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For the reasons explained by the Minister when he spoke to the first amendments to the Bill, this is supposed to strengthen the border force and improve it. This afternoon, we have heard some of the fears. In fact, the adequacy of training is exactly what will make this entire exercise a success or not, of which I am sure that the Minister is fully seized. That is why it is worth going back to this issue at this stage. I beg to move.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I very much support this amendment. We had considerable discussion about this in Committee, but I do not think that we entirely clarified what would happen. As I understand it, these new arrangements are already, in some shadow form, being applied by the UK Border Agency. How many staff have already been transferred from HMRC to the UK Border Agency and are shadowing either immigration officers or being taught their roles? Information on training in shadow form should be readily available to tell us what is being done, what is being put forward and how staff are being informed. Presumably, they are half doing the job.
If no staff have been transferred or identified, we need to understand how many will be transferred at any one time and how many will be subject to training immediately. Potentially, there would be a hold-up in starting this process if a training course has to be undertaken. Fourteen weeks is either a very long time or it is not a long time at all. It depends on what has to fit into it and how much personal or personnel training will have to be given. I do not think that we are clear on how much training is involved. If a person comes from HMRC to be trained as an immigration officer, he or she will have to be trained in all that immigration officers do and an immigration officer will need to be trained in all the revenue aspects of the job.
As the Minister said, the training will be complex because people will have to understand the legislation and, in particular, certain bits of legislationeven the slave trade, perhaps. All that information has to be imparted. I am more worried about the people being transferred than I am about those who will come into the new agency. The people being transferred really need a proper training package.
How many people are already within the UK Border Agency on either a shadow or a temporary basis and what sort of training have they had? How many are due to transfer to the agency from HMRC and when, if they have not already done so? If some have been transferred, how many more are to be transferred? How much training has already taken place and will those trained be ready to start whenever these provisions come into effect? I suspect that we are more than three-quarters of the way down the line, as we so often are with legislation. Everything has happened except the final imprimatur, which comes from our having spent an enormous number of days talking about an enormous number of clauses to enable the implementation of what is already half-implemented.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baronesses have rightly homed in on the important area of training. Clause 12 sets out the supplementary provisions relating to the Director of Border Revenues powers to designate customs revenue officials. Before making any such designation, the director must be satisfied thatamong other thingsthe official has completed adequate training. For training to be deemed adequate, it must provide a designated customs official with all the instruction and skills appropriate and necessary to exercise the customs revenue functions conferred upon them fully and properly. Amendment 19 does not, in practice, impose any different requirements from those already imposed by the Bill.
Broadly, training for designated customs officials will mirror that which is given to officers of HM Revenue and Customs who currently exercise customs functions at the border. This current training in HMRC is externally accredited by Edexcel. The training given to those officials will enable them lawfully to discharge all the functions vested in them. The customs training a UK Border Agency frontline official receives will be needs-based and will depend on the officials role and the customs functions that he or she is to exercise; and whether the official is an officer of HM Revenue and Customs who has transferred to the border force, an immigration officer in the border force, or a new recruit to the border force.
First, I will say a little more about the training of officers of HMRC who have transferred. Some 4,500 officers of HM Revenue and Customs will transfer to the UK Border Agency to continue carrying out customs functions. On transfer, they will lose their status as HM Revenue and Customs officers but will be designated as customs officials. They are already adequately trained and have expertise in exercising customs functions. Current training for officers of HM Revenue and Customs involves guided learning for two weeks, a residential course of six weeks and training at a port or airport for four to six weeks, depending on the location and the skills required.
Existing immigration officers of the UK Border Agency will be trained to exercise customs functions where required for the role that they are undertaking. The training that they receive will depend on the customs functions that they are to carry out. The skills and knowledge covered by existing HMRC training will continue to form the basis of the training for those in the agency who are required to exercise customs
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Finally, let me say a little about new recruits to the UK Border Agency. A new UK Border Agency training programme for operational staff working at the border is currently under development. For new recruits, the training programme will support the development of the unified border force culture and cover both immigration and customs work, enabling staff to operate across all border controls. The set of skills and knowledge covered by existing HMRC training will continue to form the basis of the training for those in the agency, including new recruits who are required to exercise customs functions. New recruits will undertake an accredited foundation course, including training to enable them to carry out customs functions where this is part of their role. Once adequately trained, new recruits who are to carry out customs functions will be designated as customs officials.
