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Lord Avebury: What about the person granted exceptional leave to remain? Is it waived then?

Baroness Blatch: I only said what I said, if the noble Lord is attributing to me things that I have not said. I have said it applies where the person is recognised as a refugee under the convention and protocol. That does not include exceptional leave to remain. The noble Lord is putting words into my mouth.

Lord Avebury: I only asked a question. I am not putting any words into the Minister's mouth.

Baroness Blatch: I have always understood that it is improper to conduct any discussion while someone is standing at the Dispatch Box, and certainly from a sedentary position.

Lord Avebury: Perhaps--

Baroness Blatch: The noble Lord spoke before he stood to ask me to give way.

I know that my noble friend is concerned also that a charge could be levied when the passenger is admitted by an immigration officer and subsequently detained and removed as an illegal entrant. Such circumstances are rare, although liability would exist under the l987 Act and the Immigration Act l97l. I am sure that we would want to be practical. If the documentation was good enough to have deceived an immigration officer, it would be unfair to have expected airline staff to have picked it up.

Other than that, the only pertinent issue is that of passengers' documentation. No matter what may be the eventual decision of the immigration officer under the Immigration Act, the Government cannot accept that there can be any reason to excuse the carrier for knowingly carrying an inadequately documented passenger. We therefore cannot support the amendment.

I shall refer to particular points. As I have already said to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, Clause 5(l)(b) does not create a new carrier liability, because airlines would have no reason to know that a properly documented passenger intended to claim asylum.

I find the point raised by my noble friend Lord Brabazon fascinating. I should like to think more about it. As I understand it, the Channel Tunnel is exempt because the immigration takes place on the train and not after the passengers have alighted, as happens with the ferries. I do not know, but my feeling is that the figures used by my noble friend show that charges can be waived in appropriate circumstances. I have referred to that.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to offering assistance to the airlines. First, it would be inappropriate for the Government to offer financial assistance, but the

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immigration service provides extensive training. Up to the end of l994, 284 training visits had been made to 82 countries since the Act came into force. That is a practical way of helping the airlines. We shall continue, as I have said to my noble friend, to assist in ensuring that this is the smoothest operation possible.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: Perhaps I may say to the Minister before she concludes her remarks that the body language of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, is admirable, if I may speak on his behalf. I am deeply neutral on this question, but I suspect that he may be as puzzled as I am to hear the Minister's response on the question of the cross-Channel train. Once someone gets on that train, the train will not stop and deposit that person in France if he or she does not have the appropriate travel documents. Therefore, they will undoubtedly arrive in this country. However, the company responsible for running the trains is not charged under this Bill. How can that possibly be justified? I am puzzled. Perhaps the Minister would like to explain.

1 a.m.

Baroness Blatch: If the noble Lord had been paying attention to what I said he would have heard me agree that I was interested in the question myself. I said to my noble friend that I would like to reflect more on the question that he posed. I simply gave him the answer of which I had been advised for the purpose of tonight's debate, but I am just as puzzled as the noble Lord. I will take that matter away and think about it.

Earl Russell: I was a little intrigued by what the Minister said about Clause 5(1)(b). Naturally, I am relieved if it does not create a new carriers' liability, but I was a little puzzled by the ground that the Minister gave: that the airline should have no ground for thinking that a properly documented passenger intended to claim asylum.

For the purpose of argument, let us suppose that the passenger tells the cabin staff that he wishes to claim asylum and asks how to set about it. I could imagine that that could happen. Does that make the airline guilty of an offence? If so, why should it be an offence to assist someone to do what is in itself perfectly legal?

I was also taken aback by her reply to my noble friend, who asked on the matter of the Nepalese military band what conceivable British interest could be served. The Minister simply said that the documents were not in order and imagined that that was a complete and sufficient answer. I was completely taken aback until suddenly the penny dropped; this is where the Home Office discovered the concept of the mandatory minimum sentence. The Minister sees that it stirs up a hornets' nest.

Baroness Blatch: In response to the example of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I asked him whether the documentation of the members of the band was in order and he was unable to answer that. The interest as regards the British, and the interest under the measures with which we are dealing tonight, refer to people arriving in this country with documentation that is not in order.

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I do not know whether they were foreigners landing in Britain with documentation that was or was not in order. I have asked the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and he simply has not answered it.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: I am puzzled that the Minister should raise that rather bad point because in my first intervention on this matter I explained the facts. Unhappily, the Minister was engaged in an agreeable conversation with her noble friend Lord Goschen and therefore did not listen to what I was saying. I pointed out that they had a single entry visa to the United Kingdom, which I concede. After that they had gone to play Nepalese military music in Germany. They had returned to this country in order to board a plane at Heathrow to return to Nepal. The carrier, the ferry operator, had to pay a fine for each member of the band. My question was simple; what British national interest was served by that?

