Friday, May 01, 2009

Borders Bill

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill has now left us and will be starting its progress through the Commons in a couple of weeks time. We have made quite a few changes in it, as follows:

References are to the Bill as introduced in the Commons (Bill 86, printed 23rd April)

1. Clause 1 – General customs functions of the Secretary of State
Clause 7 – Customs revenue functions of the Director

The Government tabled amendments at Report to meet concerns expressed at Committee about the lack of clarity in the functions exercisable by UKBA officers. The wording of the clause is still obscure.

2. Clause 22 – Application of the PACE orders
Clause 23 – Investigations and detentions: England and Wales and Northern Ireland

Clause 22, inserted by a Government amendment on Committee with LibDem agreement, enables transfer of HMRC officers to UKBA while keeping all existing powers. Consequential amendments inserted into clause 23.

3. Clause 25 – Short-term holding facilities

Clause 25 inserted by Government amendment on Committee, provides UKBA and HMRC with flexibility on the use of short-term holding facilities for detainees. Amendment to the Schedule is consequential. LibDems agreed to these amendments.

4. Clause 30 – Complaints and misconducts

An amendment, moved by the Government at Committee, gives the IPCC the same oversight role in respect of contractors who carry out immigration and asylum enforcement functions on behalf of the UKBA exercises in England and Wales. LibDems agreed, but wanted the amendment to extend to the juxtaposed controls at the Channel ports as well.

5. Clause 36 – Power to make supplementary etc. provision
Clause 37 – Subordinate legislation

Government amendments left out provisions relating to Scotland, and the LibDems agreed.

6. Clause 39 – Exceptions to application of Part 1

This clause, inserted by a Conservative amendment with LibDem support at Report stage provides that a person who submits an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the 12 months after the commencement of Part 2 of the Bill, can have the claims decided under the current citizenship arrangements. The Government will try to remove this in the Commons.

7. Clause 40 – Application requirements: general
Clause 41 – Application requirements: family members etc.
Clause 49 – Meaning of references to being in breach of immigration laws

There were various government amendments moved at Committee to these clauses to ensure that a person with an acceptable form of immigration status has a qualifying common travel area entitlement. The LibDems agreed to this.

8. Clause 40 – Application requirements: general
Clause 41 – Application requirements: family members etc.

The Government tabled amendments at Report to provide a discretion to waive the requirement to have had a qualified immigration status for the whole of the qualifying period in relation to applications made under Section 6 of BNA 1981. In the case of refugees the discretion would be exercised where ‘undue delay’ has occurred in determining an asylum application or where the delay was not attributable to the applicant, though ‘undue delay was not defined. These represent a partial concession to Lord Hylton and to the LibDems. Whilst we welcomed the amendments they didn’t go quite far enough for us.

9. Clause 44 – Minors
Clause 48 – Good character requirement
The Schedule

Clause 44 inserted into the Bill. Consequential amendments to clause 48 and the Schedule.

The amendments are government concessions to the LibDems, tabled at Report stage. Section 3(2) of BNA 1981 enables a child born to certain parents outside the UK to be registered as a British citizen within 12 months of birth. The amendment removes the 12 month deadline and provides that a child should be under 18 on date of application.

10. Clause 45 – British Nationals (Overseas) without other citizenship
The Schedule

Clause 45 inserted into the Bill. Consequential amendment to the Schedule.

The amendments are government concessions to the LibDems, tabled at Report stage, providing that an otherwise stateless British National (Overseas) can register as a full British citizen.

11 Clause 46 Descent through the female line

This Clause, inserted by Government amendment, was the culmination of a campaign lasting many years by LibDems to give the child born overseas to a British mother and a foreign father the right to British citizenship that has always been enjoyed by the child of a British father and a foreign mother.

12. What was Clause 48 – Common Travel Area
Clause 51 – Entry otherwise than by sea or air: immigration control
Clause 60 - Commencement

What was clause 48 (entitled “Common Travel Area”) was removed by a government defeat at Report stage in the Lords. This was a Conservative amendment which we supported. Clause 51 was inserted on a division by a Lib Dem amendment which the Tories supported. Clause 48 effectively ended the Common Travel Area. Clause 51 protects travel across the land border. The amendments to clause 60 were consequential amendments moved at Third Reading without a division.

13. Clause 55 – Fresh claim applications
Clause 59 - Extent

This clause was inserted by a Government defeat at report stage. It also removed what was clause 52, entitled “Transfer of immigration or nationality judicial review applications”. This was a joint Conservative and Lib Dem amendment which we worked on and drafted together. The amendments to clause 59 were consequential amendments added at Third Reading without a division

14. Clause 56 – Trafficking people for exploitation
Clause 59 – Extent
Clause 60 – Commencement

Clause 55 inserted into the Bill. Consequential amendments to clauses 59 and 60.

These amendments are government concessions, mainly to the Conservatives, but to members from all benches in the Lords too. It widens the definition of the offence of human trafficking to capture the mischief usually referred to as “trafficking of children for benefit fraud”. LibDems welcomed the amendments.

15. Clause 59 – Extent

There were Government amendments at Committee to clarify that the new clause on PACE extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland only. The LibDems agreed to the amendments.

Apart from the changes to the Bill itself, we also had a promise from the Minister, Lord West, to put the correspondence arising out of our debates on the web. They aren't easy to find, but the references are,, DEP2009-1047.pdf, DEP2009-1003.pdf, DEP2009-0947.pdf, DEP2009-0924.pdf, and DEP2009-0898.pdf.

In my experience, this fairly short Bill has generated an unprecedented volume of correspondence. We know that Ministers are anxious to get the Bill through by the summer recess, and that may give us some bargaining power when the Government knock out the modest transitional provision that was inserted by a combination of ourselves and the Tories, to allow thise who had already spent several years on the road to citizenship, to continue along the same path, without having to jump the new hurdles of 'active citizenship' and examinations to test their knowledge of English, and of British society.

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