Customs training covers a wide range of areas, including relevant legislation; customs regimes, such as the common agricultural policy; targeting for customs purposes; disclosure-handling of material gathered during criminal investigation; questioning and note-taking; how to arrest and caution; custody, charging and bail procedures; rules of evidence, interviewing, witness statements and giving evidence; customs allowances; dealing with EU and non-EU goods; calculation of duty and VAT; how to take payments, seize or detain goods and vehicles, and issue paperwork; prohibitions and restrictions; recognition of, and how to deal with, controlled drugs and offensive weapons; searching persons, baggage and vehicles; personal safety training; and, for officers working in Scotland, specific training in the working of the Scottish legal system and the different regimes in place there.
The border force also trains its officers to help them deal with difficult situations. The training delivered to officers includes modules on stress awareness, personal safety training, and cultural and customer awareness to assist them in communicating with all passengers in a professional and sensitive manner, and in resolving difficult situations. Following on from their training, policy guidance and education is available for staff dealing with specific stressful posts, and an employee assistance programme is available to support all UK Border Agency members of staff 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. In addition, the border force has arrangements in place to ensure that staff can communicate effectively with non-English speaking passengers arriving in the UK and with those who the agency encounters during the course of its business within the UK.
A number of front-line officers are qualified in a variety of languages and can provide assistance immediately. The UK Border Agency also has access to over 2,000 interpreters via a database who can assist by telephone or attend in person. This service provides access to speakers of over 50 languages.
Some 4,500 HMRC officers will transfer formally to the UK Border Agency on the Bill receiving Royal Assent. They are already trained and skilled on the customs side, and immigration officers training to take over these functions has already begun. The figures I have at the moment show that 2,600 officers have already completed the training.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that detailed reply. It will be helpful to have on the record what standards are expected and the details fleshed out far more than we heard in Committee. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Nothing in this Act shall enable any of the officers designated under this Part to use any personal data of UK citizens to restrict their right to enter or leave the United Kingdom for legitimate purposes.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, recent publicity has drawn attention to the information that will be required by the UK Border Agency of those who want to travel from this country. This is a good opportunity to ask the Government to explain exactly how much advance information will have to be provided and how far in advance it must be done.
We have discussed on many occasions the progress of the e-borders system that will enable passengers details to be held and processed while they pass through an airport, and how identification will be improved by the use of biometrics such as fingerprints and eye scans. However, I do not believe that anyone anticipated that information such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, credit card details, addresses of destination and travel information would all be required. We are aware of the advance passenger information that will be collected, but is it really desirable or practical, or within this countrys values about which we hear much spoken, that every journey is to be scrutinised and identified by the provision of information to the authorities, having been collected by the people about whom we are talking?
Will the Minister tell us today exactly what advance information is going to be required for any journey both now and in the future, for how it is anticipated the information will be held, and how long it will affect those who make a last-minute decision to travel somewhere or have business requirements that suddenly arise? The security of our borders and the work of the UK Border Agency are totally germane to this. Private citizens in this country are not accustomed to having their movements subjected to interrogation by the authorities. For generations, citizens have been free to come and go, as our passports say, without let or
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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling this amendment to discuss further this important issue, which was brought up today at Question Time by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy. I shall look forward to hearing the reply from the Minister. International and EU requirements place plenty of onus at the moment on us to supply passenger list information, and there are adequate international agreements on what information is required, so that each country can check any threatobviously, a terrorist one in particular but also from serious criminals, and so on, who may be travelling from here to there.
However, the reports that any more advanced travel plans will have to be lodged are worrying. I will briefly give three categories of people for whom that, at least, will be extremely difficult. There are the young and the retired, who can travel week after week; those in their gap years can change their plans at the last minute, while retired people have that same freedomthey are not tied by having to return to work in two weeks and may, on the spur of the moment, go where the weather is better. Why should they need to furnish anything in advance? If they are in the south of Spain and fancy taking the ferry to Morocco, why should they not be able to do that at will?
There is also last-minute travel, particularly on business. One might have all sorts of reasons for having to travel at the last minute or change ones plans; partly business or, sometimes, family disasters such as death, et cetera. This even comes down to someone as specific as a yachtsman, whose travel plans depend entirely on the direction of the wind. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us that, when we leave this country, the Government do not have plans to start requiring us to furnish anything other than our first destination. That is the extent of what the Government should require, and then to get to know when we are coming back. They get substantial information at the moment, as I said, from passenger lists, which carriers are required to furnish; beyond that is really a step too far.
