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Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Volume 458: debated on Monday 19 March 2007

7. What progress is being made on the review of the immigration and nationality directorate; and if he will make a statement. (127795)

Not only did we hit our target for 2006, removing a record number of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers, but we have now published proposals to back our immigration service with extra powers, extra resources, new identity technology, and concerted action not just across the Home Office, but across public services as a whole.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. While we are on the subject of Home Office reorganisation, does he recall the evidence given by Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch UK, to the Committee considering the UK Borders Bill, on which my hon. Friend and I both sit? On Tuesday last week, Sir Andrew Green said that a reorganisation to create a single border force, as proposed by the Opposition, is the “last thing” that should happen at this juncture—

The Minister’s original response was unbelievably complacent. Will he confirm that, according to the director general of the immigration and nationality directorate, there are 1,300 foreign criminals who have served their sentence and whom the Department has failed to deport? They are either still in prison or in immigration removal centres. Two of those removal centres have recently been smashed up—one of them only last week—precisely because of the presence of hardened criminals. When are we going to see some practical results from the review instead of the non-stop stream of meaningless management-speak that has so far been the only outcome?

It is not entirely clear what the hon. Gentleman proposes. I assume—in fact, this is the only conclusion that I can draw—that he thinks that we should let those people out while their cases are reviewed and while they drag their cases through the asylum and immigration tribunal. It is true that the measures that we propose in the UK Borders Bill will allow us to expedite their deportation and I look forward to the support of the Opposition. The real step backwards would be to cancel ID cards, as the hon. Gentleman proposes. They are precisely what Andrew Green spoke in favour of in the evidence given to the UK Borders Bill Committee. He added his voice to the voices of not only Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, but Sir Ian Blair, Lord Stevens and the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard). The hon. Gentleman is increasingly setting himself up as the Luddite of law enforcement.

In the review of the Department, will the Minister look at how long things take? Does he share my shock at the fact that he can be within his published deadlines and yet more than half of the applications decided take more than 70 working days? That is because of the long deadlines for uncharged applications and because 10 per cent. of charged applications can take more than 70 working days. Will he speed those figures up?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. There are plans, which we set out in the IND review, for exactly the kind of acceleration that she is looking for. However, where detailed checks need to be made as part of someone’s application, it is right for immigration officers to do those checks so that we can be clear that we are giving the right entitlements to the right people.

The hon. Gentleman sent me a helpful letter after I wrote to him about temporary admission. Does he agree that far too many people are not reporting back after they have been granted temporary admission and that, in fact, the rules relating to people who are granted temporary admission need to be tightened up considerably? Does he think that if there is any doubt at all in the minds of immigration officers, these people should be detained?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s contribution. As he knows, I tried to write as detailed and thorough a response to him as possible, and I apologise for the slight injection of a delay that resulted. It is important that we keep those who apply for leave in this country under the closest possible review. Part of that involves ensuring that we have the systems to count people in and count people out of the country. We said something else last July: when there are people seeking asylum in this country, we should ensure that they are subject to electronic monitoring, or, when necessary, tagging. I hope that we will be able to hit that target, as we promised, in April.

The review of IND will inevitably concentrate on issues relating to the three important announcements made in the past 12 months on the points-based migration system and the creation of the shortage occupation lists and the migration advisory committee. Will the Minister either give us a brief outline of the situation regarding those three important matters, or tell the House that he will come back soon to make a fuller statement on them?

I am grateful for that question. Last year we did indeed set out proposals for a migration advisory committee that would advise us on where in the economy migration would make sense and where it would not. I am delighted that the response to the consultation that we undertook showed that the proposal was overwhelmingly popular—this is another example of a popular Home Office measure. We will soon be able to bring forward the response to that consultation and the practical measures that will follow.