elsewhere,
and we would, so to speak, catch up. The net effect of going piecemeal
like that has been the right thing to do.
13. The civil penalty, at the moment, applies
just to lorries and car boots, etc. When will it apply to rail,
air and sea? Forgive me if I am wrong, but does it not already
apply to air?
(Mr Roberts) No, it does not. The process is that
we have to agree with the industry a code of conduct, and that
was a process that was a precursor to applying it to private vehicles,
to freight and, in fact, coaches. The next stage is to look at
rail freight because there is a vulnerability, as you have probably
seen, on direct rail freight services, starting mainly in Italy.
We are seeing some evidence of illegal entry via the Tunnel of
that rail freight. We have already had significant discussions
with the industry but the next step is to agree a code of practice
and, once that is done, it would apply to rail freight operators.
However, it was not our priority; as Mr Boys Smith says, the priority
was to get this in place primarily in respect of road freight,
so it is our next phase of the work.
14. What controls exist for airliners at the
(Mr Roberts) The civil penalty does not apply to ships
or aircraft at the moment. That is another phase of development.
The threat from clandestine entry in aircraft is relatively limited.
We have had one or two incidents recently where people have stowed
away, which applies to a recent Chinese incident, but our counter-measures
to problems by air are carriers' liability legislations supporting
15. Does the carriers' liability legislation
involve fines as well?
(Mr Roberts) It involves charges, Mr Singh, rather
than fines. The aim is for carriers' liability to reduce the number
of inadequately documented arrivals and encourages the check-in
staff at airports to take steps to check documentation.
16. I understand that there are new embarkation
controls for Eurostar and that there is a new system of juxtaposed
controls coming in. Would you explain to us what juxtaposed controls
are and how far these arrangements have now developed?
(Mr Boys Smith) Juxtaposed controlsI think
you will have seen them at Coquelles as they will come in at the
Gare du Nord in due course (the Home Secretary recently signed
the agreement with his French counterpart)involve us placing
immigration staff overseas so that the UK immigration check is
undertaken not on our territory and, therefore, in circumstances
where if somebody wishes to claim asylum they are not in a position
to do so because they are in a foreign country and, of course,
can claim asylum in that country, in effect, namely France.
17. So do we expect these new developments to
plug another leak in the walls, so to speak?
(Mr Boys Smith) Indeed, yes.
18. We were told that 800 illegal entrants arrive
each month on Eurostar at Waterloo.
(Mr Boys Smith) Yes.
19. Tell me this: am I not right in saying that
Eurostar is effectively a commuter train in France and it is quite
possible for somebody determined to get here to buy a single from
Lille to Calais and merely stay on the train and get here?
(Mr Boys Smith) I do not know that I would want to
go all the way with describing it as a commuter train, but it
is undoubtedly a train where, in relation to the Paris service,
certainly, three a day are the so-called "Calais stoppers".
Therefore, three out of about 30. Indeed, it is then possible
to do exactly what you have described, and buy a domestic ticket
and, perhaps also, an international ticket that would be shown