Lord Puttnam: My Lords, I apologise for not having spoken in any earlier part of this Bill, but I think that the noble Lord, Lord West, understands my concerns relating to this exact issue and has helpfully allowed me to talk to his officials about it. However, I want to get something from the Dispatch Box and on the record on this important issue of without let or hindrance. Would the Minister confirm that no part of the powers of the Border and Immigration Agency have been devolved, or are intended to be devolved, to any commercial organisation or any other non-governmental body? A particular example would be any employee of BAA.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, this amendment is very important, bearing as it does on our freedom of movement and travel. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has already mentioned several categories of people who may have to make journeys at very short notice. To that group, I would add parliamentary visits to the EU in Brussels, or to look at foreign elections at short notice. I hope that the Government are taking into full account all these special needs, which may occur unexpectedly.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, this is my first intervention and probably my last on this Bill but, when I saw this amendment and recalled the reports that I had seen, I thought that perhaps this was an opportunity to say something.
If the reports that I have seen are to be believed, this is a frightening situation. According to these reportsand I hope that the Minister will be able to deny themall British citizens and everybody else, if they leave this country, whether by sea, rail or air, will have to give advance notice of where they are going and give an itinerary as well. The report that I saw went even further than that; it seemed to suggest that, eventually, the provision would apply to internal journeys, too, so that if you went from London to Swansea by train you would have to give a note of where you were going and what you were going to do there.
That is such a restriction of the freedom of people in this country that I simply cannot believe that there are people in the Government or the Civil Service, or even the police or security services, who would even dream up such a proposal. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us and say that we shall be able, as previously, to go about our business without interference from government snoopers.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, this amendment, spoken to so ably by my noble friend and the noble Baroness from the Liberal Front Bench, underwrites a major problem that government and bureaucracies have, which is collecting information that you do not need and, quite often, not collecting information that you do need. Some of your Lordships may have seen that brilliant German film about the StasiI think that it was called People Like Us, or something like thatwhich illustrated the way in which a massive effort is made by a national bureaucracy to collect a lot of wholly irrelevant information.
I am a member of Sub-Committee F of the EU Select Committee. At present, we are looking at money-laundering and we have had various government agencies along to tell us about the information that they are collecting. Obviously, I shall not comment on anything that we have learnt; all I would say is that there is a real danger of overkill, which is simply not taken account of or gripped by the only two groups of people who really can get to grips with itMinisters and Parliament.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, information is obviously an essential tool in support of law enforcement and national security and is key to our ability to secure the border effectively. That is why Part 1 establishes a comprehensive framework covering the use and disclosure of customs information, including personal customs information. I understand that the amendment is meant
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We must make clear that e-Borders information is information that people give to carriers. We will not ask people for itthe carriers have a liability to provide it. The carriers can only provide the data that they have received from passengers: there is no question of passengers having to complete a form or questionnaire when they travel. The data are provided electronically by the carrierthat is what some of the debate on e-Borders is about. It is not absolutely clear how that will be done, but it will probably be via some form of data transfer. This is travel document information, known as the passenger name record. When details crop up of high-risk movements and people whom we have background data on, we will be able to find out more about those people.
E-Borders was successfully trialled through a prototype, Project Semaphore. It did not stop people making short-notice journeys, or several journeys in a row. It was the subject of extensive consultation with the travel industry. The then Prime Minister announced plans for an e-Borders system in September 2004. Up until February 2009, there were 82 million passenger movements, which generated 35,000 alerts. More than 3,000 arrests were made for crimes including murder, rape and assault. The arrests also included a number of counterterrorist interventions. Significant numbers of passengers were properly refused leave to enter the UK on the basis of this information.
The e-Borders programme has been subject to appropriate scrutiny both by Parliament and the Information Commissioners Office, with which we engage regularly. The code of practice on data-sharing was drawn up in consultation with the Information Commissioners Office and is available in the Commons Library. We are due to publish a review of that code shortly.
Clause 14 sets out the purposes for which customs information may be used and disclosed, and by whom. Clause 15 imposes statutory duties of confidentiality in respect of personal customs information. Clause 16 sets out the limited and strictly prescribed exceptions to those duties. The framework ensures that the operational needs of the border force to protect the public from harm are balanced against the right protections for personal customs information. I do not consider that a further restriction, such as that proposed in this amendment, is necessary or appropriate.
I know that the noble Baroness does not intend to impose in this Bill a sweeping ban on the use of information, but instead seeks to identify what information is in the e-Borders programme. Of course there is no restriction on the right of UK citizens to enter or leave the United Kingdom for legitimate purposes.
The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, raised an issue that I know is being dealt with. He has talked at length with the deputy chief executive of the border force. I apologise for the confusion and problems that he has confronted and assure him that there is no intention that anyone other than properly designated border force officials will be responsible for entry to, or departure from, this country. I will write to him with a fuller reply on that point.
It is important to knock into touch the claim that we will all have to fill out long forms detailing where we are going and where we will be going next. The information is just the data that the airline holds when one applies for a ticket. That airline information has already given us an amazing ability to home in on people who are a danger to this country. People who are travelling normally will not notice anything different.
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