Baroness Blatch: I hope that this is the last time I have to rise to deal with this matter. The carrier is liable only if the documentation is not in order. If the documentation is in order there is no liability on the carrier.

Baroness O'Cathain: I am grateful to the eight Members of the Committee who spoke in support of my amendment. I noted that no one spoke against it except my noble friend the Minister. I tabled the amendment because, as I said, I have always conceded that if the documentation is not in order, that is the carrier's liability. I am specifically worried about cases where the documentation has been proved not to be in order, yet the immigration authorities say that people can stay. I believe that there is an injustice there.

I should like to say also to the Minister that of course the legislation is not unique to the United Kingdom. My noble friend gave Canada and Germany as examples. But, in turn, I also referred to those countries because I said that, in cases exactly as those I have just described where the documentation was not in order so that, therefore, technically there should have been a fine, the immigration authorities gave leave to remain because there was obviously no wilful act. Germany and Canada do not impose the stringent conditions which we impose in this country.

There is still a measure of incomprehension between us on this matter. This is a relatively early stage of the Bill. I shall not rise to the bait which was so nobly spun at me by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and others. I shall not divide the Committee, but I shall return to this question. In the circumstances, I think that it is about time that I actually withdrew the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Obtaining leave by deception]:

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 4, line 23, leave out ("by means which include") and insert ("knowingly by material").

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The noble Baroness said: I suspect that this may be the last brief debate this evening but it is a matter of considerable concern. Clause 4 is a small but extremely disturbing clause because it introduces into the terms of the Immigration Act 1971 new wording of a very unclear kind. The Act states in Section 24(1):

    "A person who is not patrial shall be guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction with a fine of not more than £200 or with imprisonment for not more than six months, or with both, in any of the following cases--if contrary to this Act he knowingly enters the United Kingdom in breach of a deportation order or without leave".

I want to underline the words:

    "he knowingly enters the United Kingdom".

Since a criminal offence is involved, and, indeed, the possibility of imprisonment, it is important that this Act refers to the fact that the action is taken "knowingly". Under the proposals in the new legislation, the word "knowingly" is dropped and in its place we have the vague phrase that there are:

    "means which include deception by him".

That phrase does not relate the deception to the person concerned; does not make it clear what is the nature of the deception; does not say whether the deception is material to the person receiving leave to enter the United Kingdom; and does not indicate whether that deception is knowingly undertaken. That seems to me to be extraordinarily unsatisfactory drafting for legislation emerging from this Chamber or the other place.

Indeed, the wording and the meaning of "deception" is, to say the least of it, disturbingly bald. Given that in Clause 5--to which I shall refer only because we are not debating it now--this offence extends to those who may aid or abet that extremely unclear definition of what is wrong in Clause 4, the net widens and widens to bring in the possibility of a criminal offence for a very large number of people, both in this country and outside it--people in this country who in many cases for the best reasons in the world are attempting to help somebody with a legitimate claim to be an asylum seeker in this country.

What also troubles me greatly is that there are many, many examples of the unknowing use of deception. It is made more disturbing by the fact that, if my understanding is right, later this year the Home Office intends to set out extremely detailed ways in which those who seek to remain here or to extend their leave to enter and remain here will be obliged to fill in very detailed forms in order to do so. Those detailed forms will, I understand, require documents to be attached to the request and such documents will have to be in order.

The bureaucratic obligations that are being mounted for those who seek asylum in this country are now becoming so great that it is very unlikely that almost any of us could actually satisfy them without in some way or other making a mistake. Clearly that unintentional mistake might be captured by the word "deception". I hope that I am wrong. It may be that the Minister will be able to assure me that I am wrong and that the word "deception" will indeed be interpreted in very different ways.

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However, what I genuinely do not understand is why the Government should replace the clear wording of the 1971 Act in an area that, I repeat, extends to criminal offences and which, therefore, should be made very clear, with the unclear wording in the current legislation which appears to me to be so vague in its possible interpretation that it could in fact mean that many perfectly honest men and women may be caught by virtue of the word "deception" when they had no intention of knowingly using deception; and indeed, no intention of seeking to remain by the use of deception. Even at this very late hour, I very much hope that the noble Baroness will be able to assure me that my interpretation of Clause 4 is simply wrong. I beg to move.

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