Lord Naseby (Con) [V]
My Lords, I, too, welcome the order. I place on record my thanks to my noble friend the Minister for dealing with this difficult area among the many difficult challenges she faces.
My noble friend knows as well as the rest of the House does that the problem of illegal immigration across the channel seems to be growing. I have some questions. First, one wonders why it has taken quite a long time to co-ordinate seaports with the Channel Tunnel and Eurostar. In the interim, we have seen a considerable increase in illegal cross-channel traffic. Can my noble friend elucidate on what more we can do, are doing or should be doing to crack down on this form of illegal immigration?
I am not clear whether Border Force is restricted geographically in where it can go in terms of Dunkirk and Calais; in other words, can it even operate on the beaches there? Also, does the order—I have read the whole of it—apply to the staff at ports in Belgium and the Netherlands as well? The Explanatory Memorandum states that Home Office consultation was undertaken “with operational partners”. That is good, but did any adverse reactions or difficulties come up in that consultation?
Border Force officers do a difficult job well. At the moment, is there a shortage of men and women who are fully trained for the Border Force role? Within that role, is there any resistance to being posted to Calais or Dunkirk?
If I may, I want to widen the issue a little. Can my noble friend the Minister clarify—certainly for me but also, I suspect, for a number of your Lordships—the law on turning back rubber dinghies? At what point can they be sent back to France, and are French officials co-operating fully?
I am nearly at the end of my questions. On illegal immigration, which is increasing, is there a problem coming from Belgium and the Netherlands? Is there a problem for our other east coast ports, such as Hull? While I am on the subject, my noble friend may know that I take a great interest in aviation. Is there any evidence of an increased problem with our small airports, where no Border Force officers operate?
Finally, on monitoring and review, since this illegal immigration from France is very much in the public eye, is there not a case for an annual—or biannual—review of the order’s effectiveness?