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Volume 569: debated on Monday 28 October 2013

We have taken a number of steps to deal with abuse in the immigration system, and the Immigration Bill will go further. It will ensure that people do not have access to public services when they should not, it will reform the appeal system, and it will establish the House’s and Parliament’s views on how judges should make decisions relating to article 8 of the European convention.

Housing pressure in my constituency is huge as a result of the last Government’s unfettered immigration policies. Can my hon. Friend confirm that he intends to continue his endeavours to cut immigration further, thus relieving the pressure that is undermining the level of new housing being demanded by Labour-led Leeds city council?

My hon. Friend has made a good point. Our reduction in net migration will reduce the pressure on housing, and the provisions in the Immigration Bill ensuring that people who have no right to be here have no access to housing will increase the amount of housing stock available to British citizens and to lawful migrants who are following the rules.

I accept the need to tackle abuse in the system, but may I draw the Minister’s attention to a disturbing anomaly? Families in which neither parent has been given the right to work become dependent on local churches and friends, and experience great distress. Is there no way in which the immigration system can take account of their circumstances, and allow one parent to work? That ought to be the norm, but it seems to be happening less and less often.

If neither parent has the right to work because neither has the right to be in the United Kingdom, the solution to the problem is for them to leave. If the reason is that their case is being examined because they are, for example, claiming asylum, the state will support them while the case is under way. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise a specific case in his constituency, I should be delighted if he got in touch with me, and we can have a look at it.

17. What advice would the Minister give councils when residents with dependants have exhausted the immigration appeal process and therefore have no recourse to public funds, but, because they have not left the country either voluntarily or as a result of enforcement, the councils are still continuing to have to meet their high costs? (900713)

In most cases, councils will have no liability to support such people, but they should carry out a human rights assessment. In a limited number of cases they may have to support them, but in most cases they will not. Indeed, by continuing to support those people when they need not do so, all that councils are doing is encouraging them to remain in the United Kingdom when they have no right to be here.

Baroness Warsi has said of “Go Home” ad vans:

“I don’t think it was a particularly positive experience and I am glad that we won't be going back to it.”

She also said:

“I think it’s always important for government to be clear when they are speaking to their communities that all people who are part of this nation legally are absolutely welcome.”

Does the Minister agree with that Cabinet Minister, and what steps will he take to reduce the use of dog-whistle politics?

I entirely agree that everyone who is in the United Kingdom legally, obeying our laws and rules, is very welcome indeed. We have always made that clear. As the hon. Lady knows, the campaign was focused squarely on those who were here illegally. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear last week that we had looked at some of the evidence, that we did not think the pilot had been successful enough, and that we would not be rolling it out further.

Having considered the evidence and decided that the campaign was not successful and should not be repeated, why does the Minister not publish the assessment of that policy, and let us see how many people left the country as a result of it?

During last week’s debate on the Immigration Bill, my right hon. Friend made it clear that we would indeed publish the assessment when we had finished carrying out the evaluation. We are going to do the work properly, and we will publish the information in due course.

One of the parts of the immigration system that has been least open to abuse historically is the seasonal agricultural workers scheme. I know how carefully the Minister looked at the evidence before deciding to end the scheme. Will he now commit himself to monitoring the position, along with his colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Work and Pensions, so that we can ensure that the ending of the scheme does not damage either the economy or food availability?

I have a constituency interest, as constituents of mine took advantage of the scheme. The hon. Gentleman is right—it was not abused, but it was nearing the end of its natural life this year, because it was open only to those from Bulgaria and Romania, and they will be able to come to the United Kingdom in any event after transitional controls have been withdrawn. We had to choose whether to create a new scheme, and we decided that we did not need to do so because sufficient labour was available in the European Union. However, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to keep the matter under review, along with other Departments, to ensure that our agricultural industry is not damaged in any way.